One of the first signs that the spring growth is truely established is the appearance of the Wood Anemones on the wooland floor. They are normally found in ancient woodland such as these in Swithland Wood in Leicestershire in England. Like all flowers they need lots of sunlight so these flowers appear in late March before the leaves get established in the tree canopy above. They are at their best around mid April but the weather can make a difference.
Its seeds are mostly infertile and it spreads slowly through the growth of its roots.
The Wood anemone is named after the Greek wind god, Anemos, who sent his namesakes, the anemones, in early spring to herald his coming. This legend gives the flower its other common name of ‘Windflower’.
Of course the wood anemone is a vital source of early pollen for insects and bees.
After the long winter and as the days start to lengthen the woodland starts to renew with the first signs of new growth. The images here were all captured in Swithland Wood in Leicestershire in the UK. As with all woods it has it’s own unique characteristics. It is recognised as a site of special scientific interest.
Many of the buds on the trees are visisble throughout the winter but the emergence of the new leaves is a joy.
Another early apperance in the woodland are these hazel catkins. They are in fact flowers but without petals.
Of course the mosses seem to thrive thought the winter. A close inspection in spring will show some clesr new growth.
The most noticeable new comers in the spring are the low growing woddland flowers. They are successful at this time of year becuase they don’t have to compete with a heavy tree canopy which block the sunlight. They are also vital in supporting early bees, butterflies and moths. The purple flower is an early dog violet. The yellow flowers are Lesser Celandine.
There is a section of Swithland Wood called Stocking Wood where some species are very prolific. In late March and April the whole floor is covered in these Wood Anemonies.
Another vital element to the ecology of the woodland are the pollen bearing trees. Here is the fabulous Hawthorn Blossom.
My next blog will be when the Bluebells are fully out.
One very good way to spend an hour or two is to explore the many Ancient Oaks in Bradgate Park in closeup. I find the shapes and colours generated by over 500 years of growth totally absorbing. I don’t think any particulrly commentary is required here. I hope you can enjoy the images for what they are.
In part 1 I focused on looking up at the tree canopy in Swithland Wood. In this section we turn our eyes down to look at the woodland floor. In some ways the woodland floor is more vibrant in winter as it is not shaded by the tree canopy. Although slow, the woodland continues to grow throughout the winter.
Some people say that a managed wood should be kept tidy and fallen trees like this cleared away. However, once a tree is fallen it becomes a vital to host to many other species which are vital to the diversity of the woodland. Here we can see some moss enjoying the winter sunlight.
Fallen and decaying trees are often the best place to look for the fungi which likes to feed on the decaying wood. It is worth noting that fungi can be found all year round and not just in the abundant autumn.
Another species which is easy to ignore is the lichen which can be seen on both fallen and live trees. There are many fascinating textures and shapes if you look closely.
With a fallen tree the bark tends to disappear to reveal the grain of the wood below. Here a broken branch shows more detail of the innards of the tree. This of course is a timeline of the lifetime of the tree. Layer by layer year by year.
It is quite remarkable that trees will grow anywhere that they can find a foothold for their roots. I love this tree at the Druids Mound with its roots draped across the ancient volcanic rock.
Water is vital to the success of any woodland. Swithland Wood is fortunate to have many streams which cross the wood. These can be quite lively after heavy rainfall.
Even in winter the streams sustain plants like this fern. I enjoyed seeing this arrangement of rocks and imagined how someone was inspired by their surroundings. No doubt the rocks will be displaced at some point to take a more natural position in the stream.
I Included this image of the old stone building bathed in the beautiful winter light to remind us that Swithland Wood hasn’t grown naturally. It is the result of good woodland management over hundreds if not thousands of years.
Being at home at this time of year and looking out of the window at yet another rainy day it is very easy to give up on the great outdoors. However, it is very rare for it to rain everyday. There is some great soft winter light which can reveal all of the hidden features of a winter woodland. Fog can bring a feeling of mystery. Snow and frost paints a whole new world.
In part one of this blog I’ll show you a sunny December day in Swithland Wood in Leicestershire. I’ll take a look at what is exposed in the trees when all of the folliage has gone from the branches.
Swithand Wood is a mature wood being remnant of the ancient Charnwood Forest. It is a site of special scientific interest because of its many and varied species. Here we have a group of Scots Pine which don’t make a particularly interesting image. This is due to their immense height with a relatively small canopy perched on top.
Getting right underneath one of these tall pines with a wide angle lens produces a far more interesting view. The effect compresses the height and the image captures both the essential features and the surrounding tree top environment.
Moving to another part of the wood reveals how the tree canopy looks once all of the leaves have fallen. This view was achieved by laying on the floor looking directly up and making use of a 16mm wide angle lens. This view is how I imagine the roots would look if all of the soil was removed. It is also interesting to see how the trees compete for every inch of sky to gain access to the life giving sunlight.
One of my favourite trees to photograph is the Silver Birch. I like the light produced by the bright bark which contrasts wonderfully with the dark layers underneath. This combination leads to a very pleasing and varied contrast. This view shows how much the trees compete for the light and results in very tall growth when the surrounding trees are close togther. As with the previous image this image was captured very close to the base of the tree.
Here are two more examples illustrating both the tree texture and canopy.
This image shows how there is a great interdependance between the species. It does look like the Ivy is attempting to strangle the tree. However, this is not the case as the Ivy needs the host to suceed in order to thrive.
To finish here is a youngish oak which still has hold of its leaves in December. The golden leaves make for a beautifull colour contrast with the blue sky behind.