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Thrunton Woods in November

Daughter, K and I took Buddy Dog for a walk in Thrunton Woods yesterday. Last time we were here it was full of Autumn colour and fungi, but the woods have much more of a feel of winter now, though are still very beautiful.

There are some patches of autumn colour on the occasional broadleaved tree than has retained a few leaves in a sheltered spot.

The mustard-yellow needles of larch add a splash of colour.

The bracken has taken on a pale russet shade.

The only flowering plant we saw was this solitary yellow hawk bit.

As leaves have fallen, the evergreens take centre stage. Thrunton is primarily a coniferous forest, but even among the conifers there are many shades of green as you can see here in this stand of young trees.

Among the evergreen shrubs is this Rhododendron ponticum. It is an absolute beauty in spring with exotic large lilac-purple flowers, but it is a thug of a plant! It is a non-native that was often introduced into parkland as dense cover for game, but it is so dense that it shades out native ground cover plants. It spreads rapidly by runners and native grazers and insects don’t eat it. Many years ago K and I were members of a conservation group that spent many a happy Sunday “Rhody Bashing” : removing these plants from neglected parts of a country park near where we lived at the time.

There is also quite a lot of gorse (locally known as whin) with its vicious spines.

Broom grows on the trail margins too, and some of the bushes have the remains of the seed pods still attached.

There is also an occasional holly bush, like this one hiding behind the gorse.

Closer to the ground is wild bilberry, which loves the acidic peaty soil here. They are delicious and make wonderful pies and crumbles, staining your tongue blue if you eat them. Bilberries were available in the shops when I was a child but I have not seen them available commercially for many years. We did try picking them once. The fruit are so tiny that after a couple of hours we only had a small saucerful so haven’t bothered since!

Also associated with the peat is this moss – there are some wonderful mosses in the woods

Although the bracken has gone, some ferns have retained their green fronds.

Buddy adores running about the woods. We saw several other walkers, dogs and cyclists too. The car parks were overflowing but this woodland is big enough to accommodate all the visitors easily without seeming at all crowded.

From the woodland edge we could see the farmland below and the Cheviot Hills in the distance.

It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

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A Walk In The Woods: Thrunton

Autumn arrived with a vengeance today, but we’ve certainly had a good run of lovely weather over the last couple of weeks. One warm day we decided to head for the hills rather than the coast, which was still pretty busy at that point. We went to Thrunton Woods, which is off the A697, west of Alnwick.

This is a Forestry England site, planted with conifers. There are marked trails of various distance and difficulty and some lead to points of interest such as a cave (the refuge of a 19th century monk), Hob’s Nick (a gully said to be haunted by hobgoblins) and a prehistoric fort. Some of the routes are quite steep but lead to spectacular views from hilltop crags. Cyclists and horse riders are also welcome on the trails.

I was using my new mobility scooter. Some parts of the main paths are quite treacherous as they are very rough and stony, and I wouldn’t even attempt some of the more difficult routes, but that still left plenty to go at. Buddy the Labrador loves Thrunton Woods and it’s great for dogs, although ticks can be a problem. Dog owners should also note that there are no dog bins. We always see a lot of bagged up dog waste dumped near the car parks, which is horrible! Why can’t people take it home? If it’s away from a path, any unbagged dog mess left will soon decompose. The plastic bags won’t. Moving swiftly on…..

,There is always something very atmospheric about mature woodland and Thrunton is no exception. The rays of afternoon sun were filtering through the trees and it was very still: beautiful but almost eerie.

It felt warm in the sunny spots on the paths and late summer butterflies were fluttering about or alighting on the vegetation to soak up the heat.

It’s always interesting to look at the flora of different habitats. The moorland that surrounds Thrunton Woods is purple with blooming heather in late summer and there is heather on the trail margins in the woods too.

The damp ditches that flank the paths are filled with mosses and ferns.

There were large groups of fly agaric fungi, vivid red against the greens and browns of the forest floor. When the toadstools first push through the earth, they are white but the warty outer covering breaks up as the cap expands leaving white spots on the red. These are the classic fungi in children’s book illustrations, very pretty but highly toxic. In addition to the nausea, vomiting and sweating the toxins cause, there is a hallucinogenic effect, historically used in shamanistic rituals in some cultures – no wonder it is associated with fairies and elves!

The scooter battery drained quickly as the trail went uphill and had to cope with the stony parts so we perhaps didn’t go as far as we would have done otherwise (I’ve ordered a second battery so hope to solve this issue). It was still the perfect place to be that day