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Another Winter Woodland Walk – needles and scales

Once again during lockdown we took our exercise at our nearby National Trust property, Attingham Park. A bright start to the day gave us a good start to our walk. We decided to follow the walk called the Woodland Walk and then take a detour to add a few extra miles on by following the World War Two Walk.

On the way to collect a coffee and cookie in the stable yard cafe we passed a few bright cameos, hazel catkins and berries on shrubs.

We decided we would concentrate on looking at conifers, evergreens which have needles or scales instead of leaves. Most remain on the trees all year round with the exception of Larch which has needles but these turn golden yellow in autumn and drop for winter.

We hadn’t walked far when we wandered through a grove of young yews, Taxus baccata. The low winter sunshine lit up new needles on the ends of many branches, giving bright green against deeper tones. On lower branches the sunlight gave a sheen to the upper branches and beneath and between patches of pure white from snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) glowed boldly.

These patches of snowdrops prepared us for the SnowdropWalk that we were soon to come across. A woodchip pathway took us beneath beech and oak trees which towered over thousands of snowdrops which carpeted the floor. Galanthus nivalis, G. nivalis ‘Flore Pleno’ and G. elwesii with their broader more glaucous leaves all merged into on pure sheet of white.

Conifers acted as effective frames for taking shots of more snowdrops.

Leaving the snowdrops behind we discovered more different coniferous trees alongside our pathway, now muddy underfoot after recent wet weather. Looking skyward at mature coniferous trees they are such a strong contrast to the light open outlines of their deciduous cousins. Sometimes conifer foliage appears quite glaucous but others appear black and heavy. As we found each one we tried to photograph their needles or scales.

Carrying further into the woodland we looked upwards to see the canopies above us.

As we took a turn off the main track we came across the first of our conifers to have scales rather than needles. New growth was a bright grass green against the more glaucous tints of last years foliage.

A little further on we were pleased to find a group of our only conifer that is deciduous, the European Larch, Larix europaeus, which presented as a very different outline. Its needles carpeted the earth beneath.

A few yards further along our wanderings we came across a tree we had never seen before but guessed it was some sort of larch but it was small and weeping in habit. I have since discovered it to be Weeping Japanese Larch. A lovely silhouette!

The final piece of woodland our wanderings took us through featured pine trees such as Scot’s Pine with long glaucous needles in batches. several had been felled by winter storms and these were being enjoyed by the resident herd of deer who have been gnawing away at their bark. Odd ones were dead but still standing providing shelter for insects and invertebrates which will in turn predators such as tits, woodpeckers, tree creepers and nuthatches.

We had one final clump of very special coniferous trees to enjoy. We could see them as we left the woodland path filling the area between the river and the buildings. These are the ubiquitous cedars seen at most stately homes and they are need of constant attention from tree surgeons as they are dropping huge branches as they wither slowly away.

We found a few small conifers as we crossed over the huge lawn area to have a close look at them.

Upon reaching the cypresses we were impressed with the amont of work done on them and also the number of young trees planted over the years as replacements. These graceful but huge trees are Jude the Undergardener’s favourite trees!

After we had studied these statuesque specimens we were close to the coffee so we decided to sit for a while and enjoy another!

By greenbenchramblings

A retired primary school head teacher, I now spend much of my time gardening in our quarter acre plot in rural Shropshire south of Shrewsbury. I share my garden with Jude my wife a newly retired teacher , eight assorted chickens and a plethora of wildlife. Jude does all the heavy work as I have a damaged spine and right leg. We also garden on an allotment nearby. We are interested in all things related to gardens, green issues and wildlife.

One reply on “Another Winter Woodland Walk – needles and scales”

I am sure that I have been as guilty as many in ignoring evergreens. Thinking that they never change which is so wrong. A front garden opposite us has three conifers which are budding so beautifully at this time of year. Each is so different with a subtle range of colour. Luckily I know Mary well so she doesn’t worry when she catches me peering through her undergrowth.
It is the season for looking up close.

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