Until July 2017, documenting the seasons of coastal Dorset. I'm a complete amateur so don't trust I'm always right. If ever you see I'm wrong - whether with identifications or in anything else - do say! Meanwhile . . . I've now moved to Halifax in West Yorkshire. Click on the link below to collect the new URL. Don't forget to follow there!

Sunday, 18 March 2012


Blackthorn blossom is far from covering
the bushes yet
but it's beginning to bulk up;
a few clusters now
rather than an occasional flower.
Writing this post has been something of a struggle. I'd decided to write about paths - paths for humans and paths created by animals (mostly by dogs, foxes and badgers round here). It gives a bit of context - something which, I think, is often missing on Loose and Leafy. From time to time I try to make up for this but doing so has challenges. For one thing, I am privileged to have access to such a rich and varied environment, the wider scene could easily nudge out the detail - and it's the style of this blog that I focus on small details. (Leaves - rather than trees; what one can find without moving a foot.) Another challenge is that, because this is the internet, I prefer to be hazy about some locations. I say 'some' because several are utterly distinct and some unique! There's no getting away from the silhouette of Portland! And, finally, Dorset is such an incredibly beautiful and interesting area, Loose and Leafy could easily become an outpost of Tourist Information; an advertisement for wonderful holidays.

Writing a post about paths hit all these challenges, plus three more. One, that I took so many photos for it, I'd have needed to change the name of the blog to 'Trodden Ground'. Two, that there are other things I wanted to fit in today - it is spring, after all! The third challenge is that there are paths interesting enough to include in a wider-context post but which aren't, I find, the richest source of material for Loose and Leafy.

Never mind - here goes with a random selection and a truncated version. We'll start wide - and narrow down.

This, clearly, is the route of an old railway line. You can see the remains of a long platform on the left. A few years ago, someone proposed re-introducing trains and tracks. It would have been a lot of work and a lot of expense but the man who brought forward the idea had a lot of enthusiasm and, I think, saw it as an ecological idea - a way of encouraging people to use public transport (even if privately operated) rather than cars.

The vegetation along here does not look exciting at present but there are lots of brambles and gorse.
In the summer the air vibrates with heat and pollinators.
Quite a few small flowers - like vetches and cranesbill - grow along the sides.

I think the train enthusiast was taken aback by the vehemence of opposition. This path is incredibly well used. Finding a moment when there aren't people in view is very difficult, especially on a sunny weekend, Sometimes, parts of it get so crowded it is hard to find a route through. I took photos of it being busy - locals going to and from town, walkers, joggers, people with tripods and binoculars who'd come to spy birds, and children learning to ride bikes they were bought for Christmas which have been brought back out again now the weather is getting warm - but as I avoid pictures of people when I can, I decided to show you what it looks like in a calm moment. The person in the distance and the shadow of a cyclist can represent all those who use it. They are good symbols. It can be a peaceful place to walk but there are also conflicts between cyclists who think it's a 'proper' road and people on foot - who don't.

This is part of The Hamm -
the path which runs along the causeway to Portland.
This may not seem hopeful ground for plant watching but . . .
just wait!
Before long, there will be a sea of pink thrift along here.

This area, down in a dip and surrounded by Holm Oaks,
is genuinely short of plants all year round.
In part this is because of the trees.

In part because it's a good place for people to
clamber about a bit or
to abandon supermarket shopping trolleys.

Here's a way to the sea. The reeds are a bit higher than I am.
(I first showed this photo on my other blog, Message in a Milk Bottle.)

Here's a way I never go! It's a way made by animals. I doubt even children go down here.
As well as foxes and badgers - rats and squirrels take advantage of these cuts.

Here's the path between the elders we are following.
In the winter, there's room for children.
Already though, vegetation is beginning to crowd in.
Before long, it will be almost impassable.

The elder shoot we have been following (up on one of the branches) has hardly changed. Others near it are growing faster. I'm glad I chose this shoot though because it means I can keep taking pictures of the lichen as well - Common Orange' (Xanthoria parietina).

* * *

One of my first incentives to follow the progress of a particular tree or patch of ground was when some of the trees round here were cut back in what seemed to me to be a brutal and haphazard way. I was concerned rot would get into the bare and ragged ends of small branches. Some were on trees I recognised. But there was one tree - with beautiful twigs, chestnutty red, which I simply couldn't identify. Not in a way I could be confident of.

I am on Twitter and a friend there suggested silver birch. I said I'd go and look at the lower part of its trunk once the undergrowth had died back for winter. I could never get there. It is as protected as effectively as the sleeping princess was by brambles and briers. Just before the nettles grow up and the leaves break out to make the trunk invisible as well as inaccessible, I've managed to zoom in (hurray for cameras!) and get a glimpse.

Looks right?

And another ID problem. As I've mentioned before, I find it difficult to tell the difference between maples and sycamores in their variety.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a book which may help with this because it has examples of the different shapes of their seeds. The ones on the tree where this twig grows will be specially lovely. (I know from passed years.)

It will be a long wait. These leaf buds seem pretty static.

* * *

I'm Following a Tree
Are You? 
If you have posted recently about the life of a particular tree you are 'following', let me know and I'll put a link here.

On the Edge Gardening
Warts and All
Lichfield Lore
Sticking it Out
(Cider Orchard)


Anonymous said...

I love your post about paths. I have often found some of the best paths to walk are old railway lines - something quite exciting about doing that, never quite sure why though. Maybe it's just me! Ronnie@hurtledto60

Rowan said...

I see a lot of animal paths when I'm out walking, there's one made by badgers across a field and several used regularly by the red deer and smaller ones that are probably where the foxes go.

Crafty Gardener said...

You have shared some interesting paths. The weather is perfect for walking now.

Donna said...

Lucy I love the idea of following paths and watching trees..perhaps I may be able to do that...i was hoping for a slow spring but it is running fast with hot weather now...so unusual in March...so to beat the poison ivy, i will have to get going perhaps this weekend if it stays dry...

PatioPatch said...

Trailing along your paths Lucy is a little like being a tourist but with such a wonderful guide to point out all the little things I might miss. Your narrative and photos just seem to get better and make Loose and Leafy a highspot for a visit. (great description of sleeping beauty hidden in the briers)
p.s. camera back now so hope to post my tree by the end of the week

Lucy said...

Hello Ronnie. There's a good tunnel on this old railway line too. It's a good practice to take children with you so you can hoot without feeling silly.

Hello Rowan. I imagine red deer make quite hefty paths?

Hello Linda. We have good weather too at present. Indeed, some days it is too hot for me - which is ridiculous in March!

Hi Donna - yes do do some tree and path following - and I'll put links here.

Hi Laura. I'm glad you are back with a camera. Being camera-less is pretty miserable once you are used to carrying one with you all the time. Cameras become friends.


Lucy said...

Dear Everyone,

You might like to know I've just posted a new post on Loose and Leafy

'Let Me Introduce You to My Garden'