Category Archives: Our Wood

Beauty in Firewood and Fox


I cut the branchwood from the sycamore felled last autumn into long logs, and stacked it under a tarpaulin to dry. It is now suitably dry for firewood, and recently I have brought three trailer loads home, the last one just before Christmas, and I expect that will keep us warm for the rest of the winter.

I had cut up some of the larger boughs into rings, and when I got home,I broke them up into chunks with my felling axe, which seemed to cope better with knotty rings than the maul. After swinging the axe for some time, I took a break, and looked at some of the pieces of newly split firewood. On a whim, I took a piece into the garage, gripped it in my vice and started planing a surface, just to see what it looked like.


As I flattened the surface, the grain revealed itself, showing the subtle swirls and dramatic knot structures that trees construct during their life. There were also areas where the surface of the wood shimmered as it was rotated in the light in a way which seems to be typical of sycamore.

When I visit the wood, whatever else I am doing, I go around the camera traps and replace the memory cards with empty ones, and at home in the evening, I go through the cards on the computer, seeing what the wildlife has been up to since my last visit.

I have set up one of the cameras to look along a massive oak log lying in the northern boundary hedge. It has probably been down for decades, mouldering away, as there is no sign of the remains of its upper branches, just the massive trunk. This is a hot spot for wildlife. During the day, it is visited by rabbits and squirrels, as well as many different birds, while at night, wood mice scamper over its surface, with the occasional shrew.

We have a fox which regularly patrols the wood by day as well as by night, which has appeared on my cameras in many locations around the wood. However, it appeared on the oak log in November for the first time, at night, but as I scanned the images after my last visit, I was delighted to find this daytime shot.


Usually, the camera traps produce images which are useful as a record of what is around, but no more.  Very occasionally, they capture an image which is a gem pictorially, and this is one. In focus, in beautiful light, and a typical foxy pose, gazing down into the valley through the gap in the hedge, on the lookout for a possible lunch.

Tim’rous Beasties


Wood mouse, apodemus sylvaticus, long-tailed field mouse

Throughout the wood, small holes in the ground show the ubiquitous presence of wood mice.  I first found them on one of my camera traps by the pathway along the ridge which marks the southern boundary of our wood.

Scooting around amongst the young bracken in Spring, they looked like remotely controlled model cars , with headlights shining in the dark.

A bit later, I set up a camera on the huge mouldering trunk of a fallen tree at the edge of the wood, bordering farmland. This camera was very busy, as woodmice scampered all over its surface at intervals throughout the night.

In fact, any camera close enough to the ground seems to pick up woodmice, their numbers befitting their status at the bottom of the food web.

This clip probably illustrates the point. The camera takes a second after detecting a subject before it starts to record the video, so it was probably triggered by the tawny owl pouncing on its prey, recording only the aftermath.

I think that on this occasion the mouse got away, as the owl seems to have nothing in its bill or talons.

The Weasels Visit

A fallen tree trunk is a piece of woodland motorway as far as the wood’s denizens are concerned, a clear path for getting from A to B. However, it contains interior passages crammed with food items, so doubles as a service station as well. So I reasoned when I set up my camera trap to look along the top surface of the fallen and mouldering giant.


And so it proved. The camera revealed wood mice scampering along at great speed, no doubt influenced by the dread of the local tawny owl. During September, the camera showed that these risky excursions took place, on average, four times a night, and also showed that voles and shrews made the occasional appearance.

Last Saturday, I returned from the wood with the SD cards from the cameras and started going through the files on my computer. This one, taken just before 7 o’clock in the morning the previous Friday, had me whooping with excitement:

Twenty minutes later, the weasel showed up again, but then there was nothing for the rest of the day, and I thought that the weasel was just passing through. Then I started looking at the files from the next day, and at 8.45 am, there was the weasel again, and this time, it stayed all day, popping in and out of the crack in the log, exuding that aura of both cuteness and ferocity that is so characteristic of their kind.

And there was more than one weasel – in some of the video clips, the weasel looking distinctly younger, and one clip showed both weasels flowing one after the other along the crack in the log.

In all, there were 39 hits spread through the day, from 8.45 am to 5.50 pm. Presumably, they had a rest then because there was no activity until one hit at 1.35 am that night. There was then no sign of the weasels until the following day, Monday, when the final hit occurred at 1.09 pm:

There were no weasels on the camera trap for the next three days, up to the point where I collected the SD cards from the camera, so they have moved on. I am eager to see the next installment from the fallen tree just in case, but I don’t expect to see them back for a while.


Path finished!

Not only the Landrover but Natalie’s two wheel drive Honda Accord can make it to the top of the wood now the path has been refurbished.


A family picnic used to involve ferrying all the gear – and children – up the track from the front gate in a wheelbarrow, but now we can just drive straight up there and pile out – a considerable improvement in our standard of living!


A new flower in the wood

A few weeks ago, Jim asked me about a plant growing near the entrance to Coed Mostyn, and I had to confess that I had no idea what it was. It had leaves and the tiny beginnings of flower buds, but I had no chance of identifying it. However, today it had a flower – a yellow one, with a nice shape which was vaguely familiar. I photographed it and when I got home, I googled “flower yellow woodland” and selected Images. I clicked through page after page of photographs of yellow flowers, but didn’t see it.

Eventually, I got out our old copy of Keble Martin, and after thumbing through a few pages, spotted it.

Coed Mostyn Impatiens noli-tangere (Touch-me-not Balsam)


It’s the touch-me-not balsam, or Impatiens noli-tangere, the British equivalent of that prolific invader, Himalayan balsam, with which it shares the endearing characteristic of producing exploding seedpods. And it’s a rarity! Having a name for it enabled a web search to find lots more information, and it seems that it only exists naturally in North Wales and the Lake District.

I’m looking forward to photographing its exploding seedpods in due course.