Monday 27 November 2023

November 2023

In the midst of autumn you can spot things that are lost in a sea of green in the spring and summer. When I did my monthly survey on the 24th the stands of young Elm in Horse Close Wood stood out as pale yellow-green and the Sycamores and Norway Maples also stood out, each with its own colour. But, the big find was on the northern edge of the Horse Close Wood car park as I was checking whether the Dog's Mercury was still there anongst the autumn leaves, I spotted two clumps of a Wood-sorrel, almost certainly the native species. I didn't want to dig around the base of the plant to look for diagnostic details with so little of it there and it just might be one of a bunch of introduced, weedy wood-sorrels, but given the location right by the mercury that seems unlikely. When it flowers next spring the identification can be confirmed. Wood-sorrel is an ancient woodland indicator species, adding to the existing list of ten such species for the wood: Small-leaved Lime, Guelder Rose, Field Maple, Pendulous Sedge, Hybrid Hawthorn, native Bluebell, Holly, Stinking Iris, Crab Apple and Wild Cherry. Indicators don't prove ancient status and the woody species can be of recent, planted, origin and so not indicative. Of course, in this case, we have evidence suggesting that the wood is old planted. Its straight-edged shape and size match those of other

plots enclosed from Wandsworth's South Field. This shape has not changed from first record of it from the old estate map found by Rita Ensing of around 1740, when it was at the southern edge of Downe and Dunsford Manor, Wandsworth. I have speculated that the wood dates back at least as far as the enclosure of these open fields, perhaps in the 17th century. Ancient or not, Wood-sorrel is a nice find and not unexpeced in an old woodland. It is found across a range of woodland types and so expected in this Oak-Ash-Elm wood. The Wood-sorrel is above and Dog's Mercury below in the photograph.


The cornfield annual flower mix on the bund by the Revelstoke Road car park had been half cut back, for no apparent reason because it's still in flower. Perhaps to make way for the fireworks? The plots near the edges of the Great Field had been mown, after a quite unsuccessful year. These had been dominated by genuine, perennial native wildflowers: docks, Mugwort, Creeping Thistle, Dandelions, Ribwort Plantain and such. Not so pretty and with a shorter flowering period, but natural. I put down the failure to the dominance of these native species on the fertile, damp soils, species better adapted to the local situation. Sadly, the success of the mix on the bund was at least in part because of a pre-treatment with glyphosate. I suggest planting this bund with woodland to screen the ugly car park from view. 

The 80-year-old northern hedgerow (on the boundary between the public park and the golf course) had been cut back drastically, with much ugly damage to the mature Hawthorns. This will recover come spring, but it does seem to be management on the cheap and with little regard to amenity. As in previous years, autumn leaves are being tidied away unnecessarily. There is no need to clear more than two metres back from the path edge in Ashen Grove Wood. This year the leaves are being barrowed and dumped behind the Elizabeth pool building. If left on the ground they will be rapidly incorporated into the woodland soil by earthworms. Conversely, heaps like this smother the woodland ground flora, setting back the natural regeneration. And, again, the natural hedge extending north from the Revelstoke Road car park has been treated as a topiary project. It needs trimming to stop it obstructing the perimeter path, but lollipop shrubs are out of place.

This year, Pines and Needles have moved to the Horse Close Wood car park, occupying most of the middle and displacing the parked cars to the westernmost 1/3rd.