Sunday, 3 March 2013

Belated post from yesterdays trek around Cranford Park

the fallen beech

Paul, Sue and Sheila having a break in the Memorial Garden
I met up with Paul, Sheila and Sue at Cranford Park yesterday morning for a guided tour around site to see signs of spring. The walk was led by Alison Shipley, London Borough of Hillingdons Countryside and Conservation Officer. I've met Alison a few times before through Mac the parks Ranger but this was the first time I'd attended one of her guided walks. It was a good turn out with at least another 15 people joining the walk, including Bob Barton, the secretary of Cranford Park Friends, who although I knew via e-mails, I had not actually met before.
It was a pleasant enough morning, lots of bluebells are pushing their way through the ground now, and you just know Cranford Park is going to look stunning when they all come into flower. Lesser celandine is also starting to show, and the beech trees have those lovely pointed leaf buds on every branch. Bird-wise, the Great Spotted Woodpeckers are very very active. There was a lot of drumming and birds chasing each other around the tops of the trees. There are more GSW at Cranford, than there are Green Woodpeckers ,and I'm still keeping a check on all of last years nesting sites for both species. Sadly at least two of them have already been taken over by the marmite Parakeets. I expected that from last years GSW nesting site, as these woodpeckers don't use the same nesting site twice, but Green woodpeckers will re-use last years nest. Sadly a pair of marmites have moved in to the  Greenys nest hole I studied last year. On the upside Cranford Park is full of old and dead trees, as well as live and ancient ones, so there are plenty of potential nesting holes for both species of woodpeckers, and the marmites. Nuthatches also do well here, but Ive only ever seen Tree Creeper here once, and that was quite a few years ago.
The old beech tree that fell recently has been chopped up a bit more, and the path it had previously blocked is now open, though you may have to climb over part of the old trunk. Trying to estimate the age of the tree by counting the rings kept myself and Paul busy for a while, but it was near on impossible. At a guess, I would say between 50 and 80 years.
With all the branches bare from most of the trees, you can see just how many great clumps of mistletoe are around the park. This parasitic plant can reduce the growth in some host trees, and in severe cases of heavy infestation, actually kill the tree. The two biggest mistletoe infested trees in the park are actually looking quite healthy. There is a large one right by the car park, and another deeper in to the ancient woodland. I can honestly say neither tree looks stunted, ill or near to death !
mistletoe on the large tree by the car park
The walk lasted just under 90 minutes. Alison is very knowledgeable about the plants, shrubs and trees at Cranford. There are more walks scheduled for April and May, plus on March 17th there is a chance to see the rarely seen secret wildlife garden. Volunteers are needed that day to help tidy it up ready for spring. This garden is only open to visitors once a month. Below is a link to all the listings of walks, volunteer help days and other events, not only at Cranford Park, but also at other green spaces in the borough. It is in pdf format should you wish to print it off.
All in all, a very pleasant day. Paul, Sheila, Sue and myself went for another walk around after Alisons talk had finished. We think we heard a Sparrowhawk call, we saw a female Kestrel perched up high, saw Song Thrushes and again watched the woodpeckers chasing each other around.

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