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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...

Bee Flies: Masters of Disguise

What do you get when you cross a bee, a hummingbird, a mosquito, a narwhal and a fly? The answer: a bee fly. Yes, it’s a real insect, living right under our noses. But you may not know it when you see it…

Boost your health with a Forest walk

Medical professionals have long advocated that a healthy body can lead to a healthy mind, but there’s really no need to enrol in a fancy gym or shell out for an expensive rowing machine when a regular wander in the woodland can be just the right prescription!

Meet the ‘Venus of the Woods’

For the second article in a series focusing on the fascinating trees and shrubs that occur in the Forest, this month we discover more about one of the most important tree species in the Forest; the ‘Venus of the Woods’.

Hairstreak egg-citement

Have you ever seen a brown hairstreak? I mean the butterfly that is, and not the result of a close encounter with a seagull on your summer holidays! Very few people have; even devoted lepidopterists (a person who studies butterflies and moths) may go years without seeing one. For most people living in the Midlands, the brown hairstreak (Thecla betulae) is an exceptionally rare butterfly and is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species for conservation due to its continued decline.

More space for trees

The Heart of England Forest is pleased to announce the acquisition of two new parcels of land located at Arrow and Newnham, enabling the charity to continue to grow England’s largest new native broadleaf Forest.

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