The Summer of ’17 – Sept 2017

Hello everyone!  It is a fact that our great, British weather keeps us on our toes, and possibly never more so than in the last couple of months. We have experienced everything from Mediterranean beach temperatures to monsoon-like rain showers; last month I narrowly missed an unseasonal battering from hailstones!

Fortunately, the erratic weather did not affect the number of delights we came across in our woodland ramblings. We had a lovely group walk for the British Dragonfly Society event in July which happened to coincide with the National Butterfly count this year. For me, these events never fail to have the desired effect on those attending, raising awareness. People often approach me after a Fungi Walk or Moth Weekend to say they have started to notice what is around or to talk about a particular species they have seen. The Dragonfly and Butterfly walk certainly raised the collective awareness of Team TQW.

July and August were spent noting the differences between male and female Banded Demoiselles (Calopteryx splendens), male and female Beautiful Demoiselles (Calopteryx virgo) and comparing Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus) and Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) Butterflies. For me, the Lepidopteral highlight of the season was to see a White Admiral (Limenitis camilla) dancing among the Brambles in Quarry Wood.

One of the more serious consequences of the dry conditions this year has been the number of mature trees splitting and either falling, or in need of taking down for safety’s sake.  Whether this was due entirely to drought stress in the spring and early summer is a moot point, but there can be little doubt that it was a contributing factor. It was sad to see one of the Willows that featured in our Festival in 2002 succumb. This tree with its double trunk had the appearance of a lady lying back and crossing her legs as she raised them up in the air. The description may be indicative of the TQW state of mind, but certainly we felt a tinge of sorrow as those legs fell lower and lower, forcing us to reach for the saws.

At that point, Cosmic justice or the fact that Ma Nature, given half a chance, will compensate those that care for her dominion, came into play. As we cleared around the Willow stump we noticed the large trunk of a wonderful old Salix tree growing horizontally along the ground before sweeping into the air and branching out to join the canopy. Now dear Reader, you may think this is the equivalent of hiding an elephant in a strawberry patch by painting its toenails pink, but it is amazing how the eye can be drawn away from something so obvious by the presence of an unusually shaped tree!

Thinking this would be a nice site for some woodland art at our forthcoming Festival (more to come on that) we cleared the ground either side of the tree ensuring it was shown in all its glory. Happily the Cosmos and the Old Girl had decided to be generous on this occasion for, a few days later, we spotted an unfamiliar flower in the cleared patch. A bit of research revealed it to be a Broad-leaved Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine), a rather nice-looking Orchid, one which had not featured on any of our previous species lists. A little more exploration and we had a grand total of twelve of the beauties! The species is widespread throughout Britain and Ireland but it was an exciting find for us in our little reserve and we will be monitoring their progress with keen interest.

As previously mentioned, we have our Woodland Arts Festival coming up on the 24th September. This has the distinction of being the 100th event organised by the venerable Arty Farties and we hope to make it something to remember! We plan to have some Forest School activities around the fire pit, lots of woodland art in our newly-created Enchanter’s Dell and some strolling musicians to name but a few of the delights on offer. The only factor we don’t have any control over is our great, British weather so it would be advisable to keep a lookout on the dreaded social media sites or contact Yours Truly for the latest updates.

Is it as plainly in our living shown,
By slant and twist, which way the wind has blown?
Adelaide Crapsey (1878-1914)

So, there we have it, finishing exactly where I started, with the nation’s most popular topic of conversation!

Paul Johnson


Image credits: original Quarry Wood photography by Lorna Neville