Friday 29 January 2021

Green Urban Birding - The Ranscombe Loop - again - 29th January 2021

Although I may have escaped for a couple of round the block type walks since the exertions on mountainous Monday, I had not been out properly and was determined to do so today. The sun was peeking through and a check of the forecast suggested that they might just be a light lunchtime shower so up the road I went taking note of the ‘Chewing Gum Lichen’ - Aspicilia contorta adorning the pavement for which I now have a name for following Bob V’s most excellent Wren Group Lichen Zoom meeting last night!

Aspicilia contorta and young Buck's-horn Plantain in the crack

I squidged my way into Ranscombe and up the hill into the trees. My intention was to head out the other side and into Cobham village before cutting back down to the south and then wiggling...

Brachythecium rutabulum

Brachythecium rutabulum

Cladonia coniocraea - Bob, please tell me I can see Squamules?!

Cladonia coniocraea

The weather had other plans and it soon started to rain. A few spots, I thought but no, it soon turned very heavy and I scuttled (to maintain maximum contact with the ground!) to the Mausoleum and then down the slope to the hollowed out Chestnut that you can walk through.


I stayed put for forty minutes as the heavens continued to offload their burden and by then I had a stream running through the tree and around my feet.  There was something strangely contemplative about standing inside the burnt out and scarred body of an ancient but still living tree especially with nothing but the sounds of thrumming rain on ground and leaf, the foraging of a surprising number of birds and the resonating bellowing of the Highland Cattle as they ambled past with steaming breath.

My view from each way inside the tree...


Two videos from my room with a view - volume up!

I stood there in my charcoal smelling makeshift hide and watched a large Tit flock roving through the Oak next door while Goldfinches twittered away in the canopy and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was chiselling away at a dead bough. Treecreepers crept up the trunk before flying back down to the base of the next tree and I could hear a Nuthatch somewhere beyond.

The inside of the tree was in itself captivating and my eye imagined that it looked like Elephant skin and then I saw the Elephant herself watching me with a curious eye and the sweep of her trunk. I asked the tree’s permission to lightly encourage her to the fore with the tip of my finger and I am sure that the rain will soon fade her back into the tree. 

Elephant blending in...

I am sure someone will tell me off for this but I could have wiped it away with my hand. She will always be there in my head now.


I could see no break in the rain or cloud and so decided on my route home. Retracing my steps would have been the shortest and most logical route to take but I do like a loop.  I conceded that it should be as short and with as little ‘up’ as possible so I finished my coffee, said thank to the Elephant Tree for sheltering me and headed across to the Mausoleum and then into the woods.

The thing about Chestnut coppice is that the numerous trunks go straight up so there is no canopy of boughs in the winter which meant that it was no drier with the vertical rain still finding the back of my neck with some regularity. Quite how I did not go over on my route back towards the main Ranscombe car park I do not know. It was treacherous with rivers of water and mud cascading down all the paths and onto them from the surrounding woods. 

Slightly poorer view than Monday!

Cow Parsley

Lesser Celandine
Sun Spurge

Strangely enough I did not see much other than my feet and only stopped briefly to watch the Chaffinches, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks flitting around the old oilseed field near the farm. I had not noticed how amazing the Lichens were in Merrals Shaw until today and will be returning on a drier day for a closer look at the almost covered trunks and branches of the Chestnuts here. I have Bob to blame for the fact that I thought ‘look at those tiny sqamules!’

Lecanora chlarotera and elaeochroma - I think


Of course as I reached the main road the rain started to let up but I was cold and wet was still a mile and half from home and had had enough. Needless to say by the time I got home there was not a cloud in a beautiful blue sky!

Nevermind – at least I got out!


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