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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wed 14th July 2010 - Firestone Copse.

Our venue this week was at Firestone Copse, continuing the work started a few weeks ago. Our tasks this week were to cut back vegetation overhanging some of the pathways, and put some pipes into ditches to improve the water flow. Having put the pipes into the ditches, we then barrowed limestone chippings to cover the pipes and make the access better; some of our fitter members discovered some old pipes that had been buried, so dug these out with mattocks so they could be re-used - phew! The remainder of the couple of tons of chippings were used to improve one of the pathways. Firestone Copse itself is owned and managed by the Forest Commission, and is notable for its wide-ranging tree species from Oak to soaring spires of Grand Fir. In summer the rich grassy rides are particularly good places to see the many butterflies found here such as White and Red Admirals, Marbled Whites, Small Tortoiseshells, Gatekeepers and Fritillaries.

Carrie’s Nature Lesson

This week’s find was the fruit of the beech tree (Fagus Sylvatica). Recent evidence suggests it did not arrive in England until about 4,000BC, and could have been an early introduction by Stone Age man, who used the nuts for food. It is a large tree that can reach 160ft tall, and has a typical lifespan of 150 to 200 years. It has a smooth silver-grey coloured bark, with shiny oval leaves that have a subtle wavy edge. In autumn the leaf colours change to beautiful shades of yellow, orange and red-brown. The seeds have a prickly case which contains two nuts known as “mast”, which fall in September and October. These are an important food for birds, rodents and in the past also people, although they are slightly toxic to man if eaten in large quantities due to the tannins they contain. In 19th century England the nuts were pressed to obtain oil used for cooking and in lamps, and also ground to make flour which could be eaten after the tannins were leached out.

Another big thank you to Carrie for the text, pictures and lesson of the week...!

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