The Society of Biology is recruiting you (yes you) to help research the lives of UK spiders around the home. You can record sightings online, and there's even an app available for iPhone and Android to make it easy to send in reports and identify species.

This is the time of year when male house spiders typically come inside our homes, looking for love. But surprisingly little is known about them. That's where you can help!

The BBC also has a great article about the survey, including a quick rundown of common species. It alerted me to the Cardinal spider, the UK's largest house spider, which can have a leg span up to 14cm according to Wikipedia, brilliantly illustrated with one comfortably straddling a floppy disk. Remember floppy disks?


The National Trust is in my opinion a national gem. I'm a card carrying member and regularly visit their properties for long family days out in the great outdoors. This coming weekend (14th and 15th September 2013) they are holding a big event at Sheringham Park, near Cromer in Norfolk. It focuses on wildlife, ancient trees and biodiversity within the landscape – and some of their top nature experts will be giving talks and leading walks. Take a look at the full activity schedule.

One of the National Trust's experts, Brian Muelaner (Ancient Tree Adviser – I think that's the trees, not Brian) has put together a short article about his subject, which I've included below.

Ancient and Remarkable Trees

Brian Muelaner – Ancient Tree Adviser, National Trust

I’m really pleased to be involved with the Sheringham Uncovered weekend which offers a fantastic opportunity to discover the wonders of Britain’s unique landscape using one property as a case study.

I travel to Trust properties across England, Wales and Northern Ireland running courses on recording our remarkable trees and how best to manage them.  To date we’ve recorded 26,000 ancient and notable trees and have many more yet to be discovered.

Britain has a phenomenal number of Europe’s oldest trees, about 60% of all of the ancient trees within northern Europe are in the UK!  The Trust has the largest number of these remarkable trees apart from the Crown Estate, which makes our trees of great international significance.  

They are important culturally, the most famous would be Newton’s apple tree at Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire, this is the very tree Newton sat beneath when developing his theory on gravity

Another fine example is the Tolpuddle Martyr’s tree, beneath which the first ever trade union was created by a small group of farm labourers who were later tried for treason and deported to Australia.  After a massive public outcry they were returned to Britain as national heroes. Today Tolpuddle, a small village in Wiltshire is the focus for an annual festival celebrating trade unionism.  

These trees are also incredibly important for the wildlife they support, much of which is specific to very old trees. As trees age their heartwood begins to decay, which is part of the aging process for old trees.  This decaying wood then supports specialist deadwood invertebrates, which live on the decaying wood.

As the wood decays the tree then grows roots into its own belly to reabsorb the nutrients which have been locked up in their heartwood for many centuries.  This acts as a vital slow release fertiliser for these ancient trees.

Very old trees develop their own character over centuries or even millennium creating trees of remarkable aesthetic beauty. Each one becomes a living sculpture defying time itself.  The oldest tree on Trust land is thought to be the Ankerwycke yew near Runneymede and is between 2000 to 2500 years old!

The oldest oak is at Calke Abbey in Derbyshire and is around 1200 years old, the stories these trees could tell.

If you are interested in learning more about the Trust’s remarkable ancient trees then come to Sheringham and be prepared to be amazed.

This strange growth appeared on the end of a log in my small log-pile. A little larger than half a golf ball, it looks like a shiny silver brain, albeit a bit tarnished around the edges.

I assumed it was an unusual fungus but a bit of research has me thinking it's actually a slime mould, "the false puffball" (Enteridium lycoperdon) in its reproductive phase. A few days later it was gone, leaving nary a trace, presumably having dispersed its spores.

Never having found a slime mould before, and them being somewhat bizarre organisms, I'm a bit stumped as to which category to file this post under!