Tree following: November, and farewell to the hawthorn


Oh boy, is it November or what…

I looked at the weather forecast and decided to photograph my tree a little early. About a week early, in fact, and it’s just as well I did. The wind is storm force (Force 9, to be specific, though it is lessening a little); the rain is horizontal and the clouds are so low, despite the wind, that I can see about a hundred metres. Lovely.

A week ago it was a completely different story:


I don’t expect any of these are still there now. They may be in England, they may have been blown as far as Norway, but I’m pretty certain they won’t be here. I’m not going up to check, mind – the little car park I use was so squishy a day ago that it might as well be under water (it probably is, now) and the path I would take as an alternative to driving is mud. Sorry, that should be Mud. It definitely deserves a cap M. And this is essentially why, although I’ve enjoyed ‘following’ my hawthorn, I will pick a tree a little closer to follow next year.

Anyway, here is my best-beloved, looking lovely in the sun of 1 November:

hawthorn and dolmen

When I started following the hawthorn I said that the tree’s association with the dolmen did seem to give it a special significance, and I had more confirmation of that. This was, of course, the day after 31 October, Halloween, Samhain, call it what you will – and in the foreground you can just see a blackish area between a few stones, directly below the white spot on the capstone, right at the edge of the shot. It was the remains of a fire, evidently recent because there was just a hint of warmth to it. Not surprising, though hawthorns are more traditionally associated with Beltane. But I expect the tomb is the draw… or, of course, it could just have been fellow archaeologists up there to check any solar alignment.

So what has changed since my last despatch (I didn’t make October as I was away)? Well, there are now no leaves whatsoever, and the haws are patchy – some parts are still covered; others have none, or only very shrivelled ones. Exposure again: I spent some time just leaning against the hawthorn this time and realised, for the first time, that the pressure of the wind can be felt quite strongly, even on the thick branches – and that’s why it has developed so many trunks and roots, I guess.

There are signs of a lot of life in the tree – or perhaps that should be sign of a lot of spiders using it. The low angle of the sun really emphasised that, though it was very difficult to show just how bedecked the tree was with single filaments and whole webs:

spider webs

The sheep are back, rather more obvious and considerably more noisy:


They’re also considerably less flighty – possibly because the lambs are now huge, possibly because they’ve got used to me (don’t laugh; sheep can recognise a significant number of humans – there’s been academic research into this. Really). Once again, though, I noticed how much more battered this hawthorn was than its neighbours and decided to take a brief tour around some of its companions.

A little further down the hill is an Iron Age hut circle. There are hawthorns which guard the entrance:

entrance hawthorns

and they’ve been stripped of leaves too, despite being in a more shetered position. But notice the oak at the top? Here’s another shot of the whole thing:


All the oaks are like this, still with leaves. I’m intrigued, mind, by the fact the upper leaves are still green; without really understanding in detail, I’d have instinctively expected it to be the other way round. Particularly when you consider the exposure element (oh, yes – the dip in the middle, behind the oak, is the hut circle – it’s huge, would probably have housed an extended family plus some animals).

Quite a few of the trees are ivied, and when I say ‘ivied’ I mean it with a capital letter again:


And the tree still lives.

The gorse is just beginning to flower again, in parts,


though a lot of it is being cleared by the farmers. It had got very overgrown, and it will be back, and so I can’t really lament the extensive cutting back – especially as it is making it a lot easier to see some of the extensive archaeology up here. I’d not really realised how much the gorse had grown up until I took another look at the aerial photograph in the March tree-following post. You can still see grass in that, amongst the gorse. Until the hacking back, you could barely see any; just gorse, and you couldn’t push through it. So what is there, underneath all that? An irregular field system which is probably Neolithic, as is the dolmen; lots of clearance cairns and burnt mounds, some of which are very old, Bronze Age; some old terracing, maybe Neolithic; an old trackway, ditto; traces of huts, both prehistoric and Roman period; lots and lots of medieval stuff. And  the old pack-horse routes, of course.

It’s a wonderful landscape, a scheduled ancient monument, and I’m very glad I decided to visit it regularly to follow this tree. But visiting a tree a bit further away – even though it’s not exactly miles and miles away – has also been problematic; I’ve not observed the hawthorn as frequently as I did the birch from last year, for the simple reason that I could pop out of the kitchen door and be at the birch within, oh, twenty steps. So I will go back to following an even more local tree next year. What, or where, I’ve not decided (but it probably won’t involve encounters with feral goats, unlike this one).

And in the meanwhile, farewell sheepies:


I’m up here a lot, so I know I’ll be back. But I definitely got more out of tree following my birch -as a tree following exercise, that is, as opposed to archaeology following, plant hunting, goat avoiding, lichen photographing, mud squelching… oh, hang on, I think that last one would apply with the birch at the mo. Hm.

Apparently some people in this small country are enjoying sun and t-shirt weather, right now. All I can say is this is coming your way. Get your wellies out. And you’ll need vests.

PS: Huge thanks to Lucy at Loose and Leafy who has hosted the tree following meme for the last three years, and hello to Pat at The Squirrelbasket, who is the new host. It’s brilliant.


17 Comments Add yours

  1. Pauline says:

    We have six oaks in the garden and they are always the last to lose their leaves, we are still sweeping them up at Christmas or New Year! I like the shape of your hawthorn, sculpted by the wind and that it has so much archaeology round it.

    1. kate says:

      I’d love an oak – it’s definitely missing (I could let some of the numerous seedlings grow, I suppose, but then I’d have to live another 300 years or so to benefit). I do have ashes, though, and I can never remember the old rhyme. Is it ‘ash before oak, in for a soak?’ or ‘oak before ash, in for a splash’?

      It is such a lovely hawthorn. I am trying to grow one from a seed I’ve extracted. Fingers XXX.

  2. What a superb tree, and an amazing setting – I studied Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age archaeology at university, so I find that landscape of yours fascinating. And of course, being Welsh, I love the sheep!
    I think I have only just discovered this blog and the woolwinding one. I have just (semi) retired, so hopefully I will now be able to keep up better with lots of blogs.
    You have also got me googling Beltane fire, which leads to many interesting pages…
    All the best for now 🙂

    1. kate says:

      Ah, I did NBI too! Nearly said ‘I’m an NBI archaeologist’ but I earn my living as a hack, not through archaeology. Naturally. Seriously, it’s a stunning landscape, relatively little studied, and it’s maybe not surprising that I’ve ended up in a village with not just one but two chambered tombs (one’s a double, so maybe that should be three) ands all sorts of trackways, potential alignments, etc.

  3. Val says:

    Stellar photos, so evocative ~ a beautiful post and filled with the spirit of autumn and the timeless , ancient landscape. Thank you for sharing!

    1. kate says:

      Thank you – the landscape does help by being so stunning. Beautiful place!

  4. Beautiful oak–and a great photo of it. I have had the same experience–my willow is far enough away that I don’t check it nearly as often as I thought I would. Not sure what to do next year … but I will be tree-following, I’m hooked!

    1. kate says:

      Yes, so am I… Completely hooked. There are some woods which are much closer, but I think I might end up in the garden again. Last year I was able to identify my mystern birch, perhaps next year I can identify a mystery apple. Or three…

  5. Pat Webster says:

    Love the photos of the archeological sites and wish I had studied NBI… not available in Canada, I’m afraid. (Which reminds me of an old commercial for Red Rose Tea. Lots of fake English accents praising the taste, ending with the line ‘available only in Canada, eh? Pity.’ Or some such. I look forward to more tree posts, whether a hawthorn in the wild or something domesticated in the garden.

    1. kate says:

      But lots of other interesting things to study – and there were times when I wished I’d not been studying it, mind. But not that many.t

      Toying lightly with the dea of apples for next year. However, looks likely ATM that entire garden and landscape will be washed away before then. Sigh…

      1. Pat Webster says:

        And we have a clear day today — finally!

  6. Fabulous photos. Looks like another world to the wet and windfilled one up here today. Your hawthorn has been a fascinating follow. I have started tree following twice: first a horse chestnut and then a rowan and both in my field so no excuse for giving up because I can’t get there! Somehow by the time I got to July I had given up, twice. Not really sure why. I might have one final go because I love following other people’s, and this one especially because of its setting.

    1. kate says:

      Hm, seems like another world to me too – the weather is abominable and all the streams and rivers are overflowing; wouldn’t even attempt to get up there now.

      I’ve really enjoyed tree following and am definitely going to give it another shot next year – oh, go on, have another go, I’ve loved reading your posts when they have appeared!

  7. interesting reading about the landscape around your tree Kate, I like the second photo where the stone echoes the windblown slant of the tree, or perhaps I should say the tree echoes the stone, I have found in my garden trees are all unique and loose their leaves at different times, a month ago I had 2 of my downy birches next to each other, some exposure, some soil, etc. one was still in leaf which was just changing the other almost bald, it’s the same with trees coming into leaf, all different, Frances

    1. kate says:

      I’d not really thought about the echoing shapes – thank you Frances! (Interesting how it often takes someone from outside to point out things you just take for granted.) My three birches have shed at different times too, but I’d put that down to them being different varieties. Trees are as individual as we are, of course…

  8. hoehoegrow says:

    What an ancient and magical place – no wonder you are drawn to it. Very wild and wonderful! Your hawthorn fits in to that landscape so well.

    1. kate says:

      It’s very beautiful… But, currently, extremely wet. Couldn’t get near it for mud today, 😕

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.