Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Feast of the beast

  The beast of Filnore strikes again.  

After munching on post 19 it clearly rampaged down the woodland corridor .  .  .  .

.  .  .  .  to attack post 11, which resisted bravely.  


Friday, 13 October 2017

Witch's brooms on birch

Have you noticed these tufts of twigs on birch trees?  They are near post 10 at Filnore.  

They are called 'witches' brooms and are caused by a fungus, Taphrina betulina.

The fungus stimulates the tree to produce huge numbers of buds in one place.  These grow into short twigs, which then die, resulting in an ever increasing mass of dead and living twigs. 


Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Burning question

 A fire site has appeared right in front of the bench at the viewpoint.  I can see why this spot has been chosen but it is rather unsightly.

Last week we came upon four young people by a fire they had lit in the woods.  We explained that it was bad for the tree roots, trunks and branches.  They were quite polite and put the fire out.

I mentioned that we intended creating a campfire site on the foundations of the old cowshed.  We would provide logs to sit on and some wood to burn.  This is the entrance to the site.

But it is a bit overgrown in there.

We'll have to get on and clear it to save our trees from scorching.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Not quite ready to shave

Old Man's Beard will soon develop its fluffy seed heads, which hang hairily over bushes and trees through the winter.

But right now they are more like sea anemones.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Fern spores

Now is the season of sporulation.  This is how ferns produce spores which eventually give rise to new ferns.  Spores are much smaller than most seeds and float in the air.

Here is a Hart's Tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) with one of the fronds turned over to show the long, brown sori on the underside.

Male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas) has more divided fronds and the sori are round or 'kidney'-shaped.

 Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) is more delicate and frilly 
and the sori are half-moon or j-shaped.

Soft shield fern (Polystichum setiferum) is divided so that each little pinnule is like a mitten with a thumb.

Sori in this photo are pale and unripe.

Monday, 11 September 2017


Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara) or Woody Nightshade is nowhere near as poisonous as deadly nightshade, to which it is not even closely related.  The green berries are the most toxic part but less harmful when they turn red.  

It's just as well to be able to recognise the plant, especially for children, but don't panic.  It's related to the potato and to the Christmas house plant called winter cherry, which both have poisonous berries and we don't worry too much about those.

The stems are not rigid enough for the plant to stand up on its own so it scrambles among other plants.

The small flowers are like jewels in the undergrowth.  The petals are purple and contrast with the yellow cone of stamens in the centre.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017


One of the last flowers of summer, knapweed is still flourishing at Filnore 
and supplying nectar for bumble bees and others.

Another source of nectar, one or two scabious flowers can still be seen too.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Wild arum berries

 All that is left of the wild arum or cuckoo pint is the clump of berries, green at first, ripening through orange to a shiny red.   

You can see why wild arum spreads so easily.  The berries are close to the ground and, once ripe, don't have far to go to meet the soil.

They look rather evil and are slightly poisonous if eaten but don't taste good, so are not very tempting.

Next spring the arrow-head leaves will pop up in January,

followed by the flowers in April.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Comma makes a pause

A comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album) basking in the sun.  A century ago commas were rare but since then they have increased and are now common (or should that be comman?) but no-one knows why.  

Their raggedy outline gives camouflage protection when they rest with their wings closed over their back; the underside of the wings is a dark, dead-leaf colour, all except for the small white c-shape or comma.

photo: urban butterfly garden - thank you

Comma caterpillars feed on stinging nettles, elms or hops.

Alan was out with his camera and snapped this one perched head down, the rare "inverted comma" he suggests :o)

He also spotted a speckled wood

and the last of the black and orange caterpillars of the cinnabar moth feeding on ragwort.

These three photos: Alan Watts

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Filming at Filnore

Very excited to see this group of young people filming a new web series yesterday.

The scene, as far as I could tell, involved a certain amount of animosity between the two protagonists (right).

Great to see that FW is now a sought after filming location.
I'm eagerly awaiting the release of this production.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Fungus season

Thought we saw a bit of litter in the grass just inside the main entrance to Filnore Woods.  Can you see it just in the right foreground.

Turned out to be a slightly damaged Giant Puffball (Calvatia gigantea).  
We get them growing in this location nearly every year.  The stem breaks off allowing the puffball to roll around shedding its trillions (really) of spores.

We also found this other large Parasol mushroom (Macrolepiota procera) with an attractive dark pattern on the top of the cap.


Paxillus involutus (below) is usually associated with birch trees and is poisonous, though somebody - probably slugs - has been nibbling at the cap of this one.

The photo below is a bit blurry for identification but could be Laccaria laccata which has the common name of 'The Deceiver',  perhaps because it is very variable and therefore hard to be sure of.

Thanks to Simon Harding, our fungus man, for the identifications.  

Lots more to come as the fungus fruiting season progresses.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Mowing the viewpoint

On Sunday six of us wielded our scythes and rakes and pitchforks to mow the grassy area up by the viewpoint.

And what a view.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Bank crisis solved

At the stream crossing near the 'White House', I noticed a lot of flood debris and a channel to the right, where surplus water had drained away.

Our stream has been more or less killed by activities at Merry Heaven Farm upstream from Filnore Woods, where they have built a huge dam.  But every now and then, when we have a downpour, water comes charging down the channel again, too fast for the pipe under the path.  Debris blocks the pipe and we get flooding and erosion.

This was what it was like in December 2013 before the dam at Merry Heaven Farm.

Last week the bank had collapsed into the stream bed.  
We shored it up with large rocks and wait to see what happens in the next rainstorm.

Peter's stonework

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Field Scabious

Scabious flowers vary from mauvey blue (above) to pink, as in the following three photos by Simon Harding 

with a burnet moth above

and a small tortoiseshell butterfly below.

The buds are also attractive,

as are the seed heads,

like pomanders