Sunday, 29 July 2012


This lovely ancient woodland is situated a few miles from Canterbury and is rife with wildflowers, wildlife and orchids. It is also home to the last surviving population of Duke of Burgundy butterflies in Kent (photo courtesy Butterfly Conservation):


Walking through the woods at any time of year is magical. Wide pathways lead into the woods and you are surrounded on either side by widflowers and trees such as Chestnut, Conifer, Beech, Hazel, Oak. Even in winter the woods are beautiful.

In spring the Bluebells arrive and the many species of orchid start to put in an appearance - Twayblade, Common Spotted, Man, Fragrant, Early Purple, the rare Lady Orchid and Pyramidal:

Other wildflowers include Lesser Knapweed:

Wild Foxglove:

Wild Columbine, Eyebright, Scarlet Pimpernel, Nettle-leaved Bellflower, Centaury:

Birds such as Nightingales, Spotted Flycatchers and Chiffchaffs also live in the woods, as do dormice, lizards and 32 species of butterfly. The woodland is managed by the Woodland Trust and Butterfly Conservation recently conculded a project in 2010 to better prepare the woods for Duke of Burgundy butterflies.

The woods also have areas of scrubland and chalk grassland known as Bonsai Bank, where many butterflies and sunny wildflowers can be found. The track below leads to Bonsai Bank:

The following photos were taken in July 2012 in the area below and around Bonsai Bank, truly a wonderful piece of nature!

And then you finally get to an area where the woods open up into undulating countryside and more wildflowers, butterflies and bees!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012


N3YRCGMV85CX Oak trees are wonderful - majestic, towering, living hundreds of years and a haven for all sorts of creatures. There is also a lot of folklore connected with Oak and this blog is the fruit of my research on this fantastic tree.

The Oak has been sacred to many major cultures in history and has been associated with major gods – Zeus, Jupiter, Dagda, Perun and Thor – all of whom were thunder gods, and this also led to the belief that Oak trees could never be struck by lightning. Druids often practiced their rites in Oak groves. In fact the word Druid probably derives from their word of Oak: “duir” = men of the Oaks. Mistletoe often grows on Oak trees and was believed to have been put there by the gods during a lightning strike. Mistletoe growing on an Oak tree doubles its magic potential. Ancient kings wore crowns of Oak leaves as a symbol of the gods they represented as kings on earth. It was believed that ships built of Oak would not suffer lightning strike.

Roman commanders were presented with crowns of Oak leaves during victory parades. Many Oak groves were supplanted by early Christian churches. Oak was used in Tudor houses for strength and durability. In 1651, Charles II hid from the Roundheads in an Oak at Boscobel. In 1660 he made 29 May Royal Oak Day to celebrate the restoration of the Monarchy.


Much folklore surrounds individual Oak trees. For example, the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest is purported to be the tree where Robin Hood and his Merry Men hatched their plots. Another example, the area of Selly Oak, south of Birmingham, derives its name from Sally Barn who, over 300 years ago, was believed to be a witch. Local villagers killed her by driving an Oak stake through her heart and buried her where she fell – from which an Oak tree eventually grew which became known as Sally’s Oak and later Selly Oak.

Oaks have some weather divination powers in folklore:
“If the Oak is before the Ash Then you’ll get a splash If the Ash before the Oak Then you may expect a soak!”

Ancient folklore tells of hollow trees in old sacred Oak groves where elves, fairies or demons lived. If in the vicinity, turn your cloak/coat inside out to neutralise their magic. Fairy spirits were believed to enter houses through knotholes in Oak timbers. In pagan Ireland, it was a crime to fell an ancient Oak tree. To find a worm in an Oak apple leads to poverty. To find the insect in a gall, however, leads to riches. To find a spider means that an illness is due. If you have toothache, drive nails into Oak trees and leave your pain with the tree. May dew from an Oak leaf was used in beauty treatments. Drop two acorns in a bowl of water to see if you will marry your lover – if the acorns float together you will both marry, if not you will part. Acorns were also placed on window sills to guard the home from lightning and harm.

If you catch a falling Oak leaf you won’t catch a cold. Oak fires draw off illness. Carrying acorns will prevent illness and increase immortality, fertility, sexual potency and youthfulness. Plant an acorn in the dark to ensure money in the near future.

One Christian legend tells of all the trees meeting together when Christ’s crucifixion was announced. They vowed to have no part in the event. As the Jews chose the wood it all splintered into pieces and was useless – except for the wood of the Oak. It was, therefore, seen as a traitor by the other trees. Another Christian legend concerning when Cain murdered Abel – he had to carry his dead brother’s body 700 yards to bury him. He then stuck his staff in the ground to mark the spot and the “Seven Oaks of Palestine” immediately sprang forth.

When King Harold survived the Battle of Hastings and was at Rouen with William, William made him swear an oath under an Oak tree. Harold broke this oath and the Oak shed its leaves as a sign of this.

At Howth Castle in Ireland there is an ancient Oak. If the tree falls the Howth family line will die ouit. Hence the branches of the tree are supported by wooden posts.


Culpeper recommended powdered acorn and wine as a diuretic. Ground acorns have been used as a substitute for coffee in the past. The bark has a high tannin content. It yields a brown dye and the Oak galls give a black dye from which ink was made. Boiled bark was used as a tonic for harness sores on horses.

The Oak is antiseptic, can reduce inflammation and controls bleeding. It is taken internally for diarrhoea, dysentery and prolapse of the womb; externally for piles, bleeding gums, dermatitis, ulcers and varicose veins. DO NOT TRY ANY HERBAL REMEDIES WITHOUT FIRST CONSULTING A QUALIFIED PRACTITIONER! HERBAL USES MENTIONED ARE FOR INFO ONLY!


Oak is an important wildlife plant, growing very large and living for many hundreds of years. Produces acorns. Over 300 species of lichens have been found on Oak trees; 30 species of bird are associated with Oak and more insects feed on the tree than any other species of plant – a record 284 species.

Food plant of the caterpillars of the following moths – Brindled Pug, Oak Tree Pug, Spring Usher, Peppered, Oak Beauty, brindled Beauty, Pale Brindled Beauty, Small Brindled Beauty, Feathered Thorn, Orange, Lunar Thorn, Purple Thorn, Scalloped Hazel, Scalloped Oak, Scorched Wing, Large Thorn, August Thorn, September Thorn, November, Pale November, Winter, March, Blotched Emerald, Common Emerald, Little Emerald, False Mocha, Maiden’s Blush, Marbled Pug, Red-green Carpet and Broken Barred Carpet. Purple Hairstreak butterflies.

The tree has a period of quite rapid growth for its first 80 – 100 years and then it gradually slows down. Acorns are produced when the tree is about 40. Leave Oak leaf litter where it falls beneath the tree and this will help keep the tree healthier. Oak trees are tolerant of heavy clay, exposed conditions, coastal and chalk areas.