Waterside Natural History Society visit Blackwater Arboretum

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The purpose of our visit was to look at autumn colour as the trees began to shed their leaves.

It is however easier to see colours in the mind than in the field and even harder to take a photograph that truly represents an ideal.

The first difficulty is one of timing.

Our visit was planned almost a year in advance and the time of greatest colour was always unlikely to coincide with our walk.

The second is that different trees change colour at different times so having them all change together does not happen often.

Lastly the landscape must be amenable to display a large area of colour.

We are lucky to live in an area such as the New Forest to give us an opportunity to see a wide variety of landscapes with different patterns of colour.

Unfortunately the timing of our visit was a little early so that trees such as Oak and Beech were still mainly green.

Ash trees have already gone from green to yellow and many of the Horse Chestnuts display a variety of browns but this may be because of disease rather than season.

It was fortunate that the Arboretum formed part of our walk as some of the introduced species of Acer had already turned to shades of red and yellow.

It looks like this autumn will be a long drawn out affair which means that different colours will appear at different times on individual trees.

Indeed many of the leaves are just turning a dull grey before falling off the tree.

Many trees serve a useful purpose even when dead. One such dead tree had been reduced to a stump about fifteen feet tall and was capped with an abundance of Ivy.

The flowers of Ivy attract a large number of insects at this time of year. Wasps, Hover flies, Bluebottles and Bees work tirelessly to feed on the nectar before winter arrives.

Rhinefield House was originally a keeper’s lodge rebuilt as a house in the early nineteenth century and is now a hotel.

The arboretum was created in 1859 as part of the landscaping for the approach to the house which presumably was along what is now the Rhinefield Drive.

Our walk started at the Arboretum car park off the Rhinefield Drive.

After walking through the Arboretum we turned right through the Vinney Ridge inclosure and crossed over the road at Brock Hill.

Our route then took us over to the Highland Water stream from where we turned back along gravel paths to the car park.

Highland Water has seen much work done over recent years to reinstate meanders, block some tributaries and deepen parts of the river bed in order to improve the wetland habitats.

Consequently some of the paths along the stream sides are indistinct and need care to walk along particularly after wet conditions.

Fortunately there was more to look for than just autumn colour. The last throw of summer still left a few dragonflies and the occasional butterfly.

Fallow Deer were seen in groups along our route but not in a rut.

The warm wet weather has been ideal for fungi and the New Forest is well known for its abundance of these strange organisms.

Unfortunately this is known by the people with bags and buckets who collect them for sale.

The area around the Arboretum has been almost cleaned out by these opportunists.

We were lucky to find a Birch Bolete and Rufous Milkcap.

There are however many fungi that do not conform to the edible mushroom identity.

The red colour of the Fly Agaric and the Death Cap appearance of the Grey Scaled Amanita are enough to put some people off.

Crossing over the Rhinefield road we came across the stump of a large pine tree which was home to the Giant Pine Polypore.

These fungi are larger than a football and seem to be made up of smaller fungi growing out of older ones.

They are mainly black with yellow rims around the newer fungi.

Closer inspection of the mossy tree stump showed the golden strands of Jelly Antler fungus.

Even the keenest of fungi hunters avoid the small Puffball fungus that springs up overnight along the forest tracks

The visit did not produce much in the way of autumn colour but a warm sunny Indian summer’s day made for a pleasant and enjoyable walk.

Anyonewishing to attend our meetings or even rich benefactors should contact our secretary Ron Mintrum at 023 8089 3803.