Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Frosty Grangelands and Pulpit Hill

I've been rushing around far too much recently (hence the lack of blog posts) so it was wonderful to take an unhurried early morning stroll around Grangelands and Pulpit Hill yesterday. It was such a beautiful day, with clear blue skies and a sprinkling of icing sugar frost on everything. Best of all though, the thick, sticky mud on the main track (which I seem to slip over in on a regular basis) was frozen solid!

I had a good look around on the grassland, but there wasn't much growing yet. It won't be long now though until it turns into an amazing herb garden and the orchids start to show their leaves. Until then I had to make do with some lovely lichen growing on some of the bushes.


The red kites were chasing each other overhead and a kestrel kept a beady eye on me from its prickly perch in the top of a juniper bush.

The kites love it up there, particularly out over the neighbouring pony paddocks. One was happy to sit on a water trough and didn't seem at all worried about the nearby horse.

The view was stunning and I could see all the way over to Didcot and the power station chimneys, which must be at least 25 miles away.

I climbed up to the top of Pulpit Hill, where I found a mature ash tree had fallen across the path. I couldn't resist having a good look at it. 
It had cracked and splintered about 8 feet up the trunk, leaving it looking like a modern art sculpture.
Inside the trunk was soft and rotten and tiny white eggs (maybe beetle eggs?) were stuck to the walls. Their dark, safe location had been suddenly exposed when the trunk snapped, so I'm not sure whether they'll survive or not, but I'll keep an eye on them.
Eggs inside the hollow trunk
Hollow trunk of the tree where it had snapped
There were plenty of signs of creatures using this tree as their home, including trails where something had burrowed through the soft wood.
I'm fairly sure this is the same tree that I'd found some unusual fungi growing out of a couple of months ago. They were growing out of the side of the trunk about 2 feet from the ground. I guess they were doing their bit to help with the decomposition process.

It's not very often that you get to see what's going on in the top of such a tall tree so it was exciting to find the branches covered in all sorts of colourful lichens and mosses.


About half way along the trunk, a large chunk had been ripped out when the tree fell, leaving a jigsaw piece showing the bark and growth rings.

I carried on to the hill fort at the top of Pulpit Hill, to the large beech tree that had fallen down in a recent storm. In contrast to the ash tree that had snapped because it's trunk was rotten, the beech tree was a healthy tree that had been blown over by the wind, pulling up the roots of the tree. Someone had cut the trunk and stood the base back up. There was very little moss or lichen growing in the top branches of this tree, so I guess ash is preferable to beech.

A few of my other discoveries as I walked around ....
Some very hairy lichen

Nodding thread-moss

Slime mould
Spooky Forest (named by Bug Mad Girl) is a dense group of conifers that block out so much light it can feel like night even in the middle of the day. The path leads down the edge of them so we don't usually walk through, but there is one break in the trees that lets a spotlight of sunshine into the gloom. 

Spooky forest is dark and gloomy except for one area of light
I was drawn towards the light, so braved the spooky trees and found ... bird poo! Looks like a large bird, maybe an owl, uses the tree in the sunlight as a roost, as there was a lot of white bird poo all around the base of the tree.

Surrounded by conifers, this appears to be the roost of choice
To prove that not all of the trees on Pulpit Hill have fallen down, here's a lovely old Beech tree. It had a furry jacket around the base which is from where it's been coppiced in the past.


Yesterday I was walking down the hill past this tree, but when I climb up this way, this is my half way up the hill marker. I usually stop and have a rest under this lovely old tree before carrying on up the slope.
As a final treat after a wonderful walk, a cheery robin sang to me as I got back to the car. Lovely!

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