Friday, 19 December 2014

Feeling a bit green

Today I don't have much of a post for you. To be honest, I am not feeling well and I can't muster much energy for blogging, so today I will just show you a couple of photos of stuff in my garden.

This year's Brussels Sprouts can certainly be considered a success. We have had a lot of meals from them already, but they are far from over. There are lots more sprouts to come - and the battle against the Whitefly appears to have ended in my favour! Look how clean these leaves are:

The Purple Sprouting Broccoli is looking healthy too, with lots of flower-shoots forming. I have high hopes for a good crop in the Spring.

The "Soleil d'Or" Narcissi (from the Isles of Scilly) are just forming their first buds. This pot is one destined to be slotted into another pot sunk into the ground by the front door. It's not ready to go there yet, because it is a very exposed site, but when the first signs of Spring appear I will move it into place.

Hopefully I will feel a bit more like blogging tomorrow, and I hope to "see" you then...

Thursday, 18 December 2014

"A rolling stone gathers no moss"

At this time of year there is precious little of interest in my garden about which to write, so I am unashamedly going to use more material from my walk along the Basingstoke Canal last weekend.
I have written already about the scenery and the plants and fungi, so how about mosses and lichens?

I came off the canal towpath at Stacey's Bridge: (built 1792; re-built 1975)

The bridge probably used to carry a road, but these days there is only a muddy footpath between the two crumbling walls of mellow brick:

The tops of the walls are covered in moss:

Close inspection of the wall reveals a multitude of different mosses, lichens and fungi:

After crossing the bridge and beginning to head homewards along the leafy lane which runs parallel to the canal, I noticed more and more mosses. In fact, almost every surface was covered in some sort of growth.

This stone has evidently not been doing much rolling.

Does this remind you of a font, in a church?

There were several big upright stones like this. I suppose they are ancient boundary-markers of some sort. I can't believe anyone would have put them there just for the fun of it. Each one must weigh at least a ton!

This is a close-up of the surface of one of those stones - deeply pitted. It looks rather like a piece of wood that had been repeatedly attacked by a Woodpecker!

This is a deep hollow in the "crook" of a tree. It collects rainwater and is therefore more or less permanently moist, so it supports its own patch of moss.

I peered inside this hole in the trunk of another big old tree.

There was a miniature lake inside...

This is a close-up of moss growing on a tree. It looks to me just like bushes on a rocky mountainside.

This moss is growing on a log in the car-park where I left my car. You can tell it was cold that day - there was still thick frost on the log at half-past three, despite the sunny afternoon.

Finally for today, I want to publish another photo of a fungus I saw last weekend, for which I now have a positive identification:

This is "Tremella Mesenterica" aka "Witches Butter" and "Yellow Brain Fungus". Thanks to @mouseinthewood on Twitter, for the ID. If you are interested in fungi or foraging in general, it's worth following him.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Canal-side fungi and plants

Yesterday I wrote about walking along the towpath of the Basingstoke canal. Today I want to show you photos of some of the plants and fungi I saw.

Seeing as how it's December and nearly Christmas, I think photos of Holly and Ivy are probably obligatory, so let's do those first...

Nestled in amongst the Ivy growing on an old dead tree I saw this fungus:

There are two different types of Ivy in this next photo - the traditional Hedera Helix and the Glechoma Hederacea or Ground Ivy, sometimes known as Alehoof because of its former role in flavouring ale. Thanks to my current interest in foraging, I have recently learned that it is edible as either a herb or a salad ingredient.

In fact the towpath area was rich in edible plants - though I would be hesitant about eating any of them in view of the number of dogs using the path! This is Dandelion:

This is Stinging Nettle.

This one looks a bit like Parsley, or Carrot, but I know that there are lots of similar-looking plants, many of which are poisonous (e.g. Hemlock), so I would be very cautious about eating it.

This, for instance, is Cow-Parsley, which whilst not poisonous as such would definitely not be pleasant to eat:

My main interest on this occasion was in the fungi. I know it is a bit late in the year for fungi, but the weather so far has been uncommonly mild and I found plenty of species still going strong. You know that I'm not expert at identifying them, but I can still gain pleasure from photographing them.

Here are a few...

Clitocybe Nebularis aka Clouded Agaric

Tremella Mesenterica aka"Witches Butter"

Do you see what I mean? There were loads of fungi to be seen, as long as you looked hard enough!

I'll end with what is probably my favourite photo of the batch:

I just love those delicate fluted gills. They remind me of Fan Vaulting, like that in the ceiling of a cathedral!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Basingstoke Canal

Many readers will know that the town in which I live, Fleet, straddles the Basingstoke Canal. It's not a big or well-known canal, but it provides a lot of enjoyment for people who live near it. Joggers, Cyclists and dog-walkers all make good use of the towpath. I like it because it is a good source of photos! When the weather conditions allow, I'm often out peering closely at the flora and fauna beside the canal, to the evident amusement of other passers-by who must sometimes wonder what on earth I'm up to.

Saturday was a beautiful sunny day, and Jane was up in London attending a club meeting, so I took the opportunity to head out to the canal. The conditions could hardly have been better for me - bright sunshine and blue skies, and although it was chilly there was hardly a breath of wind. I took the car and drove out of town to a place where I knew there would be fewer people and more wildlife. I started my walk at the Barley Mow bridge in Dogmersfield (named after a pub just opposite). A plaque tells us that it was built in C1792.

From here I headed West, towards Basingstoke. The towpath is narrow - barely wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side. I wonder how it must have been in the days when horses pulled barges along the canal. It must have been difficult for barges going in opposite directions to pass each other!

As you can see in my photos, the canal banks are thickly lined with trees and bushes. Some of the trees (many of them oaks) are obviously very old. Maybe they were planted back in the 18th Century when the canal was made? The trunks and roots of these trees are ideal sites for fungi and little creatures.

Since it was so still and quiet, I was very aware of the movements of wildlife. The trees above me were full of the scurryings of squirrels, and the dry leaves under the bushes rustled frequently as Blackbirds scratched around for insects to eat. I tried to get some photos of Robins, but frustratingly they never posed in any photogenic locations. The only wildlife that moved slowly enough for me to photograph were the Mallard ducks, of which there were many:

Actually, I think they are feral ducks rather than wild ones.

That bronze horse statue is very realistic, isn't it? It stands in the grounds of an ancient thatched cottage:

Thatch is more characteristic of the New Forest area of Hampshire than round our way, but you do still see some of it in the older villages.

 This is Hazel tree - one which obviously doesn't mind getting its roots wet.

This is a Willow. It has tumbled down - the almost horizontal moss-covered trunk can be seen in the background - but it is still hanging onto life. Its roots dangle in the water looking very much like a mangrove!

After a while I arrived at another bridge. This one is "Stacey's Bridge"

Since I had been dawdling along taking so many photographs, it was mid-afternoon by now and I thought I had better turn back, otherwise it would be dark before I got back to the car. I crossed the canal by the bridge and came back along a minor road that runs parallel to the canal.

The sinking sun gave the trees and fields a lovely mellow russety glow.

Just as I got back to the car park, I saw this:

Which reminds me, tomorrow I will write about some of the plants and fungi I saw.