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Dennis Country

Welcome to my blog ...

Please send me an email if you wish to leave a comment. My website includes sections on the environment, green woodworking and some industrial history photos from Gwent, UK.

Pontypool Park

Conservation Posted on Fri, March 08, 2019 09:53PM

There were lots of fallen leaves in the park today, but this one stood out for marking the progress of a leaf miner. According to Wikipedia the larva responsible could be that of a moth, sawfly, fly, or beetle. Photo of leaf underside here.

I also found a stone arbour, which has been reconstructed about a mile away from its original position. It has good views to the south towards the Bristol Channel.

Hair Ice, South Wales, Jan 2019

Conservation Posted on Sun, January 06, 2019 11:00PM

I was lucky to find some “hair ice” formations in near-freezing conditions in south Wales UK on 4 & 5 Jan 2019. These looked like snow from a distance, but it hadn’t snowed, just cold nights down to about -2C.

It’s also known as “cotton candy” or “candy-floss” ice, and according to reports on the internet require certain fungi to form. Growing on dead beech tree logs in this case.

Play my video

Another person’s video of hair ice forming

Hawthorn Growth Buds

Conservation Posted on Sat, February 11, 2017 10:08PM

I was impressed to see over 30 new buds springing from the stump of a young hawthorn tree I had severely pruned (planted in wrong place, oops). This was about 2.5 months after cutting. I believe these are termed adventitious buds, which are dormant buds springing into action if the tree is wounded, for example by incompetent gardeners, or more planned activities like coppicing and hedge laying.
Feb 2017 +2.5 months after pruning

I’m hoping to keep the tree small in case the roots damage a nearby wall, and I intend to add photos to update the tree’s progress in surviving my pruning.
One of many information sourses on www

April 2017 +5 months after pruning (shoots ~ 20cm long)

July 2017 +8 months after pruning (shoots ~ 30-40cm long)

Hawthorn in wildlife friendly garden

Conservation Posted on Fri, May 13, 2016 02:49PM

About 25 years ago I found a hawthorn tree growing from a seed, dropped by a bird I guess. I transplanted it into a border, and now the trunk is about 7 inches (17 cm) diameter, but it’s not very tall. With pruning and training (I’m not sure how), it’s become a low pollard at about 3 feet, with dense growth to 6 feet. In the photo, the trunk is about one third from the right, branches extend to the upper left along the trellis.

This thorny tree growth is popular with birds, especially with peanut/seed feeders nearby. It gives them some protection from cats and other predators. I just trim the “hedge” section once a year, wearing heavy duty leather gloves of course. Hawthorn is relatively slow growing at this altitude (850 feet), and can be shaped by severe pruning if necessary. It usually produces flowers and berries on the previous years growth. Another bonus, it doesn’t spread by producing “suckers” or from bits of stem lying on the ground, unlike blackthorn and some willows etc..

Oak Tree Pollard

Conservation Posted on Sun, November 24, 2013 10:41PM

This unusually shaped oak tree may be the result of cutting the young tree’s trunk to a low level many decades ago. The trunk is now about 10 feet (3m) high. Please click for a larger image.
There are old enclosures and possibly building foundations nearby, but whether the pollard is natural or a deliberate act intended to produce firewood or timber we’ll never know. Here’s another one, this time on the wooded hillside behind the one above. Maybe it was damaged when it was a young tree? There are plenty of “normal” oak and beech trees nearby.


Conservation Posted on Tue, May 14, 2013 09:08PM

I recently went to an excellent Introduction to Woodland Management course given by the Gwent Wildlife Trust (my fee was funded by National Lottery). This was a half day talk and walk in the woods of a trust reserve – Springdale Farm near Usk. The woodland on this site is managed for wildlife rather than timber production, the sloping ground and difficult access would make commercial use unviable anyway. One of the subjects explained was that in Wales there is funding
available for creating and managing woodland under the Glastir scheme
(see for detailed information, 2013).

Of course, it’s not possible to obtain ash saplings at present due to restrictions following the “ash dieback” disease outbreak (caused by the Chalara fraxinea fungus). Although all instances found in Wales up to early May 2013 have been in recently planted trees, the first cases in mature trees have just been seen in Carmarthenshire. There is extensive information on the subject, including instruction videos, on this web page:

BBC News, 1 Aug 2015: Ash dieback disease: Woodland Trust warning over impact
A high proportion of UK ash trees are expected to die eventually, and the WT is preparing to reduce the impact by supplying trees to be planted in order to fill gaps which will be left.


Related but separate to this course: the photo above left shows an attempt to protect newly planted saplings from animals and weather. It would be important to remove individual protectors (e.g. spirals) before they become become tight around the tree stems. If there’s insufficient air space around the stem, a damp soil micro environment may be created around the bark, leading to tree damage.

Also, I understand that keeping vegetation low near saplings is important, for one thing to leave room for fungi to fruit. The trees depend on fungi root networks (micorrhiza) to increase their nutrient and water uptake. Cutting right up to the plant stems is unlikely to be practical, or necessary as long as there is suitable space nearby for fungi to fruit (their roots can be be extensive). Picking too many fungi, or otherwise damaging them (for example with herbicide), can be detrimental to trees even some distance away. The photo on the right is a stile which works quite well accessing a copse from a sloping bank.

Winter Shelter

Conservation Posted on Tue, October 09, 2012 12:43PM

I had an idea to create a winter shelter for wildlife (maybe a
hedgehog), inside an unused half of a covered compost bin. The habitat consists
of plastic crate lined with shrub cuttings, and has an inner section lined with heather (below right)

There is a wooden platform to raise the shelter off the ground. I even remembered to cut a hole to let a hedgehog sized mammal in (mid right). The compartment on the left has some composting material in it (with slugs snails etc.), maybe a convenient feeding centre….

There is a cover to go over the crate, finally closing the waterproof
lid of the bin. This should have been in place before early October so
that animals could find and check it out, but perhaps it’ll be
successful in later winters if not the coming one.