Bluebell Walk in Duck Wood. 23rd April 2005.

This walk was organised by Sarah Brooks from the London Borough of Havering and Mary Smith of The Essex Field Club and led by Mary, people were present from far afield but there was a healthy contingent of The Friends and our thanks go to both of the organisers for a very interesting and informative afternoon. Del.

Mary writes……………..

At 2pm a group of 45 people, including several youngsters, set off on a slow ramble to learn about the wild flowers, especially Bluebells and others associated with ancient woodland. Our native Bluebells do not seem to have much problem in Duck Wood, but in many areas they are being over-run by hybridisation with Spanish Bluebells from domestic gardens. Some Spanish Bluebells were brought to show, and used to explain the 7 differences between them and our native Bluebell. As we walked through the woodland, stops were made to admire the sea of blue and to examine the plants, noting the differences from the Spanish Bluebell, and finding a few hybrids. It was explained that, although digging up wild plants is generally illegal, digging up destructive plants is allowed in order to preserve the native ones. In a week or so some volunteers would come along to seek out the hybrids and destroy them by digging them up and removing the bulbs.

A number of 10x hand lenses were lent out for people to examine details of flowers or other items. They were particularly popular with the younger ones, but some adults used them too.

A number of different wild flowers were seen, and their names and details explained. There were large patches of Wood Anemones, and some of Dog's Mercury, both plants especially associated with ancient woodlands, as is the Bluebell. Other woodland plants like Lesser Celandine, Garlic Mustard, Herb Robert and Greater Stitchwort were studied. A number of trees were just coming into leaf, of which the most abundant in Duck Wood is the Hornbeam, but also Elder, Hawthorn and a few others were admired. There were different plants by the ponds, such as Yellow Iris and Pendulous Sedge, and unwanted plants that destroy natural pond life such as Parrot's-feather and a little Water Fern that floats in big mats. We were told by Del Smith that when the Water Fern arrived from South America a long time ago it brought a little beetle too, and this beetle can still be found on patches of this tiny fern.

There were a number of other items of interest, not just plants. A youngster found a skeleton of a deer, and nearby were many deer prints, or ‘slots', where deer had been walking over mud. Sometimes deer droppings were noticed, but we did not see a live deer. Grey Squirrels were seen a few times. Several trees were climbed by those wishing to improve their woodland skills.

At 4pm we returned to the road and the group dispersed as a rain shower began.