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November in the Forest

By Town Clerk's Office Bewdley Town Council

Thursday, 12 October 2017

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November in the Forest

The large numbers of ladybirds trying to get into our house in recent weeks remind me that many creatures are going into hibernation now. The one which most readily springs to mind is the hedgehog, so familiar but so beleaguered now. Please do remember to check your bonfire piles on firework night for sleeping hogs or, better still, only build your fire just before you light it. Personally I always start a bonfire on clear ground and add material to it, so there’s no danger of cooking a spiny friend.

This is a wonderful time of year for woodland walks. Last autumn I had an afternoon visit from some youngsters belonging to the local Worcestershire Wildlife Trust Watch Group, and we set out from Uncllys Farm to look for seedling oaks in the forest and gather acorns to grow the next generation of trees. I potted up the acorns and left them to over-winter in the vegetable garden, hoping for a good showing of little shoots by the spring. On the same day we also collected berries from the Wild Service Tree whose multiple stems guard the gateway from the chicken run into the woods and whose beautiful leaves turn golden yellow at this time of year. The fruits, which are shown in the photo and which once used to be used to flavour beer, are like bunches of tiny brown apples and I left them indoors for a few days to ripen and go mushy. Then I was able to squeeze out the seeds (one to three per berry), wash them and mix them with grit. Then they were left out of doors all winter in a container that would allow them to stay damp but not waterlogged.

In the spring I inspected the pot of Wild Service Tree seeds, not expecting much to be happening, but found about 40 of them germinating! I happily potted them all on. Encouraged by their success I went to investigate the acorns but, oh dear, not only was there no growth but there was no sign of the 30 or so acorns at all. Could I hear the squirrels laughing? This autumn I will repeat the exercise, trying to replicate the success of the one and taking precautions to prevent the other becoming an easy meal for my naughty neighbours.

As I go about the woods the bare trees allow me to keep an eye open for deer. The rut is over now and it’s time for them to get ready for the colder weather by feeding up on acorns and beech mast and growing their thick winter coats. At the other end of the scale, the cooler and wetter weather makes it a good time to look out for mosses and liverworts, recovering and flourishing after the summer’s drier weather. The Bryophyte Group will be coming for a day’s exploration of the tiny world of pocket mosses, earworts and pincushions. Last year they recorded over 30 species within a few hundred yards of our door and I look forward to their fearless expedition into Lilliput armed only with notebooks and hand lenses.

Linda Iles - Wyre Community Land Trust

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The Guildhall, Load Street, Bewdley, Worcestershire, DY12 2AH

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