Saturday, 23 November 2013

Bath Nats Field Trip to Rainbow Woods on 20th November 2013

Bath Nats Field Trip to Rainbow Woods on 20th November 2013
A total of eight members braved the wet and windy weather to enjoy some of the trees and their associated wildlife within Rainbow Woods itself and part of Bath's Skyline Walk through a small part of the National Trusts woodland. We began by observing the prolific natural regeneration, together with the community planting within the area adjacent to North Road also known as ‘Free Fields’, which was almost totally blown down in one night following the devastating storm of 25 January 1990. Whilst the loss of such a unique and beautiful Beech woodland was considered very sad by many people at the time, it was evident that the 'new' young woodland has now become much more interesting. There are many more species of trees including Silver Birch, Ash, Sycamore, Wild Cherry, Scots Pine as well as young Beech along with a very much richer under-storey of native shrubs and herbaceous plants all of which has improved the wildlife diversity of the woodland in general.
Despite the loss of the majority of the mature Beech within this area, members were treated to the beauty of a number of mature trees that withstood the storm and a glimpse of what the former woodland must have looked like. This was nowhere more apparent than in the two majestic Beech that are still growing on a steep bank next to the old gymnasium in the grounds of Prior Park College with their amazing exposed root systems that at least three generations of children have used as steps and a launch pad for the rope swing tied high in a long lateral limb.
After a coffee break, our gentle pace continued despite heavy rain, past a stand of mature Lime trees with characteristic epicormic growth around their base, towards a splendid view of the City – or at least it would have been if it hadn’t been raining quite so hard! Then, as the rain began to give way to a brighter spell, our walk continued towards Rainbow Wood House where Oak, Hornbeam and Sweet Chestnut were seen in their 'open grown' state along with a small group of Redwing feeding amongst the numerous ancient ant hills that littered the field below us. Back through the National Trust skyline woodland a number of fungi were found including Ivory Wax Caps (Hygrophorus cossus) Yellow-staining Wood Mushroom (Agaricus placomyces) and Foxy Dapperling (Lepiota vetriosospora).
Heading back towards Free Fields, mature Silver Birch were observed with their 'Witches Brooms' looking just like a large birds nest or a squirrels drey, which are caused by a fungus known as Taphrina betulina, which makes the tree produce a mass of small twigs.  Also growing in the woodland edge alongside the public footpath were native hedgerow trees including Spindle and Dogwood, the former sporting their pink capsules with clashing bright orange seeds.
By this time the rain had stopped and there was blue sky breaking through the grey clouds providing a pleasant and colourful walk back to our cars.
Photograph by Peter Shirley

Paul Wilkins

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