Interview on BBC Radio Derby – Wild flowers, folklore and their uses!

Did a live radio interview this afternoon on BBC Radio Derby. The idea was to plug a course I’m doing for Derbyshire Wildlife Trust in a few weeks time. But it’s not often I get a chance to talk about a number of my favourite topics – so managed to squeeze in wildflowers, nostalgia, my family and Monty Python (ie what have the Romans wild flowers ever done for us?)! Its on the BBC Radio Derby website for another 30 days if you want to catch it. Wind forward to 2hrs 13mins

The wildflowers folklore and uses course is on Saturday 16th May 10am – 1pm at Carsington Water Price £10. Call DWT  on 01773 881188 to book a place.DSCF9156


Spring has sprung at Carsington Water

Finally I had a chance to go experience spring in Derbyshire today at Carsington Water. Plenty of birds around including my first willow warbler and blackcap of the year. Lots of flowers out today – opposite-leaved golden saxifrage, colts foot, gorse, strawberry, cowslip, wood anemone, and my first bluebell of the year. The trees are beginning to burst into leaf and flower, with the blackthorn being the most impressive. A number of butterflies were seen around the reservoir, including Peacocks, small tortoiseshell, comas and a single Brimstone. We also caught sight of two toads who seemed to be preoccupied, but sadly the path wasn’t the most appropriate place and they were heading away from the water!

New Year flowers

Had a walk along the Cromford Canal today to blow away the excess of Christmas and the New Year. Lots of birds about, evidence and mammals and plants in flower.

I am a member of the BSBI and they have had a New Year Plant Hunt for the last 4 years. I recorded nine different flowering plants in flower along our walk – daisy, dandelion, lesser celandine, hogweed, butterbur, white dead nettle, ivy leaved toadflax, annual meadow grass and the fabulous Stinking Hellebore (at Scarthin Rock). Not bad for the second day of the year and 36 hours previously it had been all under snow! All records have now been sent off to the BSBI.

Plenty of evidence of mammals around too – moles (lots of molehills), grey squirrels, fox, field vole and the spot of the day was an otter spraint under a canal bridge. It was also great to see a kingfisher and hear great spotted woodpeckers, nuthatches and see the cheeky looking little grebes.

Otter spraint

Otter spraint

Get Skilled for DerwentWISE taster session brochure now out

As part of the DerwentWISE project, Derbyshire County Council’s Adult Education Service is putting on a number of one day taster sessions:

  • Sunday 9th Nov – An Introduction to Greenwood Crafts
  • Saturday 22nd November – Hedgelaying for beginners
  • Saturday 29th November – Practical Woodland Management
  • Saturday 13th December – Willow Weaving for Christmas crafts
  • Saturday 17th January – Coppicing

The cost of each course is £5 per person or FREE if your household income is less than £15,000 per year. For more information call the Belper Adult Community Education Centre   on 01773 829478

Click on the link here to download the brochure Get Skilled for DerwentWISE Taster sessions Nov 2014

DerwentWISE Taster Courses

DerwentWISE Taster Courses

Parrots and Ballerinas!

We have just spent a fascinating weekend learning all about Waxcaps on the National Trust’s Longshaw Estate. Longshaw has been known for its waxcaps for some time and in a 2003 report was listed as the top site in England. A total of 34 different species of waxcaps have been recorded on the grasslands at Longshaw.

When you actually start to look at them closely, it is possible to work out which is which. I was shown a number of different features to look at, including:

Colour of the cap (the top part) – red/yellow/pink/white/orange/green etc

The overall shape and size of the fungi – does it have a pointed top?

The smell – some smell of honey when bruised, others of garlic, cedar wood or bed bugs (don’t ask!)

Gill detail – do the gills run down the stipe (stem)?

Is the cap and or stem sticky?

Waxcaps look so colourful and have some wonderful names – for example Parrot waxcap, pink ballerina, Snowy waxcap.. see photos below.

There is a excellent blog run by the group of individuals recording the waxcaps (and other fungi) from the Longshaw estate

April at Linacre Reservoir

This afternoon was the April session of the WEA Nature’s Calendar at Linacre Reservoir. Like Bramcote Hills, much had come out since our last visit and most of the trees were in leaf now and the bluebells were well and truly out, although probably a few days off their peak. We found the large patch of wild garlic, but only a few were in flower today.

Trees noted in leaf today – beech, silver birch, oak (not all in leaf, but flowers were seen), larch (needles were seen now and flowers were now larger from last month), rowan, sycamore (flowers seen), hawthorn (no flowers, but buds were seen), and blackthorn flowers now out.

Many flowers were seen today – plenty of native bluebells, a few wild garlic flowers were seen, some sweet woodruff was seen on a path by the upper reservoir, other woodland plants seen include wood sorrel, wood anemone, dogs mercury, lords and ladies, opposite-leaved golden saxifrage, red campion, garlic mustard, greater stitchwort. Wood melick (a grass) was seen just beginning to flower and wood sedge had just appeared near the picnic area. Other flowers seen include groundsel, daisy, dandelion, shepherd’s purse, ribwort plantain, lesser celandine, greater woodrush. The leaves of pignut was seen (a flower to look out for next time).

Bird sing was a plenty at the reservoir today – chaffinch, coal tit, song thrush, nuthatch, great tit, wren, green woodpecker, greater spotted woodpecker (drumming), chiffchaff and tufted duck, mallard, great crested grebe and grey wagtail were seen on the reservoirs and swallows flying over the water.

No cuckoo heard yet (but I know they are around as someone heard one before our meeting today at Holmewood Country Park).

Bramcote Hills in April

Today was the April session on the Bramcote Hills Nature’s Calendar course. Despite a fairly grey sky, we managed to have over an hour of dryness before the drizzle started!

We noticed how much greener the site was and how much change there was in the trees – most of the trees last time were either just bursting their bids or had their buds still firmly shut.  The theme today was flowers, but it wasn’t just flowers on the floor, we saw plenty of tree flowers too, such as oak, sycamore, rowan, cherry and beech flowers – how often do you notice flowers on trees? Some hawthorn trees were almost in flower (although I couldn’t reach one to take a photo of one in full flower). Remember the phrases – Ne’r cast a clout till May is out – not sure I’m ready to put the jumpers away just yet!!

There were plenty of flowers out today – Spanish and native bluebells, garlic mustard, yellow archangel, wild garlic, green alkanet, red campion in the woodland and gorse, cow parsley, white deadnettle, dandelion, daisy, cut leaved cranesbill, cowslip, ribwort plantain, red clover, and bulbous buttercups in the grassland areas.

The birds were in full song today – we heard and saw blue tits, robin, green woodpecker, greater spotted woodpecker (heard drumming), chiffchaff, wren, blackbird, and we saw moorhen and plenty of mallards on the pond, including  one with 8 ducklings.

We didn’t see any insects today – the weather wasn’t too warm!