Lime Tree By The Village Shop

The centre of Charlton Down is marked by the presence of a large lime tree. People come and go every day beneath its canopy to visit the village shop and post office, to meet friends, to sit in the shade, to catch the bus. They pass beneath its branches on their way to the village hall, the playing fields, the cricket ground, to buy from the hot food vans that park nearby, and use it as a rendezvous point for walks into the surrounding countryside. I do not suppose that many villagers notice the tree very much at all. But I like it, and delight in the changes it undergoes from season to season.

November oak Leaves

There are still a few leaves on the oak trees in the village, looking bright on this cold and sunny morning. The curious patterns are caused by the insect galls that affected the leaves.

Autumn Leaves – London Plane

We can’t fail to note the progress of autumn as we exit the Greenwood House car park or walk up to the village shop. The leaves on the London Planes outside Herrison Hall, and up the slope where we duck the low branches, are fast changing colour and falling.

White Spider

My neighbour Marilyn found this white spider on a pink anemone flower. I have seen them around the village too. They are inconspicuous as they lay in wait to pounce on unsuspecting prey innocently visiting flowers to collect nectar or pollen, or to eat the flower itself. They have no need of webs to trap their victims. I think it is possibly a Flower Crab Spider. This must be the creature that Robert Frost was describing in his poem “Design” where he says:


I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth—
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth—
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.


What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?—
If design govern in a thing so small.

Robert Frost
Complete Poems of Robert Frost, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1949

Magpie Moth

This attractive Magpie Moth (Abraxus grossulariata) was photographed the other day by Marilyn, one of my fellow Greenwood House residents. It was resting quietly on the path, making it easier to get up close and take the picture. It is lovely to see what other people spot as they are out walking and enjoying the nature we have around us here in Charlton Down.

Autumn Leaves – Brambles

Small and ordinary can be beautiful and delight the eye. I have been watching the Bramble leaves turning red in this early autmn as the berries are in various stages of ripening.

Horse Chestnut Leaf Miners

The foliage on the village horse chestnut trees may seem to have been changing to autumn colours for many months already. Look closely and there is a sort of pattern to the dying patches on the leaves. These patches are where a small caterpillar has been eating its way to fatness and maturity between the inner and outer layers of the leaf, following paths between the veins. The small moth that lays its eggs on the leaves is a native of the continent but warmer weather has enabled it to extend its range further north to Britain where it now flourishes. The infestation has an effect on the tree but only in a general way because the tree does not die and can still produce conkers. At this time of year the damage inflicted on the leaves is made more dramatic in appearance because of the dying back of the leaves. I have written in greater detail about this on earlier posts over on Jessica’s Nature Blog if you want to click the links below to read them:

Oak Spangle galls

Galls smother the undersides of oak leaves this September in and around Charlton Down and further afield. The oaks in the Nature Reserve and in the grounds on the south side of Greenwood House are affected. The galls are common and I have often seen them in other years too. The exact shape is dictated by the type of wasp that has laid its eggs in the leaf. The ones like small rough brown discs with a raised centre are Spangle Galls made by the Cynipid wasp Neuroterus quercusbaccarum. The small round golden galls with a depressed centre, a donut-shape of silk threads, are made by the wasp Neuroterus nimismalis. Some leaves have both species of gall.

Click on any image to enlarge and view in a gallery.

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.

Arable Weeds 5 – Nipplewort

This flower I am not a hundred percent certain about the identification but I think it is Nipplewort (Lapsana communis). It certainly is a common yellow flowered plant and is not confined to this particular habitat in the strip of arable weeds that I have been investigating. There are so many similar yellow flowered plants that I am never absolutely certain what they are. Anyway, this is my best attempt. If you know better, please do let me know.

Nipplewort is said to have useful medicinal and culinary properties.

You can click on an image to enlarge it and view in a gallery.