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Benefits of the blackthorn

  Continuing our look at the native trees that grow in the Heart of England Forest, this month sees the spotlight fall on the blackthorn. If there’s one tree that’s a mass of contradictions, it’s the blackthorn: on one hand, it’s known as the “Mother of the Woods,” and on the other, “the Dark Crone of the Woods”…! Blackthorn has perhaps the most sinister reputation in Celtic tree lore, being variously associated with bad luck and witchcraft. But there’s a lot to be said for its benefits… Two sides to the story It is perhaps understandable that the blackthorn has such a mixed reputation, as its face changes markedly throughout the year. As spring approaches, the blackthorn’s branches are briefly swathed in a dense covering of the most vibrant white blossom, giving it a joyous and benevolent facade. The winter sees its leaves turn yellow and fall off, leaving a stark and twisted black skeleton exposed.  Perhaps this spiny, dark form with its menacing veneer led Celtic tribes of old to attach mystical mythology to this modest tree – not least because witches’ wands were made of blackthorn wood! To this day, the ominous qualities of the blackthorn are maintained through the enduring fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, as it is through a thick hedge of blackthorn that the prince must battle to save his slumbering princess.  Farmers still know the value of a blackthorn hedgerow, its spiny interlocking twigs and branches providing a handy natural barrier to keep livestock secure. An invaluable resource Often mistaken for hawthorn, there’s an easy way to distinguish the two in springtime: blackthorn...

Get your coat!

When her school gave her a spare afternoon a week for work experience, 17-year-old Katie Hillier headed straight to the forest…

‘On Wednesday afternoons, my school allows us to do work experience. I’m interested in biology and conservation and I wanted to do something a bit different.

Great news: the hunters are thriving!

Amazingly, last year the chances of spotting a kestrel, or even an owl, were higher than ever before on both the Dorsington and Spernal estates in the Heart of England Forest.

After a mild winter, and with a thriving vole population to keep hungry chicks happy, mid-year reports came in of early laying tawny and barn owls.

Stephen’s seasons

‘Spring and summer are really exciting seasons in the forest. Once the winter planting comes to an end, new life shoots up everywhere. Then, as the days get longer and warmer, the forest is full of colour and noise and the air is thick with floral aromas. ‘In late June, the small-leaved lime flowers appear in their sweet-smelling clusters.

Guided Walks in the Forest

Enjoy the fresh air and glorious countryside with the added benefit of a forest guide to point out all the fascinating things you might have missed! Places on the walks are limited, so please register today to avoid disappointment. Join us on a Guided Woodland Walk Click here to sign up to one of our guided Woodland Walks. Discover the Heart of England Forest with one of our Forest Guides and learn about how we are planting tomorrow’s great native...
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