Hot Spring

Apparently, this is likely to be the hottest early May bank holiday on record. It’s so warm that even the birds in my garden were sunbathing yesterday. It’s something they do to keep their feathers healthy  but I think this one might have needed a bit of factor 30, as it seemed a bit red in places.

Sunbathing robin

This beautiful weather coincides with the blooming of the bluebells at my beloved Leomansley Wood. The trees which are now coming into leaf are relatively youthful but the soil here is ancient. Along with lesser celandine and wood anemones, those bluebells signal that this is a plantation on a much older site. In England, the definition of ancient woodland is land that has been continuously wooded since 1600. Given that the name Leomansley pre-dates England and indicates that there were once elm or limetrees here, this site could have been continuously wooded, well, since forever.

Leomansley Wood bluebellsWood anemones

Leomansley Brook trickles around the edge of the wood, into Leomansley Pool in the grounds of what once was Leomansley Mill, and out again through a culvert on Pipe Green.

Mill culvert

Leomansley Mill culvert, Pipe Green

Once upon a time, on hot days like these, the brook would be full of kids paddling as can be seen in this clipping from a 1937 edition of the Lichfield Mercury.

Lichfield Mercury 1937 Pipe Green paddling

I’ve been paddling there with my kids (and without them!) but I’m seemingly in the minority, something I’ve always found strange given the close proximity of a primary school. With the exception of the occasional hot dog, the brook is usually as calm as the millpond it once flowed out of.

Leomansley Brook May 2018

Those still waters run deep however. To the right of the pipe, you can see some of Lichfield’s many springs emerging from the sandstone aquifer far beneath the brook’s bed.

IMG_20180505_094853328

The pipe itself is currently the source of speculation between myself, the fantastic Jane Arnold of the Pipe Green Trust and others. Local historian J W Jackson talks of a pipe which ran from the well at Maple Hayes, which emptied its icy-cold water into the brook. He recalls how people would take bottles to be filled as the water was said to be highly beneficial for bathing eyes. Presumably this is the pipe he mentions but which well at Maple Hayes? Could he have been referring to Unetts Well, said to be the coldest water in Lichfield, where Sir John Floyer built a bath in 1701, later incorporated into Erasmus Darwin’s botanic garden?

I’ve always thought of natural history as having not much to do with local history but I’m beginning to see more and more how the former shapes the latter. Think its time to go and contemplate this a little more in the sunshine over a glass of water to which barley, hops and yeast has been added. It’s what Mr Worthington the brewer who once owned the Maple Hayes estate (which appears to have incorporated most of Leomansley at one point) would have wanted.

All The Small Things

Tomorrow’s walk will be different to today’s walk….I have walked past Christ Church three times in as many weeks. Each time was different. The first was a bleak midwinter day, the biting cold numbing my fingers as I photographed the stone heads around the church. By the second, the scene had changed and even the heads were capped in snow.

Whether somehow related to the snow or whether the weather was incidental, numbers on the reverse of head stones that I had previously passed were suddenly evident where I had never noticed them before. Interesting that only two of the several stones I could see from the road had numbers on them, so I’m guessing that they were some sort of reference mark made by the stone mason? Naturally, we look to the inscriptions on the front of headstones for information, but can the back sometimes tell us something as well?

On my third visit yesterday, the snow has been replaced by snowdrops and crocuses, the first flowers of the year and a welcome reminder after last week’s mini ice age that spring is on its way (I know we’re not out of the winter woods yet, but I’m optimistic!).

Another weather and season influenced walk was up Abnalls Lane on a wet and windy day.  Tipping my head back to gather my hair in a pony tail to stop it blowing in my eyes caused me to look up and notice fungi growing half way up a tree up high on a bank that may have been missed on a calm and sunny wander. On the same walk the bareness of winter revealed some sort of post in a hedge (I have no idea what this is – some sort of utilities marker?)

The light was poor and Abnalls Lane was more of a stream in places. With the amount of cars passing, it was only a matter of time before I ended up soaked or worse….so I changed my route. Later, outside the derelict Sandyway Farm, a pub known as the Royal Oak for the first half of the nineteenth century, one of the bricks had worked its way free of the decaying shell and lay under brambles alongside the Walsall Rd. I understand that the stamp ‘NCB Hamstead’ means it came from brickworks at the Hamstead Colliery in Birmingham, when it was part of the National Coal Board.

Is the C the wrong way around or is it me?

Admittedly, all of the above are small things but whether small things help you to build a bigger picture of the place you live in or even if they just make you smile, I think they’re worth noticing.

 

Hidden Depths

Circuit Brook marks part of the northern boundary of the city and runs through the Christian Fields Local Nature Reserve.  Last week I went for a walk to find the brook and found a whole lot more besides.

Despite the blue lines on the map, water was scarce, although some evidence of its presence lingered on in the channels it had forged over the centuries.

For much of the walk, we were separated from the route of the stream by steep embankments and rampant nettles, and at particularly challenging points, both!  Concerned about both the possibility of broken limbs and the availability of dock leaves, I didn’t stray far from the path, and used the zoom on my camera instead. Not very adventurous I know, but at least I lived to tell the tale!

Steeper than it looks! No, really it is!

Zoom.

Amidst the nettles is this green post. Any ideas?

A little way into the walk, watery looking plants and a visible outline convinced us that we’d found the site of the well marked on our Ordnance Survey map.

The smell of mint is what first alerted us to what we think is a well

At the point where we lost the route of the brook altogether we retraced our steps back and tried to pick it up again further upstream. This time the route took us along a flat, public footpath with woodland and fields to our left and the busy western bypass and underpasses to our right,  reminding us that we were right on the fringe of the city here.

Bypass underpass

A footbridge gave us easy access to the stream here, but once again it was dry.

Had we not turned back, we’d have found ourselves in Elmhurst.  What I hadn’t realised at the time was that part of the route apparently dates back to Saxon times, and incorporates an archaeological feature known as ‘The Dimble’. It’s great that the name is still evident in the area today. I’d like to find out more about this ancient walkway (the information I’ve included here is pretty much all I’ve been able to find so far), and also clarify exactly what  a ‘Dimble’ is, as I’ve seen a couple of different definitions.

I was also unaware until reading up on it, that the Christian Fields LNR was a landfill site until the 1980s when it was capped. Twenty or so years of allowing nature (and volunteers) to reclaim the site, has resulted in a place reclaimed for people to enjoy and explore. So go and enjoy & explore!

Notes:

Big thanks to Brownhills Bob for providing me with a map of the site and information about the nature of water, especially the advice to keep an eye on that well…..

Information on Christian Fields LNR taken from http://www.lichfielddc.gov.uk/info/200029/countryside/83/site_management/4

A View from the Bridge

A quick trip to the shop turned into a two hour walk, a good proportion of which was spend in the Stowe area of Lichfield. I found the plaque marking the approximate site of the old gate or barr into the city and then I remembered that the Cruck House was nearby.

Cruck House

 

Site of Stowe Gate, end of George Lane/Lombard St

Stowe Gate plaque

 I wanted to get over to Stowe Pool, to see if there were any water lilies this year and crossed over using the bridge,  something I hadn’t ever done in 8 years of living in Lichfield!

View from the bridge

 

The rooftops of Stowe

 

Willows

 

There were water lilies in the pool although possibly not as many as there were the same time last year. Whether this is because the sun has gone awol this year, I don’t know. I didn’t spot any nests amongst them either. This might be as they’ve chosen to move onto the specially built wildfowl islands built in the centre of the pool instead!

June 2012

 

June 2011

 

Back to the ward banners in the Guildhall and I think that Stowe’s is the one showing St Chad’s cross, relating to the fact that St Chad’s Church and St Chad’s well are found inside this ward.

Although the Stowe St gate is long gone,  I do get a sense of being outside the city here. It’s a wonderful place to explore and enjoy. One of the definitions I’ve seen for the placename Stowe is ‘meeting place’, and from my lookout point up on the bridge I saw children playing, people out for a walk and couples sat talking. If you ever get the chance to join them, you should.

Tree following: White Heat

“No, I can’t come out with you, I’m supposed to be working”. “You know you want to… I’m only going to be around for the next few days and then I don’t know when I’ll be back in Lichfield again”. “Oh, go on then…..”

Yes, my old friend summer is back in town, and so I went to see how my tree that I follow on the path from Leomansley Wood to Pipe Green is getting on. To be honest I’m now following pretty much the whole path, so the tree doesn’t get that much of a look in these days. I’m sure it’ll come in to its own as the seasons progress though!

It was a delight for most of the senses.  Birdsong and drumming woodpeckers, butterflies and an abundance of mostly white flowers along the floor and hedgerows, the warmth of the sun, the cool of the breeze and the shade of the trees and of course the scent of early summer in the air. Taste is the only one that eluded me on my walk (although I’m sure there were probably some wild goodies I could have tried if I was both more knowledgeable and brave about these things). I think my tea & cake when I got home might just about count though.

Tree following: Mayday

It took a bit of effort to drag myself out into the murky, wet evening. Glad I made the effort though. Before I’d even got to the woods, I had a treat when a heron swooped down onto a roof and remained there for a few moments before flying off in the direction of Waitrose. I’ve spotted a heron a couple of times near the old mill pool over there. On twitter, Brownhills Bob & someone from the Pipe Green Trust thought he may have been heading to a heronry at Aldershawe.

Another few steps and I found myself passing a slightly wonky fairyring of mushrooms. I didn’t get too near. I’ve read what happens to mortals who do…..

Once in the woods, the trees, plants and hedgerows glistened, but with drops of recent rainfall, rather than may dew.

I wanted to measure my tree, to get an idea of how old it was. It soon became apparent that this was no task to undertake alone. The people in the flats overlooking the lane, and this robin that turned up to watch, probably wondered what on earth I was doing.

Happily, I managed to enlist someone’s help and we discovered that the trunk measured about 3.2m which could mean that it is anything from around 210 years old to around 130 years old. According to the Royal Forestry Society, a tree could grow between 1.5cm & 2.5cm per year, depending on things like location, soil quality.  So I’m going to read up on Mitchell’s Rule and then maybe I’ll have another go at estimating the age!

Tree measuring task completed, I headed back down the lane and met a couple out for a walk. They didn’t seem to mind the weather, in fact they thought it was lovely…….

 

 

Into the woods….

I was lured into the woods by the promise of wood anemones…..then along the path past the old Leomansley mill pools….and finally onto the edge of Pipe Green common.

 

 

 

Tree following: April Showers…..

It was time to revisit my tree on the lane next to Christ Church.  

Now I think it might be a horse chestnut.

I managed to dodge the heavy showers that had been falling on and off all day, but there was plenty of evidence of them. The air had an earthy smell and looking back towards Christchurch Lane from the A51 end, I noticed the reflection of the trees in the puddles. I’m not sure whether the onion ring crisp spillage adds to or detracts from the scene.

Soggy Crisps

I bet that the crisps were an after school snack, dropped in the haste to get get home before the next shower, but I wonder how these flowers came to be here? From the nearby churchyard perhaps?

Discarded flowers

 It was good to see some new arrivals along the lane.

 

 

This reminds me. How are those bluebells in Leomansley Woods coming along?

Tree Following: Yellow

This week I went along to Leomansley Woods to do my first bit of tree following. It probably sounds ridiculous but choosing one tree wasn’t that easy. You can’t see the tree for the woods or something I suppose. In the end I decided on this tree, at the edge of the wood.

The surrounding debris & hazy memories of last year lead me to believe this is an Oak.

Jumbled branches

 

The trunk. I'll take a tape measure next time to get some clue to the tree's age?

 

Lichen

 

Is this a coaltit getting in on the act?

While I was there, I thought following the entrance to the woods, the woodland floor and the hedgerows running alongside the lane might be nice too.

The entrance to the woods. The path running alongside forms part of The Darwin Walk and will take you to Pipe Green

Judging by the green shoots, it won’t be long before the woods are covered in bluebells. I think though, the colour of March is going to be yellow.

Lesser celandine?

 

Even I know that these are daffodils!

 

I don't know these though - they were growing in the hedgerow.

As a bit of a disclaimer (though if you read the captions above it hardly needs to be said!), I don’t know that much about trees & plants. I can’t tell my ash from my elder. One of the reasons I want to do this, is because it’ll be a good opportunity to learn more. For example, I now know what Lesser Celandine is, and that as one of the first flowers of the year, it is known as Spring Messenger. Slightly less picturesque is one of its alternative names – Pilewort.

I’ve already had some great input from a couple of people, on where to find interesting trees in our area. There could well be a ‘Tree Hunting’ spin off! So a big thanks to Roger and Pat for this – I shall be keeping my eyes open!

Also, over to the right are some links to people who actually know what they are talking about when it comes to flora and fauna, and they take some fabulous photographs to prove it! I definitely recommend taking a look!

Take a Bough

I’ve heard about a project called Tree Following via Gary Webb on Twitter, who is following a London Plane at Compton Verney. The project is being run by Lucy Corrander on her Loose and Leafy blog and the idea is to follow the life of a tree or a group of trees, returning at various points in the year to note the changes and what’s going on.

I love how trees reflect the changing seasons but also what they can tell us about our changing surroundings. For example, some like those at Beacon Park, are reminders of an old estate, when the buildings themselves are long gone.  I like the idea that each species of tree has a history, with its own uses and customs and also that there have been trees in the past which have been so important they have given their name to an area, such as the Shire Oak at Walsall Wood.

Which tree(s) should I follow though? Here are some contenders, in and around Lichfield.

My current thoughts are that I’ll choose a tree at Leomansley Wood and also our cider orchard at Fisherwick. I hope the comparison between a mature woodland tree and an orchard sapling will be interesting. Although, as you can see from the photo, the cider trees aren’t much more than sticks at the moment, so we’ll see!