Hedgerow Spindle Berries

Various stages of development and ripening of the berries borne by the Spindle bush (Euonymous europaeus) seen in hedgerows around the village, notably in the CD Nature Reserve – although they are not so abundant as last year and do not seem to be surviving on the branches for so long. Last year many remained intact and still containing their bright orange seeds into the January frosts.

Conkers

Why, at my great age, do I still feel compelled to pick up conkers? When I was younger, I used to maintain that I filled my briefcase with them on the way to work for my young son to play with. But, to be honest, in retrospect, it was for my own benefit. They are such lovely things to look at – the colours, patterns, shapes – and are wonderful to touch – smooth, satiny, and cool. I have in the past filled my pockets with them – turning them around like rosary beads as I walk. I have stacked them in baskets and in bowls around the house to admire until the shine disappears and the shape wrinkles and crinkles. I met a man scrabbling around on the ground beneath the horse chestnut trees in Sherren Avenue the other day. He was a bit embarrassed to be found picking up conkers. He said he didn’t really know why he did it. But I know – because I will always find them one of the most attractive of fruits of autumn

Hedgerow Wayfarer Berries

Various stages of development and ripening of the berries borne by the Wayfarer or Wayfaring tree (Viburnum lantana) seen in hedgerows around the village, notably in Olympic Park and the CD Nature Reserve – although they are rapidly stripped by the birds.

Hedgerow Guelder-Rose Berries

Guelder-rose (Viburnum opulus) is not as common as Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Elder, and Dog Rose in the hedgerows and copses around our village of Charlton Down, but it has beautiful flowers in Spring and luscious red berries in Autumn. The best example of Guelder Rose can be found in the trees and bushes bordering the area of grassland that I have previously referred to as The Meadow: this is a triangular piece of land down the slope from Rowan Walk, and near the path that passes north and upwards to the barn on the crest of the hill as you walk to Forston Grange. Guelder-rose also grows in the hedge separating the Community Orchard from the road. The berries in the pictures are not quite ripe yet, still a bit orange in colour (24 August 2021) but should be ripe and a deep translucent red by now or pretty soon.

Acorn Knopper galls

Acorn knopper galls can be found on the young oak trees behind Greenwood House and also in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve. They are acorns which have developed in a distorted way because a particular species of small wasps have laid their eggs in the acorn flowers. The irritation as the egg hatches out causes a proliferation of tissue growth on which the larva can feed. Sometimes a whole acorn is transformed this way. Sometimes only part of it. And on some stems a perfectly normal acorn in its cup grows side by side with the gall acorn. The shapes are variable as you can see from the photographs.

If you would like a little more information about these galls, ten years ago I wrote in my other blog about some of the same type of galls that I noticed in Kew Gardens.

Hedgerow Elderberries

Elderberries are also common in the Dorset hedgerows. The Elder shrub or tree provides flowers in spring for cordials and elderflower wine or ‘champagne’. In July and August the berries start to form and change from green, through red. They ripen to black in autumn. The berries are popular with birds so not all bushes are laden around Charlton Down but, here and there, they are laden and ripe for picking and making wine, jam, or syrup. There are lots of recipes on-line.

Hedgerow Sloes

Sloes, the fruits of the Blackthorn, are ripening in the hedgerows around Charlton Down. They resemble small grapes or damsons. They look delicious but they seem to be used mostly for flavouring gin.

Hedgerow Blackberries

There are loads of blackberries in the hedgerows around the village right now, but most of them aren’t ripe yet – just one or two shiny black and juicy.

Hedgerow Rosehips

Rosehips are the fruits of the Dog Rose which grows in the hedgerows near Charlton Down in Dorset. These were photographed 3 September 2021.

Autumn Silhouettes 1

Thistle flowers going to seed, Hawthorn berries, and Blackberries in the hedgerows, and flowering Stinging Nettles in the fields, on the first official day of Autumn in Charlton Down.