Woodland Walk with Doctor Judy John

On Saturday 9th of April we did the Darrick Wood Walk with Doctor Judy John. This followed up quickly from the Woodland Year talk by Simon Ginnaw at Beeche. Dr Judy’s introduction to the woodland species found in Darrick Wood helped to put Simon’s talk into context in a live environment.

Judy’s presentation inspired me into doing some research into the species which I would have just passed by when running or walking through the woods.

There are many plant species which act as indicators of ancient woodland including wild garlic, wood anemone and wood sorrel.

I was particularly fascinated by the pignut plant (Conopodium majus) which produces a buried corm or tuber which is edible. Foraging has become a new fashion, but potential field craft specialists should note that pignut is often found in association with bluebell bulbs which are poisonous. If you are tempted to dig up pignut roots please be aware that you must ask permission first and many plants are afforded legal protection.

Some research has shown that pignut is regularly dug up by badgers who obviously know what they are doing and in some areas the roots form 5% of their diet.

We were also shown the wood sorrel plant which I have never taken notice of before. Now I can see where the Irish get their shamrock from. The flowers, leaves and stems of the wood sorrel contain potassium oxalate which is poisonous.

There are an enormous number of wood anemones in the woods some of their flowers are white tinted with pink.

Many of us were looking up for tree creepers; they eluded us but we saw a pair of nuthatches climbing down the trees and we also heard their call.

There was plenty of birdsong and we investigated the woods to the backdrop of the exceptionally loud call of the green woodpecker. The crow family where actively calling as usual. And, the ubiquitous parakeets could be heard from far away.

The nuthatches were too fast to photograph but I managed to get a shot of a lazy parakeet. Many people actively dislike these green interlopers but I find them rather alluring.

The highlight of my walk was finding out from Judy what the horizontal lines on the birch trees are for. They are lenticels which help the tree to “breathe”. Lenticels are rather common in the plant kingdom: apples and pears have them on their skin.

Many thanks Judy, your woodland walk was very informative and entertaining.

Click on this link for photos from the woodland walk.

This article and the all the photographs were supplied by Trevor Morgan.