Gorse Webs

A blast from the recent past here – September of last year. My own dear father sent this picture of fine, dense webs on gorse bushes. If you look closely you can see that there are multiple layers.

I had assumed that these must be the work of caterpillars, like the webs that sometimes enshroud whole trees and cars. But a little research suggests they might be the work of tiny red Gorse spider mites. Apparently it is damaging to the plant and is even used as a biological control in some parts of the worlds, to keep Gorse down.

Irreplaceable Woodlands Book

Charles Flower has been custodian of the 25-acre Mapleash Copse for thirty years, and in this book he records his knowledge and passion for British woodland and everything that lives within it. He has done an incredible job, as this truly is a masterwork and an absolute joy to read. It blew me away with its depth and breadth and sparkling photography. Brace yourselves – this is going to be a gushingly positive review.

Like many people, I love a walk in the woods, at any time of year, and this book brings those British woods to life. It starts with an in-depth history of Mapleash Copse mixed in with the evolution of British woodland and its place as a critical resource over the millennia that people have lived in these isles. This history is detailed and fascinating, ramming home just how important woodland was, and how deliberately and intensively it was managed. Each type of wood had its particular use, from wheel hubs and spokes to tool handles and charcoal. Really it’s only in the last hundred years that this has ceased to be and most woods have been largely left to their own devices.

People like Charles however have been learning how to manage woodland, via coppicing, pollarding and careful species selection. In this respect the book is a detailed practical guide to managing woodland, especially Hazel coppice, and the 30 years of hard-won experience documented here is gold dust for anyone in a similar position of responsibility. Or simply for anyone that finds it fascinating learning about the surprising intricacies of the woods they walk through.

Irreplaceable Woodlands Pictures

The level of amazing detail extends into the later chapters on the flora and fauna, including super-close up views of lichens, mosses and slime-moulds, alongside woodpeckers, moths and dormice. The photography throughout is top-notch and the publisher has done it justice with loads of full page images, luxuriously printed.

All in all this book is a treasure that has taught me a huge amount and that I will be passing on (or recommending) to several other people that I know.

Irreplaceable Woodlands is available on Amazon for £17. Price correct at time of publication.

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. My review is entirely objective however. This post contains affiliate links.


Jakkii sent in a lovely close-up photo of a Nursery web spider carrying its egg sac. She says that it came out to investigate when she wiggled the plant and has remained resident in the same plant for a while. You may well spot them if you look closely at leafy, low plants at this time of year. Soon they will build the ‘nursery’ for which they are named – a webby tent – and guard the little spiderlings within it.


Wow it's been a strange winter – very wet, though I'm glad to say I live on high ground, but remarkably warm overall. I only remember a few mild frosts and the temperature has been in the mid teens for the last couple of weeks. My garden seems to be well ahead of the game compared to last year and I have some things that have just kept on flowering through the winter. I expect a harsh frost to descend in April and kill everything.

But apart from that, here are some things I've noticed recently:

  • The blossom is out on many trees and is beautiful. I presume it's banks of hawthorn along many motorways that have been making them a pleasure to drive along.
  • Massive queen bumble bees have been bumbling for a few weeks now, looking for nest sites.
  • Butterflies are on the wing – I think I've mostly seen Commas but they didn't stop long enough to be sure.


Apart from all the rain it's seemed a very warm winter, at least here in middle England. The snowdrops are not pushing up through snow, but into sunny 10c+ days. These examples are at Anglesey Abbey – worth visiting at this time of year for the winter gardens alone. The rest's great too.


We welcome this guest post by Mr McGregor who has been working in the garden industry for over 27 years. He is a gardening enthusiast who also loves to grow his own fruit and veg, and regularly shares his opinions and advice on many gardening blogs.

Wildlife plays a vital role in the garden; bees help to pollinate plants while some insects can help to discourage predators that can damage flowers from entering your garden. You may automatically think that bugs are pests and are be something you should control, but in reality these insects are imperative to your garden’s ecosystem. 

You may or may not be aware but your garden walls and home can provide a safe haven for wildlife, offering shelter, food and a range of climates that enable them to thrive. It’s just as important to take care of your home’s exterior as it is the interior. In every nook and cranny you can find an array of wildlife nesting and making themselves at home.

Walls are fantastic places for wall mason wasps, snails and harvestmen along with many other invertebrates. Cracks can serve as a refuge over the winter months and flat surfaces can provide a feeding ground for such creatures. Butterflies can also benefit from garden walls. During the spring, wall surfaces can offer a basking ground for small peacock, tortoiseshell and comma butterflies; and during the winter can provide a home for white butterfly chrysalises. Walls are extremely popular with birds, not only for the amount of food these premises harbour, but if you’re growing climbers they can also provide a nesting site.

To keep attracting butterflies to your garden I would recommend you grow such plants such as the following, though you'll find many others at your local garden centre:

  • Buddleja
  • Echinacea purpurea
  • Cheiranthus wall flower
  • Erysimum wall flower

What is more unusual is finding species of lizards. Old and rundown walls in more rural areas can surprisingly be inhabited by common small lizards that are on the hunt for food.

If you are planning to undergo any repairs it’s extremely important to be wary of any wildlife you could potentially disturb. Check every nook and cranny, crack and crevice to see if bats have decided to reside there, or if birds such as great tits and redstarts have nested there. Also be cautious of the season you decide to repair the wall; please keep in mind the nesting season and work around it.

Nest boxes and feeding tables can also help to attract birds into the garden. A nest box can be extremely useful if you want to carry out repair work to your wall as it provides an alternative home for offspring.

The walls of our garden and home can be a wonderful place for wildlife to relish in, and there are many simple ways to encourage further wildlife into your garden. I hope this article has encouraged you to consider and conserve the magnitude of wildlife your simple garden wall can harbour.

Butterfly attracting plants, nesting boxes and bird tables can all be found at most popular garden centres.

Disclaimer: this post provided courtesy of Notcutts, for which no money (or anything else) has changed hands.


These should keep the birds going for a while, along with the orange ones on the pyracantha. The blackbirds always seem to start at the top and gradually strip the plant towards the ground, presumably because it's safer higher up.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a National Trust 'Uncovered' weekend at Sheringham Park in Norfolk. They have two more coming up at different locations, which sound like they're very worth attending if you're anywhere nearby.

In their own words:

  • At the Wimpole Estate near Cambridge – on 5-6 October – we'll be holding a weekend to help visitors discover how the farming of our land for food has over time shaped the landscape. Farming and nature are obviously very closely related, and walks/talks during the weekend will cover lots of wildlife-friendly traditional farming practices, like hedge-laying and organic soil management.
    See the full programme for events that weekend.
  • At Northey Island in Essex – on 12-13 October – visitors will have the opportunity to discover how the influence of man and the forces of nature are changing the coastline and seascape. Amongst other activities, there will be a 'saltmarsh safari' (where you can find out what’s so special about this rare habitat and the wildlife that depends on it) and lectures on how climate change is affecting the coast.
    See the full programme for events that weekend.


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.


Here are a few things I've noticed recently.

  • Blimey it's hot! The grass is dying and many trees are dropping leaves. And perhaps weeks of 30c yet to come.
  • Butterflies are about – mainly small tortoiseshell in my garden.
  • Loads of bumblebees of various sorts, but not so many honey bees.
  • Crane flies are the most numerous thing to fly in our open windows in the evening.
  • I hadn't really seen any wasps until about a week ago, but now quite a few of them are about, including a nest in my roof, right next to the velux window. Great.
  • Blackbirds and wood pigeons are particularly populous on the lawn right now, but maybe that's just my lawn.