Spalted Beech

The cut surfaces of the stumps, left when some of our big beech trees were recently felled in Charlton Down, show evidence of the fungus which caused their demise. The abstract figuring of dark lines and patches running through the trunk denotes the extent of the infection, and this natural abstract patterning is much prized by wood turners and sculptors for its decorative quality, transforming the simplest of bowls or platters into a work of art. [The Dansel Gallery in Abbotsbury, for example, stocks items made from this type of spalted beech.] These pictures were taken after heavy rain which soaked into the wood and enhanced the colours.

Four Views

Four views taken a few steps from Greenwood House late morning 3 May 2021 when the wind was already high and the rain was yet to come, but promised in the full clouds scudding and fitfully obscuring the sun. Remember you can click any picture to enlarge it and see the caption.

Copper Beech Leaves 2

When the new leaves of beech trees overwinter in the bud, they are neatly folded up – not crumpled randomly. As they burst free in Spring, you can see that each leaf is pleated in a regular fashion so that they unfold like the ribs of an opening fan. The leaves have silky soft hairs around the edges, and the blade shows green as well as red pigments. Later in the year the leaves become darker purple as the red pigments dominate.

Butterflies & Us


Peacock butterfly on ragwort last summer in Charlton Down

I know that most people living in Greenwood House do not have their own gardening space but many have window boxes and outdoor pot plants, so this may be of interest. Also, over the past 18 months or so, if we hadn’t realised it previously, we certainly learnt how connecting with nature outdoors – walking around the grounds and surrounding countryside – can enhance the way we feel both physically and mentally. Nurture for Nature – Taking care of yourselves and our pollinators this spring is a campaign by the organisation Butterfly Conservation. They consider how important it is to support and encourage wildlife such as butterflies and moths for their sake and for our own. Linking to the Butterfly Conservation website lets you see a short introductory video and download a beautifully illustrated leaflet that includes a prescription for being outdoors – the science behind wellbeing in nature; how to find mindfulness outdoors; species to spot this Spring; grow your herb garden; go wild for flowers; gardening tips; family-friendly fun; and why butterflies and moths matter. It is well worth having a look.

If you are interested in learning more about butterflies and how to identify them, I have a glossy foldout Guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Ireland produced by the Field Studies Council to give away free to the first one of my neighbours in Greenwood House (Charlton Down, Dorset) to contact me with their flat number so I can put it through their letterbox.

Bag Lady

I have become a bag lady! I am following the example of two of our fellow residents who last summer did a monumental clear up of litter around Greenwood House filling eight bin bags. I realise rather late in the day that I can also do something positive about the accidentally-dropped, wind-blown rubbish that scatters around, hides under bushes, and blows across our lawns. I have the time after all. I have taken to carrying a bag and gloves in my pocket so I can pick up any odds and ends that I see as I walk around. This way, I hope rubbish will not accumulate too much. I find it difficult to bend, so Linda from Woodlanders has lent me a proper litter-grabber which I am trying out. Anyone can borrow one.

View from my window 3

View from my window in Greenwood House. Unedited photographs of the opening leaves on the copper beech trees, glowing red against the dark sky after rain, in the slanted light of the sun going down. 1st May 2021.

Native Bluebells

It takes your breath away when you accidentally come across a copse carpeted with bluebells. Standing on the outside, peering in through branches at ancient trees standing and fallen to the realm where only the deer reign, while the birds sing, and the sun shines, and the bright blue flowers stand tall by their thousands in dappled light.

Lime tree leaves 1

All the trees around the village seem to be springing into life now, opening up their leaves and flowers, and providing us with an increasingly colourful show. Lime trees are amongst the most common in Charlton Down and this week the buds have popped and the delicate bright citric green leaves are unwrapping from the buds.

Maple flowers

There are different types of Maple trees around the village. I am not sure exactly what they are all called. Maybe someone is good at tree identification and can put me right? The maples are in bloom this week. The flowers are bright yellow and stand out against the dark branches and the blue sky. The leaves burst out at almost the same time and are very thin and crinkled and unobtrusive for the moment. Together they crown the trees with a halo of gold. The example shown here can be seen in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve.

Greenwood History 2

South face of Greenwood House in the sunshine

A new video about Herrison Hospital has just been put on YouTube. It has been released by Dom White who allowed Ryan Carpenter to put it on-line. It is called Herrison Hospital Tour – “Herrison in Decline” and was shot by Tom Caples in 1995/1996. It presents a two hour walk through the dilapidated and vandalised buildings after the NHS moved out of the site and before it was redeveloped into the housing we see today. I have so far watched about the first half hour of the amateur filming in which two of the former staff members investigate the abandoned buildings, starting in what we call Redwood House and moving on to Greenwood House. At the time, the two buildings were still connected via what we now know as the Village Hall.

I am particularly interested to identify that part of the hospital which my flat now occupies, but it is not easy to do because it looks so different. I think I live in what was Radipole Ward. The main clue is the location of the conservatory which was built onto the south-facing wall of the ward – which is in effect a sheltered area between two protruding parts of the building. I had already been told that the area just outside my French windows had been a glassed-in sun lounge. I can see why they chose to put it there. It is indeed a remarkable sunny spot, and the flat has the advantage of solar gain year-round.