Wednesday 6 May, by Keith Fowler
When I awoke the sun was shining and there was hardly a cloud in the sky. How quickly it changed and the rains came. However, although the forecast was that there would be so much rain that we would need an ark, the day turned out to be not too bad with a mixture of rain, dull periods and sun. We got wet but not too wet.
We assembled in the car park at the allotted time and made our way to the Hem. Unfortunately one couple had to beat a hasty retreat as their car needed some tlc (but they rejoined us a little later) and three others were delayed whilst they assessed the weather.
The Hem is owned by Telford and Wrekin Council but after years of neglect is now under the management of Mark Ecclestone (see his website here) who is undertaking a seven year coppicing cycle as well as generally improving the woodland.
As we walked into the site we were greeted by a mass of Bluebells mixed with a variety of other plants including Greater stitchwort, Yellow archangel, Wood anemone and Bugle. It was a wonderful sight to which my photographs do little justice.
We started with a tour of the wood which has now had three years of coppicing. Fortunately deer have yet to find this wood so coppiced trees are regenerating well. The latest coppicing activity has opened up the area around some small pools and Marsh marigold has taken full advantage of the conditions.
During this tour our fungi expert came across a fungus that he had never seen before. Despite his best efforts the fungus remained unidentified; is it new to science?
(photograph Jim Cresswell)
The tour over we set about pursuing our own pursuits. I soon found a Birch shieldbug when I beat a Yew (or was it a Western hemlock – they all look the same to me). Our spiderman was grubbing around in leaf-litter looking for, yes, spiders, but also whatever else happened to be scooped up.
(photograph: Les Hughes)
Others looked for flies, moths, butterflies, mosses, plants and we made our very first records of earthworms thanks to our guest from the FSC.
So, despite the attempts of the weather to dampen our spirits, we had yet another excellent day on an excellent site. Our thanks are given to Mark for allowing us to visit and interrupt his usual routine.
Once we have made our way home we still have work to do as we attempt to identify specimens that we have collected in order to record their presence on the site. Techniques for this vary from comparing pictures to using keys often with the help of a microscope. In the world of fungi it is often necessary to look at features using a high-powered microscope. And, if you have a camera handy, you can get some surreal photographs. (The explanations are from our fungus expert.)
The first is of Corynespora smithii, which is found on dead standing stems of holly – the structures are called conidiophores.
(Photograph: Les Hughes)
The second is of an as yet undetermined tiny “disco” found growing on soil. The photograph shows that it has smooth spores; elegant, whip-like paraphyses, and a single ascus, showing its eight spores waiting to be fired off into space [the structure on the right].
And finally a fungus that is a specialist of bonfire sites Anthracobia macrocystis.