Monday, 16 April 2012

Greyfield Wood

Many thanks to Rob Randall for an excellent trip to Greyfield Wood today.

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Greyfield Wood and Stephen's Hill, Monday 16th April 2012

Sixteen members joined the leader to explore woods in a part of the Somerset Coalfield where the coal-bearing rocks reach the surface. Much of Greyfield Wood grows on shales, and in places the dark grey nature of the soil indicates the presence of a coal seam below. Heavy soils develop on these relatively acidic rocks and the vegetation is very different from the woods around Bath. Bluebells, Wood Anemone and Cuckooflowers were abundant, and there was no sign of Ramsons, which prefers alkaline soils. One indicator of the acid nature of the soil was Foxglove, several over-wintering plants of which were seen. A single plant of Broom was found near a population of young Birch trees. Silver Birch, the common species, has naked twigs and doubly serrate leaves, but some of these had very hairy twigs, more typical of the Downy Birch. The latter has leaves with simple toothing, but although one or two appeared to show this, most had the compound toothing typical of Silver Birch. These species can interbreed quite freely, so the likelihood of pure strains of Downy Birch surviving for long are not good. Downy Birch is typical of heath and moorland, and may have been part of the original vegetation of the 'grey field' before it became a wood.

A short visit to Stephen's Hill to see one of the few waterfalls in the area, was delayed by a Goldcrest, which remained singing in full view for several minutes. As the Bluebells in Greyfield were not yet in flower, a visit was paid to the south-facing slopes of Highbury Hill, where they produced an impressive blue haze. Highbury Hill is made of a hard sandstone, but well drained, so a number of plants not seen earlier appeared, such as Greater Stitchwort, Red Campion and Wall Pennywort. Leathery specimens of Hard Shield Fern had survived the winter. It being spring, bird-song was very much in evidence, and 18 common birds were seen or heard, and at one point the party was circled by a concerned pair of Roe Deer.

Thank you Rob

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