Sunday, 31 October 2010

Otley Chevin

This weekend we ventured out to Otley Chevin Forest Park to experience the fresh air and autumn woodland views. Parking in East Chevin Quarry Car Park we walked in the direction of the White House & within a few minutes encountered these colourful vistas of the crags, the old quarried areas of Millstone Grit of the Upper Carboniferous age, seen through the golden autumn foliage of broadleaf trees. In the foreground the golden leaves of Birch and Beech, the rusty shades of bracken, and rich greens of grasses and ferns.

Stunning views, provided by a colourful combination of the underlying geological features and the surrounding vegetation tinged with an autumnal glow .   

The Friends of Chevin Forest maintain a very good website, and the West Yorkshire Geology Trust (pdf) have more information about the geology of the area.

Another spectacular view, across the valley overlooking Otley town centre and the surrounding Wharfedale countryside.

Towards the end of our walk, on joining Miller Lane we heard birdsong in a treetop overhead and could just make out the silhouette of a small bird, moving on a few steps for a better view it turned out to be a Goldcrest, whoop whoop, a first for me & a lovely conclusion to the walk.

Having worked up an apetite, we headed up the road to the Cheerful Chilli, a nearby cafe and restaurant, and what a treat! I opted for the Chocolate Nemesis a chocolate extravaganza whose texture was half choc brownie and half choc torte. Needless to say I defeated my nemesis, selflessly saving just enough room to tuck into half of Andreas sandwich, packed with Stilton and Apple and Pears, oh my!  Possibly the best post walk grub we've ever encountered, which might just mean that we'll become a little more familiar with Otley Chevin in the months ahead.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve 2

On our recent visit to Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve, Guelder Rose shrubs(Viburnum opulus) provided an abundance of ruby red fruits worthy of a pic or two.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Monday, 25 October 2010

Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve

On Sunday afternoon we visited Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, it's YWT's closest reserve to Leeds City Centre. Clear sky and afternoon light illuminated the golden canopies and shrubby layers. The backdrop of still green foliage not yet transformed by the processes of leaf senescence served to emphasise the richer autumn foliage. 

The reserve is located on the site of a former power station which opened in 1930 and demolished in the mid 80's, the Leodis database features images of the land's previous use. 

Bird sightings included Jay, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Magpie, Long Tail Tit, Wren, Robin, Wood Pigeon.

The 25.5 acre site is situated between the River Aire (pictured here) and the Leeds Liverpool canal is a valuable resource in the green corridor of habitats along the Aire valley.

There'll be more pics from our visit to Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve in my follow up post.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Autumn colours

Maples and cherries providing today's autumn update.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Leeds City Centre, autumnal views

Its impossible not to notice the current seasonal change even on the outskirts of Leeds City Centre. In the urban planting schemes and roadside verges the signs of autumn are all around.

On Sunday we spent half an hour wandering around sections of the riverside that we'd never really paid too much attention to before. Looking back towards Bridgewater Place, I'd never noticed this apple tree before which was heavily laden with fruit. Across the road there's a line of Small Leaved Limes, the leaves are turning rich yellows.  

In the culvert that runs alongside Water Lane that carries the Hol Beck into the River Aire we spotted tiny fishes feeding on vegetation which I didn't expect to see. Trying to find out more about this watercourse I came across Phil D's Flickr pages where has a collection of pics from a stroll along this section of the Hol Beck that are well worth a look. 
On the culvert bankside, leaves, stems and berries of a thicket of well established shrubs provide a tapestry of colour and no doubt plenty of cover for urban birds.

Fungi on the grassland near Whitehall Road overlooking the River Aire.

Near St Paul's Street next the site of the demolished Leeds International Pool this Stag's horn sumach (Rhus typhina) looking towards the Call Credit building.

Clusters of teeny-tiny cap and stem fungi growing on a grassy verge amongst fallen Sycamore leaves, near Whitehall flats.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

River Aire sightings

On the River Aire, between Whitehall Bridge and the Dark Arches of Leeds City Centre I noticed this beautiful Black Swan, more than likely an escapee but nonetheless a striking character . They're native to SW/E Australia and were brought to Britain as an ornamental bird.  I remembered that Paul (Little Brown Job) spotted one at RSPB Fairburn last year. These two shots upstream and downstream indicate how close to the City Centre it was.  

Continuing our wander around Granary Wharf we stumbled upon the Leeds City Cruise boat and hopped on for a £3.00 return trip to Clarence Dock, what a great way to travel through the city. It was a much gentler journey than my last boat excursion which was to the Farne Islands where I suffered a humiliating bout of sea sickness, all for the love of nature! Another bird (this time more ornament than ornamental) was this Grey Heron sculpture near Brewery Wharf.

Other wildlife sightings included two female Goosander on the river to the rear of the Yorkshire Post building. They're frequently visitors as they overwinter on the river, previously they've appeared further upstream, in December last year by Kirkstall Abbey and also near Redcote Lane. The unexpected surprise of the day was the appearance of a Kingfisher as it zipped upstream and out of view.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Shaggy Ink Cap

Growing in the grassland near Headingley Train Station these Shaggy Inkcap (Coprinus comatus). I enjoyed Phil Gates (Cabinet of Curiosities) post from last year about the Carnivorous Inkcap which is well worth a read. 

Here are two more from a cluster of five that I found growing amongst brambles on the edge of a copse on Beckett Park. They're great illustrations of how the cap shrinks as it gradually dissolves itself releasing a black inky substance which contains the spores.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Sweet Chestnut fruit

From my desk, if I crane my neck to look out of the window I can see the tops of four Sweet Chestnut trees (Castanea Sativa), between 3-6m tall. Underneath the autumn canopy is an abundance of fruits, encased in a sea urchin like spiny husk. The case opens into four sections on maturity to reveal up to three nuts, the tufted end being the remains of the flower stigma.

The leaves are leathery, elliptical, pointed with a serrated margin and turn a crisp golden brown at leaf fall. The Sweet Chestnut is more closely related to the Oak and Beech than the Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) which produces the more familiar inedible conker. The fruit are popular with jays and squirrels. 

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Autumn Beech Leaves on Beckett Park

More rich autumn leaf colour, this time courtesy of the Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica). On my way into work each morning I pass by these trees on Beckett Park, Headingley, where today the leaves vary from green to yellow to gold to fiery orange.

Here's how these trees looked in January and April last year, and some previous posts about the emerging spring leaves and resilient winter leaves of the Beech.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Autumn colour in Park Square, Leeds

In Park Square, Leeds City Centre, ornamental trees in particular are aglow with autumn colour, no more so than this beautiful Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum located next to the Mayors for Peace Monument. The monument was unveiled by the Mayors of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Leeds in 2003 and remembers all the innocent civilian populations killed in conflicts since the atomic bomb blasts of 1945. 

The foliage of another tree in Park Square is suffused with slightly more golden tones, and is possibly a Red Oak, Quercus Rubra (although a second opinion would be most welcome). The commemorative plaque associated with it reads, 'Presented to the City of Leeds to mark the Christian Celebration of the Centenary on Sunday 4th July 1997'

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