Autumn in the woods

The summer is a distant memory and talk of Halloween, not to mention Christmas, abounds throughout the media. We caught up with our resident woodsman, Will Jackson, to find out about the gentler pace of life that is happening in our woodlands now autumn is here.


This is a lovely time of year to stroll through the woods, especially on a crisp, sunny autumn day. The leaves are turning into a variety of hues and paths are carpeted with fallen foliage, which children delight in throwing in the air by the armfuls.

Woodland Management

You might have noticed that horse chestnut leaves seem to turn brown earlier in the season than most other trees. This isn’t anything to do with global warming, but down to a moth called the Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner, which buries its eggs deep in the leaves of the tree, so turning them brown.

Leaves turning brown due to the Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner

It’s these sorts of issues we check our woodlands for during the autumn and winter months, inspecting the trees for any signs of disease or other health problems. We’re especially keen to monitor signs of Ash Die Back (see RHS – Ash dieback ).

Diseased trunk on a young sapling with the Dieback fungus.

After wetter, windier days we also check trees for wind blow – when a strong wind catches a tree, it causes them to sway. In turn, this can loosen its roots and its effectiveness to absorb water, meaning it won’t be as healthy come spring.

We’re still harvesting trees in any of our woodlands that are drier and have good access. However, most of our time is spent planning for next year, which includes checking our nurseries and tree stocks as well as further developing our management plans.

We will create a ten-year management plan for any new woodlands that we have acquired too.

We’ll also be working with the rest of the Certainly Wood team to agree on what timber stocks we’ll need for the coming year and organising felling licenses for those areas that need thinning out. In the next few weeks, we’ll have scheduled our entire plan for 2018.

Flora & Fauna

The woods are noticeably quieter from late autumn onwards as many migrant birds have left for sunnier climes.

Those that remain, such as finches and many varieties of tits, flock together to start searching out the food stores that will get them through winter. The last of the blackberries will be sought out, as well as berries such as those produced by holly, rowan and hawthorn.

A Redwing helping itself to Hawthorn berries

Surprisingly, there are birds that choose to come to the UK in winter including fieldfares and redwings, so keep an eye out for their arrival.

By now, there are fewer flowers to be seen apart from some later flowering harebells, honeysuckle, the common dog violet and ivy, too. Everything is starting to go dormant in readiness for the winter ahead.

Squirrels, dormice, hedgehogs and bats are also on the hunt for food to store for winter. It’s around now you’ll spot the likes of conkers and hazelnuts that have been nibbled and discarded on woodland paths.

Fungi

Thanks to the warmth of summer combined with the damp conditions autumn brings, fungi proliferate. Mushrooms and toadstools are the ‘flower’ of the fungi and their job is to proliferate spores.

Although some wild fungi are edible, it’s often difficult to tell the difference between those that are harmless and more deadly species as they look very similar. Nowadays, there are plenty of organised walks or foraging groups that you can join to learn more about fungi – a lot safer than relying on a book!

So why not dress up warmly, take a flask of coffee and head to the woods to spot the changes autumn brings?