Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Buzzards, branches and bonfire moss at beautiful Grangelands

After storm Imogen howled through on Monday we were left with a lovely crisp day on Tuesday, so I took the dog for a walk around Grangelands. The air was cold and the paths were thick with mud, but the views were fabulous and the sun was very welcome. Everything always looks wonderful when the sun shines!

A pair of buzzards circled overhead calling to each other as we walked down through the woods and the red kites chased each other, obviously enjoying the sunshine. The trees were full of blue tits and great tits chattering away and robins serenaded us as we walked.

One of a pair of buzzards
Somebody had been very busy out on the chalk grassland, as large areas of scrub had been cleared. That's got to be good news for the orchids and other wildflowers that make it such a special site in summer.
A few weeks ago this was thick scrub, which has now been cleared ready for spring
Grangelands and the Rifle Range wrap about half way around the base of Pulpit Hill, with the hill fort high up on the top of the hill.
Pulpit Hill (seen from Grangelands)
Rosie made the most of the refreshments laid on half way around our walk!

It would be easy at this time of year to think there's not very much to see, but it was the trees that really struck me as I walked around. The kids love climbing this large beech and it even has a rope swing attached to one of its branches.

Up close its branches twist and turn around the trunk,
making it ideal for climbing (and rather pleasing to look at!)  

The leaf buds are still tightly closed - still too early for them to break open
The branches were splattered with little lichen rosettes. I must get a book about lichen as I don't know what any of them are called, but find them fascinating.

Grangelands is an important conservation site for juniper, which is now quite rare and is very slow growing and notoriously hard to germinate. It seemed to be doing OK though and the branches were heavy with immature berries.

I stopped to admire a holly tree that I must have walked past dozens of times before. It was literally hanging onto the side of a steep slope and all of the leaves were on the far side of the tree, revealing an amazingly contorted trunk.

There were a couple of large patches of moss growing in a cleared area in the woods. When I looked closer I could see that the moss was growing over the entire site of two old bonfires, growing in the ashes. I believe this is the aptly named bonfire moss.

Bonfire moss
I found an empty Roman snail shell. They're so pretty and appear cream at first sight, but actually have many colours running through them. Amazing to think a shape like this can be found in nature! It's still to early for them to be out and about, but I'm sure Bug Mad Girl will want to go and look for them in a couple of months.

What a great way to spend a sunny morning in Feb!

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