Monday, 08 August 2022

Wondrous woodland with odd-looking trees and glassy glades

Wondrous woodland with odd-looking trees and glassy glades

AS the weather is unpredictable, Rosemary and I decide to visit Kingwood Common, where I will be leading a walk in August.

We chose to look round a cherished section of this wondrous, complex site, a wooded area with outstanding grassy glades, strangely shaped trees and ancient, intriguing earthworks.

We leave our car at the end of a lane after passing Barn Farm.

The colony of broad-leaved helleborines (Epipactis helleborine) is coming along well and they look set to flower earlier than I would expect.

Following a familiar track northwards, we are pleased to see what is developing. The lovely five-petalled, yellow-flowered tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum), a local rarity, shines brightly.

Above, woodbine is in full flush as it embraces young pedunculate or English oaks and silver birches, flowering with abandon.

A garden bumblebee (Bombus hortorum) feasts on the nectar.

Oh, to be here for the evening scent.

Elsewhere a parasitic blue cuckoo wasp (Trichrysis cyanea) examines the leaves of oak and hazel.

There are many other tree species here including sessile oak. field maple, hawthorn, beech, rowan, wild service tree, silver birch, downy birch, wild cherry, ash, holly, hazel, crab apple, aspen, yew and the occasional wych elm — quite a variety and so good for the vast number of insects that depend upon them.

We are treated to the songs of blackcaps, garden warblers and chiffchaffs but, once again, I wonder and am fearful at the absence of willow warblers (Phylloscopus trochilus).

They were once a staple of summer migrants with their wonderfully sweet song with a descending, lovely cadence. Why are they not here any more?

We move down a familiar dip and stop on an old boundary bank by some odd dendrological experiments of nature — beech trees (or is it one?) and an oak fused into one.

The wood to our right looks so inviting and it is “open access” but we decide to return in two days’ time to explore.

Instead we retrace our steps and I spot a golden scaly male-fern (Dryopteris affinis). There are some vetches that I cannot identify with any certainty.

The glades are full of wild strawberries (Fragaria vesca), which are tasty when ripe. Upon arriving at the Unicorn pub on Peppard Hill, we are informed that, alas, it is closed today. Oh well.

Back home, ever-observant Rosemary points out an oddly coloured insect on one of the roses in our front garden.

With the help of a reference book, we identify it as a large rose sawfly (Arge pagana) with a pronounced yellow abdomen.

We’re in a quandary here: do we let nature take its course or do we leave it and monitor? We opt for the latter for now as our blue tits may help.

They are expert aphid killers too (no need to use toxic sprays), the little birds only too happy to help and feed their young in the process.

In our back garden we are thrilled to find a hound’s-tongue (Cynoglossum officinale) about to burst forth with its maroon five-lobed flowers.

Just goes to show what a few scattered nutlets can do. With luck, it will spread.

On our wooden table a female stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) takes a leisurely stroll. She has probably spent four years of hard graft munching as a larva through some of the untouched, dead wood in our garden which is a paradise for all kinds of insects. We name her Ethel.

Two days later we attempt to return to Kingwood with the intention of visiting the interior of the wood that was so enticing on our previous visit but we can’t as the road to Stoke Row is closed.

According to a man in hi-vis, a wooden telephone pole needs some maintenance as it is “wobbly”.

Instead we park at the Unicorn and then walk down Colmore Lane before returning for lunch.

We see many interesting plants along the way. The roadside that leads to the common proper is loaded with an array of wild and escaped garden plants and looks jolly good.

We encounter some lovely plants in flower by a rudimentary roadside — smooth hawk’s-beard (Crepis capillaris) with its pale-yellow florets and white-flowered burnet saxifrage (Pimpinella saxifraga), a relatively common umbellifer.

A common vetch glows with glee and hedge woundwort (Stachys sylvatica), with its trademark reddish-purple flowers, is emergent.

Moving down the lane towards a fine patch of heathland, we encounter some friendly cows enjoying life in a meadow filled with buttercups and daisies. It sums up the sheer beauty of summertime.

After a short while, we take a marked left turn into an area populated by heather and many other plants that seem to favour acidic soils.

We find yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor), sheep’s sorrel (Rumex acetosella) and much more.

In one of the extensive variety of grasses in an open area, Rosemary spots a common scorpionfly (Panopa communis) resting on a grass stem. Quite distinctive it is too.

On the way back to the pub, she spots another insect, this time a tawny mining bee (Andrena fulva) feeding on the flowers of dogwood.

We then retire to the Unicorn and enjoy a tasty lunch. Rosemary kindly pays. Lovely.

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