Recently I was invited on BBC Radio Sheffield to talk about the reasons for getting out and about during the winter months. In this interview I describe the appearance of the earliest flowering tree species that are commonly found in woodland, plus some of the more distinctive tree buds that can be seen in mid-January.
We also discussed the value of slowing down to observe nature and of taking the time to learn plant names as a way of making connections with the natural world.
Although it is quite late in the season to be foraging for sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa), there were still a good number of edible nuts to be found during the first week of November. Ecclesall Woods is my favourite location for harvesting these delicious nuts. There are many large sweet chestnut trees in the woods, many of which were planted in the 1850s.
Sweet chestnuts are actually a Southern European species that were introduced into the woods as a fast growing alternative to native oak, with which it shares a high tannin content. This makes it a durable timber suitable for uses where a degree of water-resistance is required.
Luckily for us, many of these trees are now large specimens that produce an abundance of delicious nuts. Sadly some sweet chestnuts in Ecclesall Woods have been affected by Phytophthora aka ink disease on account of the dark spot-like stains that are seen on some trees, notably on beech. It is harder to see the early stages on the rough-barked chestnuts.
Should you go looking for chestnuts, remember to leave some for the wildlife. When gathering these I saw not one but two wood mice lurking in nearby brambles – it is not just the squirrels who like a nibble. Only take the big and firm nuts. If they are soft they are past their best; too small and they are a pain to shell.
Sheffield Tree Week starts today and my contribution to the festival is this short film that I recorded over the weekend while walking in the wonderful Ecclesall Woods, the city’s largest woodland.
At this point in the summer the tree canopy is at its most dense and many woodland wildflowers have long since flowered. However there are a few midsummer highlights including: bramble (Rubus fruiticosus), honeysuckle (Lonicerapericlymenum) and enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea lutetiana), all of which are in bloom. Plus ripe and juicy raspberries (Rubus idaeus) where the light levels are higher.
Also included within this video are tips for identifying: hornbeam (Carpinus betulus); larch (Larix decidua); Scot’s pine (Pinus sylvestris) and rowan (Sorbus aucuparia).
Visit the Sheffield Tree Week website for more information.
Last Wednesday met up with Green City Heritage to make a short film for this year’s Urban Tree Festival. In it we explore the urban woodland within Sheffield General Cemetery, observing appropriate physical distancing guidelines by using a selfie-stick! We are so fortunate to have this fine mature woodland, with many an interesting species, within walking distance of the city centre.
Despite the urban setting the cemetery is a biodiversity hotspot and is popular with both wildlife and people alike. This is why I have chosen to add this location to my list of places for leading guided walks, which I hope to resume later this year.
Join me for another virtual walk around Ecclesall Woods in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. In mid-April most trees have now come into leaf and there are wildflowers in every direction. Learn how to identify: beech (Fagus sylvatica); English bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta); greater stitchwort (Stellaria holostea); hornbeam (Carpinus betulus); sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) and wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella).
Join me for a virtual walk around Ecclesall Woods in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. It’s early April; trees and plants are bursting into life. Learn how to identify: blackthorn (Prunus spinosa); garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata); hazel (Corylus avellana); raspberry (Rubus idaeus); wild garlic (Allium ursinum); wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) and wych elm (Ulmus glabra).
Sheffield’s 2020 Festival of the Outdoors runs from 1st to 31st March. It will be the first time that Sheffield Woodland Connections has participated in the festival, for which I’ll be leading three walks. Each walk is two hours long and we will cover subjects including: identifying trees in winter and recognising veteran and notable trees. For more information click on the links below.
Sheffield General Cemetery Date: Sunday 1st March 2020. Time: 11.30am – 1.30pm. Tickets: from £5 – £7. Book your place here.
Ecclesall Woods Date: Sunday 8th March 2020. Time: 1 – 3pm. Tickets: from £5 – £7. Book your place here.
Hillsborough Park Date: Sunday 22nd March 2020. Time: 1.30 – 3.30pm. Tickets: from £5 – £7. Book your place here.
As part of this year’s Feast in the Forest at Ecclesall Woods, on Sunday 20th October, I will be leading two tree ID and woodland appreciation walks. These free to attend walks are designed to support the aims of the Tree Charter.
The first walk will begin at 10.30am and the second at 1.30pm. Meet outside the main entrance to the Discovery Centre ten minutes before the stated start time.
These walks are open to all but places are limited and booking is advisable. To reserve your place please use the contact form.
Want to learn more about trees and woodland in a fun an informal way? Then join Sheffield Woodland Connections, Drink Wise Age Well and Friends of High Hazels Park for an Over 50s woodland walk on 12th July 2019.
Want to learn more about trees and woodland in a fun an informal way? Then join Sheffield Woodland Connections, Drink Wise Age Well and Friends of Ruskin Park for an Over 50s woodland walk on 5th July 2019.
To book your free place call: 0800 032 3723.
Meet at the Daniel Hill entrance to Philadelphia Gardens at 1pm.