Wild Fridays: Beechnuts and Old Man’s Beard

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We are lucky to have a beautiful green space a short walk from our house called ‘Baxter’s Field’, which is owned and maintained by a private committee but open to the public on most days of the year.

It is just the right distance for Littlest Weed and me if we are feeling a bit lazy, but in need some fresh air. Last week, after being cooped up in the house for much of the Christmas holidays, we ventured out on a sunny day when his big sisters were back at school and had a lovely hour just mooching around appreciating nature.

First of all we sat down on a bench in the sunshine and listened to the cooing of wood pigeons, but Littlest Weed doesn’t do sitting still for long, so we were soon up and about playing hide and seek (he hasn’t quite got the idea yet and thinks if he stands behind a tree I can’t see him).

Then we went for a walk around the field. First of all we wandered over to a small beech tree and found the ground underneath covered in spiky little hedgehogs, which on closer inspection turned out to be beechnuts in their protective casing. It must be quite effective, because when we tried to pick them up they pricked our fingers sharply. I found one with a little tassel which we could hold it up by and examine it more closely to look at the brown beechnut itself peeping out. I am used to seeing beechnuts when their husks are more dried up than this. Apparently you can eat beechnuts, but it is best to roast them first as they do contain toxins when eaten raw.

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On the other side of Baxter’s Field is a great big old beech tree, fenced off with tape to warn parents and children of the risk of falling branches. This does not bother the large black rooks who like to sit in the tree, occasionally flying off to flap their wings before returning.

We also stopped to examine a patch of Old Man’s Beard, the native wild flower Clematis vitalba also known as Traveller’s Joy for its starry small white flowers in summer. In winter, these flowers go to seed creating a mass of white fluff giving rise to its common name. Up close the effect is really quite beautiful. Littlest Weed still hasn’t got over Christmas and thought it must have something to do with Father Christmas’s beard.

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