Last month I wrote about the rare Wild Service Tree. Several people are now looking for it across the parish so good luck and good hunting.

SIMON'S PIECETrees don’t have to be rare to be exceptional. This is a common Goat Willow (Salix caprea) growing in amongst the mine ruins in the Marke Valley.

I counted nine stems growing from the main trunk which has a diameter of just over a metre. Goat Willow is so common it is usually overlooked. Its grey oval leaves are so variable that they often get confused with Grey Sallow (Salix cinerea) which is even more common. Goat Willow is easiest to identify by its fluffy catkins in the spring, which give it its other English name ‘Pussy Willow’.

It is a very fast-growing pioneer species but usually only lives for 20 or 30 years. This monster at the base of Caradon Hill is sheltered by the mine ruins and must have been browsed by sheep for many years to give it such an unusual shape and large girth. Willow identification is made more difficult by occasional hybridisation, but it is worth getting to know these native trees and shrubs as they form an important component of many of our most valuable habitats from wetlands and woodlands to montane scrub on our highest mountains. They all support a wide range of insect species so indirectly provide an important food source for birds and mammals alike.


the beautiful island of LundyA very short note from me this month, as I’ve been away on a long-anticipated short break on the beautiful island of Lundy. There are very few trees on the island, and they were much missed, as there was little to find in the way of shelter from the chilly and quite strong north-westerly wind that blew consistently all week! There’s plenty of gorse, but I saw none that was flowering, unlike our gorse on the moors here that blooms all year round, hence the saying: “Kissing’s in fashion when the gorse is in blossom”! But chilly or not, it’s a lovely place, no roads, no cars, very limited internet access, and no crowds – a place of tranquillity and relaxation, with wild Soay sheep, sika deer, cattle and ponies. Just what I needed after what’s been a difficult year so far.

Thanks to all the working party stalwarts that carry on month in,