In January, a party of SHS members wrapped up warm and headed off to the Sheepleas (above Horsley) to learn how to identify local trees when they had no leaves to assist in the task. The group was led by Pamela Holt, local Parish Councillor and (as a day job) an Arboricultural Officer for the London Borough of Barnet.
The Sheepleas are primarily chalk land and consequently one might have expected to see a fairly small variety of trees. Surprisingly, in a period of less than two hours, we had found and identified twenty different ones – and that was without including variants of oak, holly etc.
Winter identification relies far more on looking at shape, colour, position and appearance of buds together with bark patterns, colour and texture plus clues such as fallen leaves, seeds, fruits etc. A lot of variables – but a lot of information to take in and remember.
When this walk was set up, we envisaged that it would be a specialist event with a small number of attendees. We were wrong! This topic seems to have caught the imagination of our members to the extent that we had more than our intended maximum number of bookings and a waiting list. So much so that we had to put on a second walk at the beginning of March and that has been oversubscribed too.
After their chilly walks, both groups returned to a local pub to warm up with soup and crusty bread. When asked, their unanimous verdict was that they had all enjoyed themselves even more than they had expected and were there going to be any more similar events?
So if you want to know how to identify trees in winter, maybe you need to ask some of our members. Clearly they are very interested in learning more about the trees of the Surrey Hills and getting more out of the area whey they live, work and play.