Watching my hawthorn: tree following, March


Predictably, this month I discovered the disadvantage to following a tree that isn’t immediately accessible. I chose one that I could reach comparatively easily – even though it wasn’t within ten metres of the back door – and I’m still complaining. That’s because of the weather, which has been a little, um, unpredictable. I’m going to have to adapt and take shots whenever I can, because my tree is often above the cloud line.

This, taken a couple of years ago (my hawthorn is the one on the left)

tree and dolmen in mist

was in good visibility compared to some of the recent days. Moody, but not easy. So I gave it a day or two, and shot up there as soon as weather and work (and this ***** cough) permitted.

There’s no sign of any leaf breaking yet, though there are plenty of signs that the sheep have been using it as shelter:

woolly tree

though they usually disappear at speed when I materialise with my camera, and then watch me carefully from a distance. After I’ve been quiet for a few minutes they edge nearer, and by the time I’m finishing they have decided that I might as well be part of the landscape: I pose no threat and am unlikely to have sheep nuts in my pocket. There are no lambs as yet up here, though judging by the size of some of the ewes, it won’t be long; that will make them more skittish, and defensive. People do sometimes walk their dogs around here; I hope they keep them on close leads. I will certainly get defensive if I see any that are not.

Ahem, the tree.

The absence of leaves means I can see the moss and lichen clearly:

mossy branch

I have been poring over various identification guides, and I’m still hopeless – but I’ve not spotted anything I haven’t seen before. However, I am looking much more closely at the lichens than I have ever done before, and they are beautiful:


Last year, when my garden sprouted all sorts of mushrooms, people were very helpful identifying varieties. Any guesses? I think this one is a Cladonia, but I’m not sure which one; could be C. coccifera. The trouble is that they are all so similar, and identification often seems to depend on the most minute differences.

How about this?

more lichen

Admittedly, identification is not going to be easy because so many of the lichens have been rather desiccated in the recent winds – not a patch on last year, but bad enough and freezing.

There are signs of life on the ground, though:

foxglovesThere are foxgloves coming up near the tree, in the scatter of stones around the dolmen. Not a lot, but they should be spectacular later on. The stone scatter is quite extensive – the large structure would originally have been covered by a huge stone mound, and these are now spread around the immediate area.

tree and dolmen

(The infill which is under the capstone is modern, but uses some of the stones.)

The tree itself has quite a few stones which must have come from the mound in amongst its roots – that’s probably how it survived the depredations of livestock when it was tiny. I suspect that many more stones have been incorporated into walls and other structures – not recently, because now people understand that you don’t just rob prehistoric remains, at least not when they’re so obvious – but the whole area has been inhabited for hundreds and hundreds of years. Superstition might stop you from raiding a convenient stone mound, but not for ever.

Let’s close with an aerial view, taken some years ago and courtesy of the RCHMW:

Fie;d system

You can actually see my hawthorn on it. Follow the second of the two grey walls at the bottom right, and mentally extend it until it joins the white strip of the first road. There are two dark green splodges just before the road; the top one is my hawthorn, and the dolmen is between them. And you can see a lot of archaeology too. This is the Cors y Gedol field system; there are the remains of Iron Age round houses, and of rectangular Mediaeval farm buildings.

And the gorse is flowering now. Spring?


14 Comments Add yours

  1. leafencounterwp says:

    Oh, that third pic of lichen is easy to identify – it’s a tree beard of course! As you say..ahem..! Seriously, I’d love to be able to i.d. them, but I can’t help you there. Fab pics though – love the first mossy one with contrasting colours of pewter and green…

    1. kate says:

      Why didn’t I think of that, hah!

      I clearly need a better ID book, so I’m going to check some out. But I suspect they’re just pretty variable and difficult to distinguish without a magnifying glass and the correct time of year. We’ll see!

  2. Lea says:

    Very interesting!
    I had thought about following a tree I see on a nature trail we sometimes walk, but with the weather here lately I decided on one near my house.
    Have a great day!

    1. kate says:

      Yes, I think that was possibly more sensible… but maybe this is the worst the weather is going to get for a bit?

      (Ha, can’t believe I just typed that – suffice it to say that I bought myself a new really waterproof jacket yesterday after my old one revealed that it wasn’t any more. I looked like a drowned rat after my first photographic foray.)

  3. Hollis says:

    Thanks for providing the aerial view. It’s helpful in understanding a landscape I’m totally unfamiliar with. I think I will try to do something similar in an upcoming tree-following post.

    1. kate says:

      I was very lucky to find one – they are so revealing. It’s difficult here, for instance, to realise just how thin a strip the woods actually are when you’re inside them. They seem huge…

  4. Cathy says:

    fascinating post Kate, and lovely close ups of your lichens. It was good to see your aerial photo too – I have always had a love of maps and aerial photos are an extension of these. I also retain fond memories of drawing strips on maps as a fairly young child when I was learning about mediaeval farming….

    1. Cathy says:

      Forgot to say that like kissing, gorse is always in season – or so they say… 😉

      1. kate says:

        I haven’t heard that one in ages, my dad used to say it. And chase me around the gorse (but it may have different interpretations, ho ho)….

    2. kate says:

      I think we must have shared a history teacher, I remember doing that too! I do think aerial shots are interesting; you don’t get an impression of the landscape as a whole when you’re walking through it…

      I must learn lichens!

  5. It looks like you’ve found a fine tree to follow! I love the lichens and mosses, and the stone formation, as much as I do the tree. These are all things that really grab my attention when I’m outdoors. The aerial shot adds a lot of information as far as the location of the tree and the area in which it grows. I really appreciate that, and I look forward to seeing more of your tree in the future!

    1. kate says:

      It’s a lovely tree, but photographing it is very confusing. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a shape shifter… no, not really – it’s just not round. So from one angle it looks enormous, but from another it looks quite thin and comparatively small.

      So lucky to find that aerial shot online!

  6. Spade & Dagger says:

    All those lichen show you have really good air quality in your area, which is always good to confirm. Interesting the aerial contrast between the area with your tree and the bright green regular squares behind the woods, presumably a meeting of the ancient and modern.

    1. kate says:

      I suspect you’re right. The land at top left is heading uphill rapidly, and you certainly don’t find cattle much higher than the top walls (mind you, you also find them in the enclosed, gorse-filled area too – so it can’t just be down to generations of cow poo; but it’s certainly not been so intensively cultivated).

      The lichen are stunning…

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