Saturday, 26 November 2016

Autumn 2016

Oak and maple trees turning yellow
The Golden Season - 8 November 2016
Autumn in golden in Milton Country Park
Here the trees in Remembrance Meadow are all turning yellow

Autumn is nature's siren, using its beauty to lure us into the misery of winter.  It is living proof that you can say anything with a smile on your face: this attractive season of reds and yellows presages nothing but wind, rain, snow, ice and darkness.  Yet we love it!  It is a beautiful woman with a dagger behind her back.

A stand of poplar trees shine yellow backlit by the morning sun
Poplar Trees Catch the Morning Sun - 2 November 2016
Poplars are one of the first trees to change colour
Here a group shine gold in the morning sun.

And why are we so keen to see the back of green leaves?  Admittedly, by October the green has become rather dull and tired, the flowers, except for a few stragglers, have gone, and the countryside is generally untidy.  But the green is the green of chlorophyll, and without chlorophyll there would be no oxygen, and with no oxygen, we could not live.  

Oak tree with a canopy of copper leaves
  • 'Copper' Oak - 18 November 2016
  • This oak catches the eye with its copper coloured leaves
  • In mid-November, the oaks are perhaps the most colourful trees in the park

Autumn is famously the season of 'mists and mellow fruitfulness'.  It may be climate change, but mists have been very few and far between in the eighteen of so months I have been writing this blog. Similarly, by mid-autumn most of the apples, plums and pears have disappeared from the trees and bushes.  Though, in a mild autumn like this one, there are still a lot of hawthorn berries on the bushes.  Presumably, the birds have been able to find plenty of food elsewhere.  

Branches of hawthorn bush covered in red berries
A Winter Larder - 18 November 2016
With a mild autumn, there are still plenty of berries of the bushes for the birds when they need them

The photographs for this post have all been taken in the first half of November.  At this time, while the poplars and the sycamores have turned yellow, there are still some trees and bushes that have barely changed colour at all: the willows and brambles are still quite green.  In contrast, one oak tree in Remembrance Meadow has lost all but a couple of its leaves; an early reminder of what is to come.

Oak tree with only one clump of leaves left on the branches
Goodbye to Summer - 8 November 2016
Last few leaves left hanging on this oak tree, yet still only early November 

In contrast, these willow trees on the banks of Todd's Pit were taken just two days earlier:

Willows along the bank of Todd's Pit with green leaves and red branches
  • Willow Bank - 6 November 2016
  • Still plenty of green leaves on these willow trees on the bank of Todd's Pit
Next: Autumn Leaves 2016


Saturday, 12 November 2016


Single reed plant framed by bushes
Deep Pool - 3 July 2016
Single reeds have a simple elegance.

This project to document Milton Country Park through the year is based on three assumptions. 

Firstly, I believe that any natural, or semi natural environment, not matter how ordinary, banal, or familiar it may seem, is worthy of attention.  

Secondly, any semi natural environment (there are very few truly natural environments left in England) is to be valued for what it offers, and not dismissed because of its lack of dramatic scenery, or noteworthy and endangered plants and animals.  For most people, more exotic and dramatic locations bring excitement for perhaps a fortnight a year; it is in the local neighbourhood that one can enjoy nature for the other 300 odd days a year.

Thirdly, that a photographer with sufficient skill and imagination, and given the right conditions, should be able to produce interesting, if not beautiful images of such places.  Edward Weston's pictures of Port Lobos and Eliot Porter's intimate landscapes of New England have been particularly inspirational to me.

A small group of flower heads of the common reed backlit by the morning sun
Wetlands - 11 September 2016
Flower heads of the common reed shine in the early morning sun

This brings me to the subject of this week's post: reeds (I use the word loosely for any plant that that has lanceolate leaves and grows by the water).  I admit that I find these plants neither interesting nor visually  appealing.  A search on the net did not unearth any particularly interesting facts: no witches, fairies, goblins, spells or miracle cures; just practical uses in thatching, water cleansing and floor covering for churches.  So, in many ways, to write a post on the subject of reeds illustrated with interesting photographs is a good test of the ideas I outlined above.

Dickerson's Pit at sunset with reeds in the foreground
Dickerson's Pit - 3 August 2016
Reeds are important to the appearance of the park

But reeds are important both to the ecology and to the appearance of the park. With over 2000 metres of water's edge to colonise, plus the majority of the wetland area, there are a lot of reeds in Milton Country Park. 

Close up of flower head of soft rush
Soft Rush - 26 June 2016

Visually, isolated plants have a certain elegance as shown in the image at the top of this post.  With back lighting, the flower heads of the common reed are a dramatic sight.  And in the fading evening light, I found the semi-circle of circle of rushes in shallow water just away from the bank made an attractive scene.  

Branched bur reed in bed of other reeds
Branched Bur Weed - 7 July 2016

As mentioned above, I have used the term 'reed' very loosely.  I now recognise there are at least five different plants involved. The commonest of which are the common reed, Phragmites australis; the soft rush, Juncus effusus; and yellow irises, Iris pseudocaris.  The latter is definitely not a reed, but included here because of the shape of its leaves.

Close up of flower of greater spearwort
Greater Spearwort - 7 Jully 2016

In one small inlet off Dickerson's Pit, I found two other plants.  One was branched bur-reed, Spharganium erectum, which looks like a model of a chemical formula found in a schools science laboratory.  In the same short stretch, I was surprised by some large yellow flowers among the reeds, which on investigation proved to be greater spearwort, Ranunculus lingua.

I certainly have not unearthed any earth shattering facts or created world beating photographs, but what I have found and the images I have made do nothing to dissuade me that even the most unpromising material is worth close attention.