Friday, 31 January 2014

Splodging On

Muddy track at the bottom of Barnet Wood, Hayes.  20 January 2014
Muddy track at the bottom of Barnet Wood, Hayes.  20 January 2014
I went for a blood test today (the day this is being written) and  decided to walk back home through woods and fields.  I knew of a route that comes out at the back of Hayes Village.  I had not walked it for a while.  But I remembered that once, it had been extremely muddy and hard to negotiate in parts.  It has been pretty wet recently, so I wondered how easily I could get through wearing a pair of old trainers.

On reaching the path shown above, I went a different way ...

Tracks diverge at the corner of Barnet Wood, Hayes.  20 January 2014.
Tracks diverge at the corner of Barnet Wood, Hayes.  20 January 2014.
There was still lots of mud, but in places the path had been scoured down to a pebbly undersurface which was easily walkable.  However, coming up to this spot I had to climb over a barbed-wire fence and walk in the field for about 50 yards, where the track was nothing but water and squidgy mud and was fenced closely on both sides.  This photo looks back along my track.

Edge of field beside Mazzards Wood, Hayes.  20 January 2014.
Edge of field beside Mazzards Wood, Hayes.  20 January 2014.
Further on was this odd formation.  I suppose drivers of farm vehicles choose to vary their path so as not to gouge any one track too deeply. You can see an outpost of Hayes Village in the distance.

Anyway, I did get through, but I was glad I had chosen my old, rough trainers for this trip.  And thick gloves, for gripping barbed wire.

I am enjoying taking panoramas with my iPhone, so here's another one taken just after the second shot above, again looking back ...


Sunday, 26 January 2014

Wisley in Winter

Gunnera maculata put away for the winter.  Wisley Gardens, 3 December 2013.
Gunnera maculata put away for the winter.  Wisley Gardens, 3 December 2013.
Perhaps I should have posted these earlier .. This is the RHS garden at Wisley at the beginning of December, when everything has been put to bed for the winter.   These Gunneras have been made into protective tents.  They grow happily elsewhere without needing this, so perhaps this is in case of an unusually severe winter.

Preparing flowerbeds.  Wisley Gardens, 3 December 2013.
People were working all around the gardens, and some quite extensive areas had been cleared ready for fresh planting.

Cutting down bamboo.  Wisley Gardens, 3 December 2013.
Cutting down bamboo.  Wisley Gardens, 3 December 2013.
These two were putting bamboo into a chipping machine.  No doubt it will grow again next spring.  It is a grass, and that's what grasses do.

Mahonia in flower.  Wisley Gardens, 3 December 2013.
Mahonia in flower.  Wisley Gardens, 3 December 2013.
Some plants were in full bloom; white Magnolias, for example, and these Mahonias, with their sweet-smelling sprays of yellow.  These usually flower in February, but plants local to me were flowering in early December as well.

Pond and trees.  Wisley Gardens, 3 December 2013.
Pond and trees.  Wisley Gardens, 3 December 2013.
It was a gloomy day, but these autumn colours were wonderful.  Wisley has a mixture of garden types, and this informal, yet clearly carefully planned area is something I like a lot.  I was standing part way up a mounded "rock garden" to take this.  In fact I will end with a panorama that was also taken from this mound, and which shows the same pond from almost the same angle. 

Panoramic view including rock garden.  Wisley Gardens, 3 December 2013.
Panoramic view including rock garden.  Wisley Gardens, 3 December 2013.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Leybourne Lakes in Winter

Roaden Island Lake.  Leybourne Lakes, 2 January 2014.
Roaden Island Lake.  Leybourne Lakes, 2 January 2014.
Leybourne Lakes is a group of old gravel pits by the River Medway that have been converted into a country park, a leisure centre and a housing complex.  Like other old gravel pits, it is a good spot for birds, and there is also some interesting botany on the site.

The lakes are not actually very large at all, even though the biggest is known as the Ocean Lake.

There are three characteristics found in many country parks in this area.  They are: golf courses, land unsuited to agriculture, and power lines.  You can see power pylons in the background here.  This park is clearly too wet for either agriculture or golf.

Path between The Ocean and Roaden Island Lake.  Leybourne Lakes, 2 January 2014.
Path between The Ocean and Roaden Island Lake.  Leybourne Lakes, 2 January 2014.
Of course, there isn't much botany to see in the winter, but it's still a pleasant walk, even where, as here, one lake is flowing into another across the path that separates them.  That's only about half an inch deep along the right hand side, and quite walkable if you can jump a few feet.  Normally, it's dry, but we have had wet weather recently.

Rose bush with hips on a flood plain.  Leybourne Lakes, 2 January 2014.
Rose bush with hips on a flood plain.  Leybourne Lakes, 2 January 2014.
At one side of the lakes is an area of flood plain with scattered rows and clumps of bushes, and strange paths that lead straight to nowhere.  I'll have to come back in summer and see if this makes more sense!

The rose hips show that there is at least some pleasant botany.  And so does this:

Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum, with seedlings growing from the seed head.  Leybourne Lakes, 2 January 2014.
Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum, with seedlings growing from the seed head.  Leybourne Lakes, 2 January 2014.
There were hundreds of these dried Teasels, many with little seedlings like this growing directly from the seed heads.  Interesting and quite pretty.

The Teasel was taken with my EOS 6D and 100mm macro lens; the others, including the flood plain panorama below (complete with power line), with my iPhone.  Panoramas are very smooth and easy to take with the iPhone.

Panoramic view of a flood plain.  Leybourne Lakes, 2 January 2014.
Panoramic view of a flood plain.  Leybourne Lakes, 2 January 2014.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

A Walk Round Trosley

Frosted Wayfaring-tree leaves, Viburnum lantanum.  Trosley Country Park, 29 December 2013.
Frosted Wayfaring-tree leaves, Viburnum lantanum.  Trosley Country Park, 29 December 2013.
I have been in the upper part of Trosley Country Park before, looking for late fungi, but I had not done the route they call the Downland Trail before a visit on 29th December.  Strange weather; calm and sunshine one day, and blustery rain the next.  This was a very pleasant sunny day.

In the woods, Trosley Country Park, 29 December 2013.
In the woods, Trosley Country Park, 29 December 2013.
The upper woods mostly look something like this at the moment.  Bare trees, many showing signs of long-ago coppicing, with quite a few fallen trunks.  But the land drops off sharply to one side, as with many of the local woodland walks.  I went down many big wooden steps, then some more steps, thinking at the time that I would certainly have to be going up again later on.

Power pole on the Downland Trail, Trosley Country Park, 29 December 2013.
Power pole on the Downland Trail, Trosley Country Park, 29 December 2013.
Along the bottom of the hill I encountered a power line.  I like that sign, so direct and graphic.  You would have to be quite determined to be killed by this pole.

Downland Trail, one way back up.  Trosley Country Park, 29 December 2013.
Downland Trail, one way back up.  Trosley Country Park, 29 December 2013.
Further along, I came to the chalk downland that this route was named after.  This is one of the tracks back up the hill, which I looked at but didn't take.  The grass is very short at this time of year, but should be full of flowers in late spring. 

This path is heavily eroded, as were others I saw, so must see a lot of footfall in season.   It was slippery, too.  It was around here that I saw the leaves at the top of this post.  You can see it had been frosty the night before, but the frost was disappearing as soon as the winter sun hit it, and it didn't seem very cold.  Of course, I was wearing scarf and gloves, which helps.

View over the Weald towards the Medway.  Downland Country Walk, Trosley Country Park, 29 December 2013.
View over the Weald towards the Medway.  Trosley Country Park, 29 December 2013.
At the far end of this route, the path climbs a steep slope to a good viewpoint.  This photo looks east towards the River Medway.  In more or less this direction are some other excellent places to visit; Leybourne Lakes, Ranscombe Farm Nature Reserve, and further to the north, Riverside Country Park.

The last slope. Downland Trail, Trosley Country Park, 29 December 2013.
The last slope. Downland Trail, Trosley Country Park, 29 December 2013.
This shot looks back the way I came from the same position as the last one.  My path came along the bottom of this slope and then straight up it.  That was tricky with the ground being so slippery.  Then there are some more steps up through the wood, and an easy track back towards the visitor centre.

This walk must have been only two or three miles, but it felt longer because of the steep and slippery parts!  The leaflet says to allow two hours, but it took me one.  I would have taken longer, and brought a bigger camera, in a more flowery season.

These photos were all taken with my iPhone.  It really boosts the saturation, and I had to undo that a little in Photoshop to reduce the intense blueness of the sky to something more natural.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Knole Park, Winter

Flooded footpath in Knole Park, 26 December 2013.
Flooded footpath in Knole Park, 26 December 2013.
Knole Park is large – 1,000 acres – and pretty, and with the recent rains, also wet.  Not excessively so, but some of the footpaths are hard to negotiate without getting wet socks.  In the large grounds are a few houses, which I think were originally cottages for the various grounds keepers, and Knole House itself with its enclosed gardens.  

Fallow Deer, Dama dama.  Male.  Knole Park, 19 December 2013.
Fallow Deer, Dama dama.  Male.  Knole Park, 19 December 2013.
There are also herds of Fallow Deer.  The groups of females scatter if you get too close, but don't seem to be as alarmed as wild creatures would normally be.  Males like this one will stand their ground.  I took this with a 100mm lens, so I wasn't quite as close as you might think.  It may not be as tall as me, but those antlers look handy.

Black Spleenwort, Asplenium adiantum-nigrum, on the wall of The Wilderness.
Knole Park, 26 December 2013.
I went hoping to find something interesting on the walls enclosing the house's immediate grounds, and indeed there were lots of Polypodies and some of these nice Black Spleenworts.  Its distinguishing features are: small, yet full of spores, so a mature plant; growing high on a wall; triangular frond shape; bipinnate; frond stems are dark brown and shiny towards their bases.

View along the Chestnut Walk.  Knole Park, 19 December 2013.
View along the Chestnut Walk.  Knole Park, 19 December 2013.
I was tempted to try for a silhouette effect by seeing those two walkers on the horizon.  When something like this lines up I can hardly get my camera up fast enough; who knows how long this picture will be available?

The top photo was taken with my iPhone.  The others, with my EOS 6D and 100mm macro lens.  I used a ring flash for the fern.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Beckenham Place Park

Ancillary buildings and autumn trees at Beckenham Place Park, 30 November 2013.
Ancillary buildings and autumn trees at Beckenham Place Park, 30 November 2013.
Autumn and winter views at Beckenham Place Park.  This is a municipally owned golf course, with at one side buildings dating from the 1760s.  Surrounding the course are ancient woodlands and further away, some meadows forming the flood plain of the small River Ravensbourne.  This view across the golf course shows the small formal gardens.  Work on the roof of that building is obviously under way.

The mansion in Beckenham Place Park across the golf course.  20 December 2013.
In this view of the mansion, three weeks later, only a few leaves are left on some of the trees.  In the centre are some Crataegus, related to Hawthorn but with much larger berries.  I don't know which species or variety these are, but they look good.  This is still part of the golf course; the holes run between double rows of trees.  The mansion currently contains a visitor centre and a cafĂ©.

Dead oak in Beckenham Place Park, 20 December 2013.
Dead oak in Beckenham Place Park, 20 December 2013.
I thought this tree looked quite spectacular against the sky.  The brush around its base is placed there by park management, I suppose to protect it from golfers.

A final pic from elsewhere in the park:

Stinking Iris, Iris foetidissima.  Beckenham Place Park, 30 November 2013.
Stinking Iris, Iris foetidissima.  Beckenham Place Park, 30 November 2013.
The bright orange berries of the Stinking Iris.  When crushed, its leaves have a strong smell which has been compared to roast beef, though I would not really care to eat beef that smelled like that.  And you can tell from both its common and Latin names that the smell was not generally thought to be pleasant.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Wisley Orchids

Orchids at the RHS garden, Wisley.  3 December 2013.
Orchids at the RHS garden, Wisley.  3 December 2013.
Orchids at the RHS garden, Wisley.  3 December 2013.
Orchids at the RHS garden, Wisley.  3 December 2013.
Just to make a change from low key seasonal photos, here are some orchids in the RHS garden at Wisley on 3 December.  The glass house was full of flowers, many of them pink for some reason.   Here are two photos of pink flowers that aren't orchids.

Schlumbergera hybrid, RHS garden, Wisley.  3 December 2013.
Schlumbergera hybrid, RHS garden, Wisley.  3 December 2013.
 This is one of the prettiest of the Cacti, and probably belongs in Barbie's greenhouse.

Tillandsia stricta, RHS garden, Wisley.  3 December 2013.
Tillandsia stricta, RHS garden, Wisley.  3 December 2013.
The tall plant is actually a cluster of plants supported on a pole.  These Bromeliads don't feed through their roots.  They are epiphytes; they just cling to branches in wet places, like the American "Spanish Moss," and absorb moisture and nutrients through their leaves.

These photos were taken with my iPhone.