Wapley Bushes Local Nature Reserve, near Yate and Chipping Sodbury, South Gloucestershire.

The Nature Reserve is run by the Wapley Bushes Conservation Group, a small group of volunteers.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Oaks and Acorns

I suppose that the oak and the acorn are two of the quintessential (today’s long word has been specially sponsored by the Conservation Group)… two of the quintessential symbols of an English woodland. Even though the oak is found in many countries of the world.

I was crossing the bridge between the two meadows, and across the bridge from the burnt-out tree I noticed acorns on the ground. Here is an acorn still on the tree. Notice how “woody” it looks, almost like a piece of manufactured furniture. Almost an advert for its parent tree.

Oak trees tend to remind me of the story of Robin Hood - the new BBC TV series, and the HTV series Robin of Sherwood that was filmed in the Bristol area, down by the river Frome.

According to the Royal Forestry Society, “Acorns in cups are a well known feature of an oak tree. The Anglo-Saxon name for oak was aik, so the seed was known as aik-com,” in other words OAK-CORN. Of course it’s a nut rather than a seed.

The photo shows an English or "pedunculate" oak, meaning that the acorns are on stalks. Acorns of the other common species, the sessile oak, don’t have stalks. Sessile means “sitting on”, so the acorn-cup sits directly on the shoot.

You would think that a heavy thing like an acorn wouldn’t travel far, but apparently they are often carried by birds for 250 metres, and sometimes even up to a kilometre.

Oaks used to be an important indirect food source for people. Mediaeval pigs (well, they called them swine back then) used to graze on the acorns, among other things. This practice was called “pannage”.

They’ve recently had problems in the New Forest because acorns are poisonous to ponies, so they’ve been asking commoners (people with grazing rights) to turn out their pigs to eat the acorns. Apparently an oak tree normally starts producing acorns after about 50 years and one mature tree will shed 50,000.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Wapley workday Sunday 12 Nov

This time we will be putting more bird and bat boxes up in the wood. Meet 10.00 am at the Shire Way gate - everyone welcome. We look forward to seeing you there!

What's wet, dark and scary?

More than 60 people – including many children – braved a rainy night to join expert Ian McGuire on an Owl Prowl through Wapley Woods. Despite the weather the crowd enjoyed their walk in the damp, spooky darkness, pausing as Ian described various species of owl.

Tape recordings of owls were played, but unfortunately no owls answered back. Ian said that owls generally didn’t like flying in wet weather – “It’s hard to fly and hold an umbrella at the same time!”

Nevertheless the group still met a real live owl because Ian had brought Jaz, a male tawny owl. The children in particular were fascinated to see an owl at close quarters.

Check out Ian's website on www.wildowl.net for lots of interesting photos.

The Hawk and Owl Trust site on www.hawkandowl.org is also fascinating.

Did YOU come on the Owl Prowl? Please leave a comment to tell us what you thought about it.

New Nature Reserve leaflet available

The new guide is now available, and should be in all the following places by this weekend:
Yate and Chipping Sodbury Libraries
Dodington Parish Council
Yate Town Council
Yate One-Stop Shop (South Glos)

They will also be available at the Tourist Information centre when it reopens after the winter.

The picture shows Paul Hulbert, Tim Fairhead and Isabel Ryan at the launch of the leaflet.

If you have any problems getting hold of a leaflet, please contact Paul on 01454 315851.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

New Nature Reserve Guide leaflet!

A new full-colour guide leaflet for the Wapley Bushes Local Nature Reserve has just been printed. We'll be distributing it shortly - watch this space for where you can get it - but if you would like a sneak preview, click here.

It's a PDF leaflet of a bit over a megabyte, so be prepared for a wait of a few seconds before Adobe Acrobat Reader opens, even on a broadband link. Unless you're VERY patient, don't try it on a dial-up link - it would just take too long, and you'll have to wait for the paper copy.

What do you think of the new leaflet? Any feedback would be appreciated!

Thanks to South Gloucestershire Council for their generous Environment Grant to pay for the new leaflet.