Sunday January 31st 2021 – Some trees have a property, and it’s mostly, but not exclusively oak trees – that they do not drop their leaves when they die off in autumn.
Instead, the tree keeps the dead leaf attached, shedding it the following spring.
The behaviour is called ‘Marcescence’ and scientists don’t really know why it occurs. It may be to protect leaf buds from browsing animals like deer, or to faster recover nutrients from the dead leaves by absorbing them back into the tree directly, rather than through the soil.
Thursday January 7th 2021 – I slipped out of work as Paul Simon might have said, onto a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow. It was fun to ride home in, but very cold. We’ve not had a cold snap in several years now and this is being quite a shock to my ageing system I can tell you.
Heading up the Spot Path across Clayhanger Common the snow was pristine, and nothing except owls and the sound of snorting deer in the wood nearby dared disturb the peace.
Wednesday December 2nd 2020 – Nipping to Clayhanger on an evening errand, I took the ‘new’ Spot path – the footpath that goes between Bridge Street, over the Common (’Spot’) by the settling pools and comes out by Pier Street pedestrian bridge.
It’s the ‘new’ path as it was created in the early 1980s while Clayhanger Common was being reclaimed from an old refuse tip, and served as a diversion for a shorter, more direct path called ‘Spot Lane’.
Spot Lane was reinstated as a footway when the common was complete, but the new path remained, and I’ve always preferred it. It’s especially atmospheric at night.
May 18th – A spin up over Clayhanger Common and a delight to see the chalk fairy had been active again and drawn a new game on the Spot Path over the common.
Just as the previous one, it’s a long trail with lots of physical activities to do to complete it – from walking squiggly lines, to hopping and counting, it really is a lovely, fun activity for kids and parents alike.
It’s lovely that people are doing this for each other in lockdown and I hope it continues beyond, too.
Oh, and it seems I’m locally famous. I’ve got my first, physical hashtag.
May 13th – It’s cow parsley time again: This prolific edgeland and hedgerow dweller is a member of the carrot family, and is plentiful everywhere I go.
Sometimes mistaken for Queen Anne’s lace or the truly horrible, much taller giant hogweed, cow parsley or keck is an innocuous, edible and some consider medicinal plant that tastes a little like chervil.
The white flowerheads make for a gorgeous, if very overlooked display at this time of year. A pretty and misunderstood plant.
May 7th – The sunset was still decent over Clayhanger Common as I returned to Brownhills. The sky has a real clarity at sunset at the moment; I guess it’s the dry atmosphere and low traffic levels leading to less pollution.
I was so taken by the sky that I stood and watched it as we lost the light for another day.
The outdoors, and that feeling of connection with it is really important to me at the moment.
May 3rd – An interesting surprise to note one tree near Clayhanger Common this year has been hit heavily by the gall wasp that causes oak apple galls.
These growths – protective structures grown from corrupted leaf buds – house gall wasp larva that will eat their way out of the gall as the season progresses. The corruption is caused by the parent wasp injecting the larva’s egg into the nascent leaf bud covered in a chemical that causes the cells to deform.
It’s one of the odder evolutionary parasitic actions I’ve ever come across and it fascinates me. And it doesn’t seem to affect the tree at all.
One of the more peculiar aspects is all the oak trees around the one affected are completely untouched. But this one is affected more heavily than any I’ve ever seen in my life. There must be several thousand oak apples.
April 26th – With the sudden burst of lockdown shaming, finger wagging and the boom of the morally prurient social media shamers, it’s really easy to miss small little things at this time that are actually encouraging acts of community between, mainly it has to be said, children.
Painted rainbows and teddies in windows, garden displays and other curiosities created during long, isolated lockdown days are treats and ways of communicating the shared confinement without breaking the rules, and they put a huge smile on the faces of kids out for their daily exercise, parents and me, too.
There’s been a really fun trend to revive chalked games on pavements and paths for other kids to find and participate in. More than just the old fashioned hopscotch (although most incorporate it, almost as a tribute), these courses are linear with a start and end, incorporating line following, instructions to hop or jump or do some movement, reciting games, spins, pebble target throws and races.
They are a shared happiness, but shared from a distance – the separation being time. They are an utterly joyous thing and this one, on the Spot Path over Clayhanger Common, was a brilliant one.
Sadly I think it’ll probably be erased by the oncoming rains, but I hope that won’t deter the creation of a replacement.
Well done to the creators of these, and my best wishes. Life will be normal soon and we’ll all look back on these days, and smile when we think of how we all loved the chalked games…