The winter of 2017-2018 has brought snow, wind, gales, thick frost and welcome quantities of rain. The snow brought down a couple of complete trees at Batchwood [one of which blocked the drive way] and a number of limbs. The peace and quiet that follows heavy snowfall was broken by sharp cracking noises as another tree casualty occurred. St Albans residents came to Batchwood for a day of winter sports, and as usual, left loads of litter behind.
The heavy rain a few days after the snow, resulted in the fall of a major beech tree next to the fence by Batchwood Drive. Most of the damage has now been cleared by contractors, with quite a bit of help from Friends of Batchwood volunteers. Contractors have also taken down a number of trees that have been a safety concern for quite a while. Later gales brought down trees that were standing deadwood. However, as the photograph at the top shows, after a while a fallen tree turns into a small ecosystem of its own, with mosses, lichens, ferns and probably a wealth of invertebrate life inside.
But now spring is arriving. The bluebells were beginning to show green above the leaf litter even before New Year. This first snowdrop was seen on 9th January. There are lots of catkins in evidence. Now that the volunteers have completed more coppicing parallel with the fairway down to the king bunker, there is much more openness and light, and the coppiced hazels and hornbeams should thrive and the bluebells too.
So these are welcome signs. Not quite so welcome are the parakeets that can be heard screeching over the wood, and tend to hang out in the tops of the trees to the right of the driveway. There seems to be only three of them, so we hope it stays that way. They look quite exotic, but they don’t suit a bluebell wood.
Although the weather has been dark and dreary for much of the last few weeks, on the occasional sunny days it has been well worth walking round the golf course; there have been some winter bird visitors in the shape of fieldfares and redwings on the fairways, undisturbed by golfers [the course has been closed].
Now the days are getting perceptibly longer, we can begin to anticipate Batchwood’s best season – bluebell time.