Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Tree Gazing Trail, Royal Victoria Park, Bath; 10th January 2015 Led by Alan Rayner and Kate Souter

In our first Nats field trip of 2015, those sixteen of us, both young and less young, who ventured out following the storms were rewarded with blue skies, majestic trees and the opportunity to get close to flora and fauna on display in the depths of winter.  As on our safari in May 2014 we followed ‘The Tree Gazing Trail’ developed by the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution (BRLSI) in partnership with Mark Cassidy, BNES Arboricultural Officer. 

The walk began with a close inspection of the mosses to be found in the exposed roots of the copper beech (Fagus sylvatica purpurea) the first tree of the walk and a Victorian speciality.  The tallest tree in Victoria Park, the London plane (Platanus x hispanica) provided an opportunity to examine the moss and lichen making their home in the peeling bark. Windfall proved a helpful way of examining lichen including Physcia adscendens, which can be distinguished by the whiskers on its helmet like ends.  Our exploration was interrupted by the chattering of a flock of redwing (Turdus iliacus). Further wildlife encounters delighted the group: we were entertained by an extremely tame grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in the dell that was quite keen to approach us in search of food.  Robins (Erithacus rubecula) were also keen to make their presence known and seemed unafraid of the human interlopers.  It was a real treat to be so close to our feathery friends.  Crataegus monogyna ‘Biflora’ it flowers twice a year once in May and again around December. Interestingly the high winds had scattered the fruit of the Ginkgo biloba (Maidenhair tree); both male and female trees are located towards the end of the trail.  The fruit is quite noxious in more ways than one.  It has a distinctive smell, some describe it as being rather like dog faeces, and the skin for the unfortunate 30% can cause a rather nasty reaction! Definitely one to be approach with caution!!
We were delighted to see the Glastonbury thorn(Left) in flower; living up to the name of

In summary, a glorious afternoon full of surprises and mid-winter delights.

Kate Souter 

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