Backwell Environment Trust

...15 years of conservation, protection, improvement...

Tree Walk - October 2015

Led by Richard Bland

Richard is a wonderfully enthusiastic naturalist who has been fascinated by the history and natural history of The Downs since he came to Bristol fifty years ago. He has a pivotal role in several organisations including a spell as President of the Bristol Naturalists Society. If you came to the BioBlitz in the summer you may have met him either leading some of our school groups on the Friday or enjoyed his all too brief tree walk on the Saturday.

Fortunately, the diversity of our woodland intrigued him and he offered to lead a longer walk on some future occasion. Needless to say, we jumped at his offer and on 4th October about 28 of us gathered at the BET Cabin. Richard is a very engaging speaker, with not only an extensive knowledge of plants, birds and trees, but also a background of economic history. Not only did he tell us about the trees, but their economic importance and some of the social history.

Tree walk 1

We measured girth to determine the age of the tree (about 2.5cm per year so 2m girth would indicate an age of about 80 years). Apparently old oaks are few and far between because they were traditionally harvested at about 100 years, and their height would have dictated the maximum dimensions of buildings in the pre-industrial ages. We also learned of the relationship between the Knopper Gall Wasp, the Turkey Oak and our native oaks, and how heavy infestations can affect acorn crops. This was brought home to me as I walked back through Backwell Churchyard, past the oak tree, trampling the ridged Knopper Gall acorns underfoot, seeing hardly any that were unaffected.

Richard is a great observer and has walked the same route across the Bristol Downs for 17 years, logging birds and plants, adding to knowledge about changing populations. He pointed out that this year had been a good one for apples but there was very little beech mast, ash fruits or acorns. Some of his observations are noted in the Phenology section of the Bristol Naturalists Society monthly bulletin. Two hours flew by all too quickly and we reluctantly bade farewell, with some areas of the reserves still unvisited!

Tree walk 3

We are most grateful to Richard for all his contributions to BET activities this year, in leading walks and carrying out copious species recording at the Bioblitz. We hope that he – and you - will continue to visit and enjoy our reserves.

You can find lots more fabulous photos from the walk in this gallery: BET Flickr Album

Carrie Riches



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