Friday, 21 April 2017

Our Spring events

We had a great turnout and great weather for our wild garlic walk yesterday! We strolled through the woods taking in the fragrant smell of wild garlic and spotting spring flowers before popping out onto the crest and into the sunshine where speckled wood butterflies were basking. Then everyone tasted some of our very own garlic pesto and took an 'all things garlic' recipe sheet home. We hope you all enjoyed it as much as we did!

On the 13th April we had a great day den building, lots of families joined us and made some really impressive dens, flags and crowns. The Presthope area is full of little tepees now and with the wild flowers out it looks truly magical.

 On the 20th April we ran our wild woods adventure trail event at Presthope. Children came and followed the clues on our trail to answer questions all about Wenlock Edge. There are some very clever children out there who got lots of answers right and all walked away with a prize at the end. There were lots of birds to see from the bird hide including the nuthatch and a great spotted woodpecker but children also saw a little bank vole happily tucking into seed that had fallen to the ground. We had a great day and we hope everyone who came had a great time too! 

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Signs of Spring

Early Purple Orchid
Right now the woods look wonderful because everything is starting to wake up and many things are starting to think about flowering - if they aren’t already. Some of the first flowers to come up in the woods are early purple orchids and we have spotted their distinctive spotted leaves showing in good numbers in Longville Coppice and on Harley bank. In Blakeway Coppice the wild garlic is bursting out of the ground, it smells delicious and you could already easily and quickly collect plenty of the young leaves for cooking. White wood anemone flowers are out and open up wide on a sunny day: they are said to look like a galaxy of stars on the forest floor and are scattered throughout the woods at Wenlock. At the woodland edge common dog violets are out in force and will continue to flower through to June. In our meadows, particularly Ippikin’s meadow and in the fields bordering Longville Coppice behind Wilderhope Manor, we are expecting to see a good display of cowslips anytime now.

Left: Wild Garlic
Middle: Wood Anemone

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Storm Doris

On the 23rd of February storm Doris hit Shropshire. The biggest gusts were 68mph which is more than we have had for years. We adhered to our high winds policy which includes putting out warning notices at various access points to the property to advise visitors not to enter the woodland during the severe weather. We also took to Facebook to warn people as well.

Fortunately, we only lost two trees on minor roads, which we promptly cleared away. These were perfectly healthy trees; their failure was due to them being completely uprooted by the sheer strength of the winds. 
The week after the storm we will be searching Wenlock Edge checking for any more damage and potentially hazardous situations such as hanging branches, leaning trees and fallen trees over the tracks. Just like with dead trees, any damaged trees close to the paths are a health and safety concern, but trees fallen in the middle of the woods are usually left to provide habitat for fungi, lichens, invertebrates, mosses and birds.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Hart's Tongue Fern

If you've walked along the Hollow ways or around the old quarries you might have noticed these ferns growing on the side. It is called hart's-tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) which is a widespread evergreen across Britain preferring shaded locations. 

It's name comes from the medieval word Hart, meaning deer, and the frond shape resembling their tongues. It's striking appearance means that even in France it has the same common name "Langue de Cerf"!

The 'scolopendrium' part of it's name is also Latin for centipede which refers to the little marks on the underside of it's fronds which look like centipede legs. It is an unusual fern due to having these un-divided fronds.
Left: Underside of the fronds showing the pattern 
Right: a closer view of the fern

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Sheep checks and the Wilderhope Yew tree

Yesterday we loaded up the Landrover with the tools needed for the day and then drove down to Ballstone quarry and Ippikin's meadow to feed and count the sheep. Our hebridean sheep are part of the RSPCA freedom foods scheme which means they have the highest standard of welfare. We check on them every day and as it is particularly cold at the moment we give them some sheep nuts, which they love! 
As soon as the sheep hear us calling and see the bucket they come running over
Our sheep never enter the foodchain, they are purely used for conservation grazing and therefore get to live out their whole lives happily grazing our meadows for us.
Placement student Emily feeding the sheep at Ippikin's meadow
We then headed to Wilderhope to remove the lower branches on a Yew tree in the grounds of the manor. This was to enable the tenant farmer to graze cows underneath where it had become overgrown. Yew trees are poisonous to livestock so it had to be trimmed so that they couldn't reach it. 
Left: From far away it looks like one tree, but it is actually two very large old trees close together
Middle: The view of the tree from the manor patio
Right: The litter underneath the tree
But before we could start we had to do a quick litter pick underneath. After filling a few bags worth of recyclables and litter it was time to select the branches to be removed. By using a harness for safety, the branches were cut one by one until they could no longer be reached from below.
The stone wall provides a good step to reach slightly higher into the canopy.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Hazardous trees

At the moment we are following up some of the actions identified in our tree safety reports. Every two years we formally inspect all the trees to look for signs that they may be ‘hazardous’. It is carried out in late autumn so that leaves and the crown can give away clues and so fruiting bodies of fungus are showing. 
The sort of signs which we look for are; yellowed leaves, a sparse crown, lack of fine branch ends (twigs), excessive dead branches, peeling or split bark, fungal fruits, exudes weeping from the bark, splits or tears in the wood, pockets of decay or roots pulling from the ground. Other signs include mammal damage, badly balanced, tightly forked, excessive road salt, soil compaction or soil erosion around roots and impeded rooting due to wet ground or rock. As we informally survey and act day to day, not too much remedial action (felling, reduction or pruning) is required from the survey. 

Monday, 30 January 2017

Yellow Meadow Ants

During winter time when the sheep have nibbled all the grass down it become much easier to see the mounds in our fields. They may look like very small hills or large mole hills but they're home to another animal. These structures are the homes of our Yellow Meadow Ants!
Yellow Meadow Ants have many benefits to our meadows - they open up the soil and keep it porous, their dropping fertilizes the grass roots, and they can eat other small insects that could damage the grass. Each colony contains around 5,000 ants but they are rarely seen due to living underground. At Wenlock we have to use sheep to graze these fields as machinery will damage their structures.