Archive for October, 2011

The final week for Autumnwatch at Westonbirt, by Katrina Podlewska, Communications Manager

Friday, October 28th, 2011

The last four weeks have flown by and the final BBC Autumnwatch Live show will be broadcast from Westonbirt Arboretum this Friday, 28th October.

As the focus for this week’s show is woodlands, Westonbirt Arboretum will have a chance to explore different aspects of the tree collection in more detail.

Following on from filming the visual tree health inspections last week, Mark and Dan from Westonbirt’s tree team ventured out with the Autumnwatch crew to film the second half of the story – the use of technology in tree inspections.

Accompanying Mark and Dan were the team from Tree Surveys with the picus sonic tomography used to accompany visual inspections with a picture of the decay.

The picus sonic tomograph is a non-invasive tool for assessing decay in trees. It works on the principle that sound waves passing through decay move more slowly than sound waves traversing solid wood. By sending sound waves from a number of points around a tree stem to a number of receiving points, the relative speed of the sound can be calculated and an image of the cross-section of the tree can be generated.

Ganaderma species fungal fruiting body    Tree Surveys using the picus sonic tomograph    The picus sonic tomograph scan

Chris Packham spent the morning with the team as they set up the tomography, scanned the tree and made the decision on whether to fell or manage the tree in the collection.

Felling a tree is not a decision taken lightly as often the tree is very old and can be an original Holford planting. However, sometimes for health and safety reasons it is necessary. The felled tree will not go to waste however – almost all the wood material is reused, either around the arboretum as woodchip or sold through the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum wood sales.

Around the site other activity has been underway, including some night filming of owls, the conclusion of several weeks of lapsed time filming and a look at autumn colour. We are looking forward to seeing the final show and will be sad to see the Autumnwatch team leave (they can come back any time!).

You can help to support the work undertaken by the tree team at Westonbirt Arboretum by sending a gift via Just Text Giving to the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum.
Text a gift of up to £10 by sending the Just Text Giving Code TREE33 followed by the amount you want to donate to 70070. Find out more by watching this film on Westonbirt Arboretum’s YouTube Channel.

Useful links:
The Forestry Commission’s tree pests and diseases website
Enter our Inspired by Autumn at Westonbirt photography competition
Directions to Westonbirt Arboretum (our postcode is GL8 8QS)
Find out more about BBC Autumnwatch Live.

Autumn Colour Watch: what a difference a week makes, by Gina Mills, Marketing Support Officer

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Autumn is a spectacular time of year at Westonbirt. This photo-packed blog will take you through the weekly highlights of what’s looking good and where. Photographs featured here have been taken in the few days prior to publication. Visit the Forestry Commission website for more information about what’s happening at Westonbirt during autumn.

Well, what a difference a week makes when it comes to autumn colour!

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In Acer Glade, you’ll see a marked change. Gone are the subtleties of previous weeks, as we welcome in vivid colour in abundance. As you approach Acer Glade there are glimpses of the bright leaves. Turn the corner and you’ll be amazed!

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As well as views from the paths, getting amongst the leaves and under the canopies gives a different perspective. Even if the skies are overcast the colours shine through strongly.

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It’s not just the mass plantings of maples that are impressive. Keep an eye out for individual specimens with striking branch structure and leaf colour. The first two pictured are in the easterly end of Acer Glade. The third is on Holford Ride.

webNational Japanese Maple Collection (9)webNational Japanese Maple Collection (4)webNational Japanese Maple Collection (3)
Out in Silk Wood, maples are once again the star turn of the week. The National Japanese Maple Collection is a bank of varied autumn colour and has some fine specimens perfect for autumnal photography.

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On Willesley Drive, one of our most photographed maples is living up to expectations, again with its strong structured branches and bright leaf colour – a winning combination. There is plenty more to catch the eye elsewhere on Willesley and not just from maples!

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Other highlights of the week include Hickories, which have suddenly changed to their brightest yellow tones – pictured here on Broad Drive and Main Drive – and more fascinating fungi.

Useful links:
Enter our Inspired by Autumn at Westonbirt photography competition
Directions to Westonbirt Arboretum (our postcode is GL8 8QS)
Find out more about BBC Autumnwatch Live, which will be broadcasting from Westonbirt throughout October

Looking at trees with Autumnwatch – from above and below! By Katrina Podlewska, Communications Manager

Friday, October 21st, 2011

With two great BBC Autumnwatch Live shows completed from the Great Oak Hall at Westonbirt Arboretum, and the Autumnwatch team onsite to get ready for another packed programme tonight, attention here is turning towards week 4 (28th October) when the focus will be on the Cotswolds and will look at the arboretum in more detail.

This week, Mark and Dan from our tree team have been filming with Autumnwatch for next week’s show. They’ve been looking at tree health at the work undertaken by the Forestry Commission at Westonbirt Arboretum to manage tree pests and disease.

Mark and Dan visited a few trees on their target list with the crew to talk them through the stages of disease in the specimen and discuss their next course of action. In some cases trees have to be felled and in others they can continue to be managed in the collection for several years.

Investigating a Beech tree   Investigating a Douglas fir   Mark and Dan tree health filming

Mark and Dan will show how they test the trees and use technology to investigate the depths and progression of fungus and disease. They even hope to show how, if nothing can be done to save the tree, it is felled and used for many other purposes. Filming will continue next week, so tune in on 28th October for the final piece.

This week, early visitors to the arboretum on Thursday will also have seen a hot air balloon above the Old Arboretum. This balloon did in fact contain Martin Hughes-Games, looking at autumn colour and the trees of the arboretum from above!

Ready for take off!   Hot air balloon flight   Flying over the Old Arboretum

To find the latest autumn colour hotspots for your visit, don’t forget to read our autumn colour watch blog.

Autumn Colour Watch: now, that’s what I call autumnal… by Gina Mills, Marketing Support Officer

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Autumn is a spectacular time of year at Westonbirt. This photo-packed blog will take you through the weekly highlights of what’s looking good and where. Photographs featured here have been taken in the few days prior to publication. Visit the Forestry Commission website for more information about what’s happening at Westonbirt during autumn.

After a slow (but early!) start, the leaves are now becoming noticeably more colourful as each day passes, in large part due to the chillier weather. For us, the frosts promised by the weather forecasters bring a sense of anticipation of the autumn colours about to appear in the coming days and weeks.

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In many places in the Old Arboretum, groups of trees look brighter in colour than they did last week. The first two plantings pictured above are on Main Drive and are beginning to show the spectrum of colours that Acers offer in autumn, as well as some of the conifers that provide such a contrast. The planting on Mitchell Drive is another example of how conifers and deciduous trees work together to give the structure and bright splashes of colour that are an important part of what makes Westonbirt so special.

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Elsewhere on Mitchell Drive, there is an array of unusual autumn colour. The Sargent’s cherry pictured has vibrant peachy orange leaves that are quite dazzling. The beautiful katsura smells divine and this example has tiny pod-like fruits on it at the moment. If you’re a Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum member you may have read a piece in the autumn edition of the Westonbirt Magazine which promised fabulous autumn colour from Cotinus. As you can see it doesn’t disappoint on this front, with a selection of primary colours on show!

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On Acer Glade change is starting to happen in earnest now. As you can see above it is not a case of a blanket of red leaves, rather a combination of red, green and gold.

18 October 2011 06418 October 2011 06717 October 2011 065This combination of red, gold and green is also a feature of the full moon maples pictured above. As you can see, on Holford Ride these, along with the Persian ironwoods, punctuate the dark green of the conifers and those trees which are still yet to turn their autumnal shades.

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Whilst we’re on the subject of the gold end of the spectrum, the yellow birch in the Victory Glade area certainly sparkles on this front, as do the tulip trees on Jackson Avenue. On Main Drive, a few of the leaves on the field maple pictured above have turned a burnished gold in amongst their dark green neighbours and are beautiful to look at in the sunshine.

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The sunshine lit up the witch hazel in the Old Arboretum this week. You can see how bright the two examples above look on a sunny day. The same is true of the Nyssa sylvatica or tupelo pictured above. Again it is the range of colours on a single tree that bowls you over.

Over in Silk Wood, you’ll also notice a change on last week.

Following the Silk Wood route taken for last week’s colour watch blog, you’ll see trees previously showing their green foliage are now looking much more autumnal.

Acer palmatum on Willesley Drive 2Acer palmatum Willesley DriveAcer palmatum on Willesley Drive_The most popular for photos
The leaves on the bigger Japanese maples Acer palmatum along Willesley Drive are tinged red, brought on by the couple of colder nights we’ve now experienced. Take a look at a group of maples where the Sand Earth path joins Willesley Drive and the specimens that border the main pathway for examples.

Cladrastis lutea on Willesley Drive approaching Broad Drive croppedFull moon maple on the turn_on the corner of Willesley Drive and Broad Drive 2Full moon maple on the turn_on the corner of Willesley Drive and Broad Drive
For a splash of yellow, take a look at the yellowwood Cladrastis lutea to your right as you walk towards the crossroads of Willesley Drive and Broad Drive.

A little further along, the full moon maple Acer japonicum on the corner is also showing a beautiful shade of red. Look closely at the leaves to see the red absorbing the green as it spreads across.

National Japanese Maple Collection 4Acer palmatum dissectum National Japanese Maple CollectionNational Japanese Maple Collection 2
Revisit the National Japanese Maple Collection to see a further development. This Japanese maple by the bench looked green this time last week! There are also some beautiful examples of Acer palmatum dissectum in the collection, showing off their stunning serrated leaves.

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Along Broad Drive the zelkova serrata, which originates from Japan, Korea and China, is showing an orange/ red shade of leaf colour. This tree is an ornamental tree, often used for producing bonsai varieties; however the specimen on Broad Drive is large and impressive.

Cotinus Broad Drive Waste Drive cornerEuonymus alatus winged spindle at Waste GateCotinus
A final show of red for this blog comes from the winged spindle Euonymus alatus is a deciduous shrub native to eastern Asia, in central and northern China, Japan, and Korea and the smoke bush Cotinus, native to the northern hemisphere. These large shrubs have great ‘autumn foliage’, and will develop more in colour over the coming weeks.

Useful links:
Enter our Inspired by Autumn at Westonbirt photography competition
Directions to Westonbirt Arboretum (our postcode is GL8 8QS)
Find out more about BBC Autumnwatch Live, which will be broadcasting from Westonbirt throughout October

A busy time for the Membership Team, by Bev Starkings, Membership Co-ordinator

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

The Membership Team (Bev and Kelly) would like to thank all those who have commented on our inclusion in the last Westonbirt Magazine. Our brief moment of recognition! Quite a few members were surprised that there are only two of us, which we like to think is a compliment. It went some way to explaining why we can’t answer every phone call at our busiest times, therefore if you have any queries it is much better to email us as our Voicemail gets full very quickly!

kelly-and-bev

We will be stretched to the full over the next few months with around 2,000 memberships to process, so please bear with us if takes a little longer than usual to reply. We are amazed at the growing number of people giving memberships as a Christmas gift for their friends and loved ones. What a wonderful gift! You can apply for a Christmas membership at anytime, just tick the box and we will post out all memberships at the beginning of December. At least they’re easy to wrap! Please note that our deadline for receiving Christmas applications is 14th December. This gives us just enough time to process and send out before we collapse with exhaustion!

PS. Love having BBC Autumnwatch here!

A busy week for boundaries, by Sophie Nash, Project Officer

Friday, October 14th, 2011

The new ha-ha has just been completed! We have finished adding the last few courses of stone and laid coping stones to finish the last section of wall, which looks lovely and is much more in keeping and discreet compared to the wooden post and rail fence it replaced.

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We have also now started work restoring our historic boundaries around parts of the arboretum. Blacksmiths have now straightened and repaired parts of the cast iron fence at Down Gate and this week sees another team of contractors back on site installing a new mild steel strained wire fence. The fence, which runs parallel with Mitchell Drive, is replacing a modern post and wire fence. The new strained wire fence has been designed to match other traditional strained wire fences found in other parts of the Westonbirt Estate and which you can also see in this old photo. This style of fence is less obtrusive aesthetically than modern stock fences; which will mean visitors will be able to view the Downs as Holford once did.

three-sisters

We will soon be reinstating a dry stone ha-ha by the roadside and repairing our original iron estate fence. Keep checking the Westonbirt Project pages for current photos of the work as it happens.

Autumn Colour Watch: a mixed picture of colour, by Gina Mills, Marketing Support Officer

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Autumn is a spectacular time of year at Westonbirt. This photo-packed blog will take you through the weekly highlights of what’s looking good and where. Photographs featured here have been taken in the few days prior to publication. Visit the Forestry Commission website for more information about what’s happening at Westonbirt during autumn.

Many of you may have noticed that after an initial early start to autumn, widely reported in the press, things are now going at rather a sedate pace. For us at Westonbirt, this means that although we had a dazzling display of colour from our maples during the first week of the autumn colour watch blog and continue to see the fruits and berries I wrote about last week, further developments to autumn colour are happening much more gradually than we had perhaps anticipated.

2 Japanese maple along Willesley Drive set against green maples (2)3 National Japanese Maple Collection (1)The Link Japanese maples
It seems that whilst autumn came early to some of Westonbirt’s trees, there are many still to turn. All over Silk Wood you’ll see the contrast of the ‘first wave’ of colour and those trees waiting to be spurred on by a frost or two. One of our Tree Team assures us that there are still many more trees to show autumn colour and the specimens that have turned early have done so because of the ‘stress’ caused by the dry weather. The Japanese maples pictured above in Silk Wood (Willesley Drive, National Japanese Maple Collection and The Link) are all good examples of the combination of colour at present.

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There are now some lovely variations in leaf colour around. You might expect this from the Persian Ironwood which is famed for its multicoloured leaves during autumn. But in other spots around the arboretum the same is true. The shagbark hickory is on its way to turning bright golden yellow, but at present has leaves that show a combination of yellow and green as a backdrop to its shiny fruit (this one on Main Drive), whilst the maples again show a range of colours. The Korean Acer pseudosieboldianum perched on a grassy bank near Skilling Gate really stands out against the green backdrop of grass and other specimens yet to turn for autumn – a story repeated throughout the Silk Wood.

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Although I got rather carried away with Sorbus last week I can’t resist showing you a few more that are looking fantastic in the Old Arboretum at the moment. They really are worth seeking out for the sheer variety of berry colours and leaf colours, as they now start to turn. Some are absolutely laden with fruit as you can see!

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It is also worth keeping an eye out for the quince at the top of Holford Ride, which has a fair crop of fruit – although its branches are a little prickly as I discovered! Viburnums are also in full berry (this one in the Old Arboretum) and there is a good variety of Cotoneaster – you can see this one on Willesley Drive is covered in berries.

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Fungi are another fascinating feature of autumn in our woodlands. Above are a selection of images of some of the fungi that are around at the moment. Look out for them in both the Old Arboretum and Silk Wood. If you’d like to get a better knowledge and be able to identify these, how about joining a walk around Westonbirt with Dave Shorten from the Cotswold Fungi Group on 29 October? He’ll be investigating the fungi at westonbirt and their trees.

Useful links:
Enter our Inspired by Autumn at Westonbirt photography competition
Directions to Westonbirt Arboretum (our postcode is GL8 8QS)
Find out more about BBC Autumnwatch Live, which will be broadcasting from Westonbirt throughout October

Renewing Westonbirt’s links with Japan (part 5) – catching up with an old friend, by Mark Ballard

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Westonbirt Arboretum’s Director, Simon Toomer, and Superintendent, Mark Ballard, are currently in Japan for two weeks to collect seed from the wild. The trip will help to develop Westonbirt’s tree collection with more diverse species of maples and other trees from this temperate climate. The team wish to thank the private donor with a passion for plants and science who has funded this trip.

Chichibu University Forests – Day 9 & 10

We meet another old friend at 8.00am on Thursday in our hotel lobby, Dr Takashi Masaki of the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute in Tsukuba. It was just like old times and great to catch-up, as we had spent many days collecting seed together back in 2008.

The road to Chichibu

The road to Chichibu

We wasted no time in heading for our next destination, the Chichibu University forests, some three hours drive to the west. Takashi had arranged for us to meet university officials at the forest office in Chichibu City, and they gave us a brief presentation about the area and native flora. He had also sent them a copy of target species list, so they already had the best places for us to go in mind. After a tempura and noodle lunch, we headed for the mountains in two vehicles, accompanied by a local member of staff to guide us.

Chichibu Forest Office

Chichibu Forest Office

No sooner had we reached our first stop, and we bagged Acer crataegifolium (Hawthorn Maple) in a sunny location next to a path. We then moved higher to a forest road next to a beautiful river, with clear pools of aquamarine water that looked very inviting on a hot day. We are getting to visit some spectacular places that most people will never get the chance to see.

Lots of other target species were collected during a really productive afternoon. Into the bag went: Meliosma myriantha; Mallotus japonicus; Styrax obassia; Stachyurus praecox; Euonymus oxyphyllus (Korean Spindleberry) which has fantastic autumn colour; and Zanthoxylum piperitum (Japanese Pepper Tree) which has edible fruit and medicinal uses. We collected seed from a dozen plants in total, and headed for our hotel, also booked by Takashi.

Us at work

Us at work

The next day we set-off for a different part of the Chichibu forest, which was yet higher still and equally scenic. We made ten collections, including Acer capillipes (a snake bark maple) and Acer japonicum (Full Moon Maple). But what we will all remember most, is Takashi shaking the branches of a large walnut tree (Juglans mandschurica) with his huge telescopic pole, and lots of nuts falling from sky like giant hailstones. At that point we understood why we had each been issued with a hard hat the day before.

Dr Takashi Masaki

Dr Takashi Masaki

At around 5.00pm we said goodbye and thank you to our kind hosts, who had been incredibly helpful and had issued us with the essential plant permits. They were actually very honoured that we had travelled so far to collect seed from their native trees and shrubs. We headed back to our base in Tsukuba, driven the many miles, of course, by Takashi. We arrive there late, and straight away get stuck into the important tasks of seed cleaning and recording field data.

A couple of days rest now, until the final part of our adventure in the University Forests of Chiba to the south, with Takashi once again.

Renewing Westonbirt’s links with Japan (part 4) – Mount Fuji, by Simon Toomer

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Westonbirt Arboretum’s Director, Simon Toomer, and Superintendent, Mark Ballard, are currently in Japan for two weeks to collect seed from the wild. The trip will help to develop Westonbirt’s tree collection with more diverse species of maples and other trees from this temperate climate. The team wish to thank the private donor with a passion for plants and science who has funded this trip.

Sunday 9th October

It’s Sunday morning and we’re having a quiet day staying in a high rise hotel in the city of Tsukuba, an hour’s train ride north of Tokyo. The brief respite in collecting gives us an opportunity to open and repack all the seed gathered so far and update the plant records. It’s also a chance to catch up on sleep and consider the trip so far.

Bags of seed in hotel

Bags of seed in hotel

The two days spent on the forested slopes of Mount Fuji produced some valuable plants that we missed on our last trip. Once again we were helped by staff and students from the University of Shizuoka including PhD researcher Mizuki Fukushima who drove us along the winding forest tracks far removed from the usual tourist bus routes up Fuji. There were also memorable views of the mountain as we approached from the industrial sprawl to the south.

Approach to Fuji

Approach to Fuji

One notable tree that we hoped to collect was Torreya nucifera, known to the Japanese as kaya. This relative of the yew can be quite illusive beneath the more conspicuous giant beeches, firs and oaks and, although we found a number of trees, we couldn’t spot any green plum-like fruits among the evergreen foliage even with the aid of binoculars. But then with time running out and our hopes diminishing, we located two fruiting plants and, with the help of long-handled pruners, managed to collect a reasonable number of kaya ‘nuts’.

Mizuki collecting kaya

Mizuki collecting kaya


Kaya

Kaya

We also collected other valuable plants including two maples: horned maple (Acer diabolicum) and Nikko maple (Acer maximowiczianum). The latter was a real surprise as we had not expected to see it here and had a stroke of luck when Mark spotted a large old tree with a recently shed large limb (probably during the recent typhoon) laden with ripe fruit – the prize delivered on a plate!

The forests around Fuji are designated as National Forest Parks and we were very fortunate to be given special permission to collect seed by the equivalent of the UK’s Forestry Commission. We dropped in at the local forestry office where we met the local forestry chief, Mr Sakamoto, who told us about the forests and their management.

Renewing Westonbirt’s links with Japan (part 3) – a successful few days, by Mark Ballard

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Westonbirt Arboretum’s Director, Simon Toomer, and Superintendent, Mark Ballard, are currently in Japan for two weeks to collect seed from the wild. The trip will help to develop Westonbirt’s tree collection with more diverse species of maples and other trees from this temperate climate. The team wish to thank the private donor with a passion for plants and science who has funded this trip.

Monday 3 October 2011

Its late in the evening and the first chance we’ve had to send an update for a while, as we’ve just spent two very busy and very successful days deep in the Naka-kawane Forest.

View of Naka-kawane mountains

View of Naka-kawane mountains

We were picked-up early on Sunday morning at our hotel in Shizuoka by Professor Hiro Mizunaga, and were accompanied on our journey westward by five Indonesian forestry students. They were also guests of Shizuoka University, looking at Japanese silvicultural practices and forest management issues at the same location.

Indonesian, Japanese and British group photo

Indonesian, Japanese and British group photo

Once at the Naka-kawane Forest we met-up with Mizuki Fujishima, a research student, and Taichi Kajikawa, a local forest guide.  Both helped us on our last trip back in 2008, and it was good to see them again.  We wasted no time in setting-off in a 4×4 vehicle up the mountain, along a very steep road with an almost vertical drop to one side.  We passed through plantations of ‘Sugi’ (Cryptomeria japonica) and ‘Hinoki’ (Chamaecyparis obtusa), and each wondered how these montane forest trees would be harvested in future.

At an appropriate spot amid dense native woodland we then carried on on foot, on the look-out for target species with good seed. Our guides proved invaluable, and it doesn’t take us long before we are spotting the trees we have travelled so far to see. First up was Acer micranthum, one of the snake bark maples, other species of maple, or ‘Kaede’ in Japanese, quickly followed. Acer diabolicum, known as the Devil Maple because of horns on the seed, Acer carpinifolium, Acer sieboldianum and Acer palmatum subspecies amoenum are all in the bag. We also collect seed from lots of other interesting tree species: Styrax japonica (Japanese Snowbell), Stewartia monodelpha; Kalopanax pictus (Castor Aralia) and Carpinus Tschonoskii (Hornbeam) to name but a few.

We continue to climb steadily higher until we can go no further; the recent typhoon has caused a landslide taking with it a huge chunk of road. No worry though, as we see things on the way back down that weren’t obvious at first glance. The views out over the tree covered mountain range are breathtaking, and we each feel very fortunate to be here. Lots of photographs are taken and Simon continues to film proceedings with a small hand-held camera.

The end of the road

The end of the road

The day ends at the mountain lodge, where we each give power-point presentation to the group of Indonesian students and Japanese university staff. There are plenty of questions as everyone is very interested in the arboretum and the work that we do. Simon, Ted and I settle down to sleep in a shared room, after a few hours cleaning seed and recording the all important field data.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

After a quick ‘fusion style’ breakfast, we are all back up the mountain, although we take a different route today and leave the vehicle much sooner than the day before. We climb an incredibly steep path from 1,000m to 1,600m above sea level, stopping to collect seed on route once again. We are led by the sound of a bell used to ward off bears, which is worn by Taichi, who we previously named the ‘mountain goat’ due his ability to easily skip across the toughest of slopes.

The mountain goat

The mountain goat

Before the day is over, we had made more seed collections and now have 25 in total. Lots of useful discussions take place between the group members concerning identification of key plants, which is always a valuable part of these trips.  We manage to bag Quercus mongolica (Mongolian Oak), Picea jezoensis (Yezo Spruce), Picea polita (Tiger Tail Spruce), Tilia japonica (Japanese Lime) and Rhododendron pentaphyllum.

We did not have time to grab any lunch today, but instead lap-up the view and stunning scenery once again, before making the tricky decent. Once back at the lodge, we show our appreciation for the help we have received with gifts of Westonbirt calendars and Wakehurst Place notebooks. Then we begin the long drive back to Shizuoka, feeling tired but very happy with our expedition so far. We arrive back after 7.00pm, grab a quick dinner of rice and noodles, before taking care of the seed and records as always. It’s late to bed after that, but we’re really looking forward to an exciting couple of days ahead on Mount Fuji from tomorrow morning.