May 2024: "From A New Forest Inclosure” by Ian Thew

May 2024: "From A New Forest Inclosure” by Ian Thew

He’s been standing outside my window, naked now for many weeks and in a deep sleep.  He shed his clothes last autumn and they still remain, upon the ground, all around him.  His upper body has withstood the ravages of winter; extremes of temperature and the occasional gales have caused one or two minor limbs to fall off; whilst, throughout it all, his feet have remained firmly embedded in the warm, nutritious soil from whence he has sucked the energy to sustain him throughout these harsh times.  Now, suddenly and encouraged by the spring-like weather of recent weeks, he has stirred and, slowly but surely, has donned an elegant green outfit and now stands resplendent and unwittingly blocking my view down the adjacent, green ride and, to some extent, obscuring the light and darkening my study.

I speak of course of the stately oak that I guess would have been sprouting from its acorn at about the same time that the bricks were laid to build this ancient cottage, over two hundred years ago. I have referred thus far to my oak as if it is a male and indeed oaks are often known as ‘the Kings of the Forest’ but are we right to refer to them as kings? You see the oaks produce both male and female flowers on the same tree; the male flowers resembling catkins whilst the females are insignificant by comparison.  The flowers appear with the earliest of the leaves and already, as I write, the male flowers which have, hopefully, done their job and are now shrivelled and beginning to fall away.

We have two native species of oak trees; the pedunculate oak and the sessile oak.  The pedunculate oak, often referred to as the English oak, is easily identified by the very short stalk on its leaves and, later in the year, by the long stem or peduncle that bears the cup in which will sit the acorn.  The sessile oak, however, must be quite confused! Here, in the Forest, it was often named the durmast oak but as it has been adopted as the national tree of Ireland, Wales and Cornwall - you’ve guessed it, haven’t you? It’s also known as the Irish oak, the Welsh oak and, of course, the Cornish oak.  It is distinguished from its cousin by its long stemmed leaves and the fact that its acorns are carried on the end of the twigs, not on a peduncle.

Everything around us is on the change, hopefully for the better.  Swallows and martins can be seen on the water meadows and several cuckoos have been heard in recent days. Many species of birds are nesting in and around the property and I have to tell you that the wagtails have done it again! Despite my best efforts and intentions to trim the ivy on the house before they took up residence, they have managed to get in there before me and, whilst the creeping, green tendrils crawl at an alarming rate across the roof tiles, the stunningly-coloured, grey wagtails are, once again, hovering in front of my study window as they wait their turn to feed their brood in the adjacent climber.  At the other end of the house their cousins the pied wagtails are raising their chicks just below the bathroom window.  So there you have it – I’m stymied once again – but I don’t really mind, there’s always something else waiting to be done before it’s all too late and the winter is on us again.

It’s hard to realise that the longest day of 2015 is just around the corner!! Where have the days gone?

Must go now, before I run out of time!     

Ian Thew




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