WHolly and ivy are so strongly associated with Christmas that the carols start in my head, even as I write. The winter greenery was a sign of hope and renewal in the dark, cold, days of winter. The Green Knight who challenges Gawain at King Arthur’s Christmas feast carried a holly bob as a sign… Continue reading The Holly and the Ivy
We were up in the woods last week and the beech leaves were a beautiful golden in the autumn light. The fluttering as they fell added to the atmosphere, but apart from lending magic to dull November days, litter plays a bigger role in the life of a wood than often we give it credit.… Continue reading Littering the soil
When I moved up to the Lake District in 1977 my supervisor recommended I read H.H.Symonds‘s Afforestation in the Lake District (Symonds, 1936). This is an early polemic against large-scale conifer planting. Similar language was used in the 1980s at the height of the controversy about planting in bogland of Caithness and Sutherland (Tomkins, 1989).… Continue reading Where to with conifer plantations?
Woodland ecologists have a difficult relationship with large herbivores whether these are domestic livestock such as sheep and cattle, or wild ones like deer. In Wytham, for example, there are tensions. We have a scatter of large old oak and ash on former common land that became part of the woods in the 19th century. … Continue reading To graze or not to graze?
Part of my doctoral research on brambles in Wytham, back in 1974, involved clipping all the above-ground growth from one-metre square plots, a somewhat painful task. During the June harvest I first encountered what is now one of my favourite plants – Herb Paris. As I was cutting my way down through the bramble canopy… Continue reading The Oneberrie or Herb Paris
You cannot ignore history if you want to understand woods, but there are some days and weeks when this seems more-than-ever true, such as considering the impact of storms. Charles Elton was particularly interested in dead wood and would try to take advantage of any blowdowns at Wytham, as he notes in his diary (Elton,… Continue reading Stormy times
The Second World War, as had the First, highlighted Britain’s dangerous dependence on imports of food and wood, making us vulnerable to naval blockades. There had been heavy felling to meet the war effort – depending on the source between a third and half of woods had some felling in them, and in places whole… Continue reading From the dark to the light