Walton Hall Nature Trail, what's on Sept/Oct
- Fungi After the very dry summer the first autumn rains have brought out a fine display of fungi. There are many 'fairy rings' in the grassland round campus, these are mainly caused by fairy ring champignon (Merasmius oreades), a small tan coloured species. The bark paths have several other small brownish saprophytic fungi breaking down the organic material. Last year there were also some brightly coloured (red or green) Stropharia species on the bark and this year there are some tiny 'birds nest' fungi (Cyathus olla). In the birds nests there are shiny white 'eggs' containing spores, these are bounced out by rain drops.
- Migrant birds The bad weather is also a good time to look out for unusual migrant birds which may have been blown off course or forced to land on their way south. Large flocks of starlings become more obvious at this time of year, they can be seen wheeling round in the sky at dusk before roosting.
- Autumn colours As the day length shortens deciduous trees and shrubs withdraw nutrients from their leaves. The green chlorophyll breaks down first leaving the yellow carotenoid and red anthocyanin pigments to produce the familiar autumn colours.
- Sloe gin Many plants have given a very heavy crop of fruit this year, in particular hawthorn, oak and crab apple trees are weighed down. One of the other bushes which has done well this year is the blackthorn or sloe. The small (about 1-2cm) bluish berries taste very tart raw but they can be used for sloe gin. They are best picked after the first frost. Sloe gin - clean two wine bottles and half fill with sloes, add 25g of barley sugar to each, fill with gin, cork and leave to stand in a warm place for 3 months, strain and drink or re-cork and store.
Back to Nature Trail overview