In all the news stories about flooding over the past few weeks you will probably have heard of Datchet, Wraysbury and Egham. You may not be aware that in the middle of that triangle and bisected itself by the River Thames is the Trust’s Runnymede and Ankerwyke property. We know it as the Birthplace of Modern Democracy but it has been renamed as the Bathplace etc by Jonathan Cousins one of our volunteers as it has been several feet underwater recently, now thankfully pretty much gone.
That stopped our hedgelaying, scrub clearance on the riverside and rest of the myriad of tasks to be done before the bird nesting season but there was one project we could do.
The Air Forces Memorial is dedicated to some 20,456 men and women from the British Empire who were lost in air operations during World War II. It was designed by Sir Edward Maufe with sculpture by Vernon Hill and opened in 1953 by the Queen. It is in the care of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. (CWGC)
The roof of the memorial looks over the River Thames and Runnymede but the views of, and from it, are becoming obscured by Sycamore, Silver Birch and Ash growing in the National Trust owned Coopers Hill Woods below it.
The woodland is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its breeding birds so any work to be done has to comply with the management plan and with the approval of Natural England. There is also lots of evidence of man’s occupation and use of the slopes over the years.
The Runnymede team helped out by a team from the CWGC based at Brookwood Cemetery ( see photo )and NT staff from Winkworth Arboretum have just spent five days cutting and stacking into habitat piles all the intrusive trees within the terms of the Natural England licence and it didn’t even rain much !
|Staff and volunteers from National Trust and CWGC worked in partnership all week|
|Removing small trees from directly infront of the memorial greatly improved views of it from the A308 at the bottom of the hill|
But that’s not the point. Out in the countryside no two days are the same and the most unprepossessing task or environment brings its own surprise and fascination. Slipping and sliding around in the mud and avoiding doing an Alice and disappearing down a rabbit hole I came across just two examples.
The Orange Peel Fungus (Aleuria aurantia) is a widespread ascomycete fungus in the order Pezizales. The brilliant orange, cup-shaped ascocarps often resemble orange peels strewn on the ground, giving this species its common name. Normally fruiting in summer / autumn is this specimen just confused by our mild damp winter ?
|Orange Peel Fungus found while carrying out the works in front of the memorial|
There’s been lots of picnicking here in the past, indeed broken glass is a known hazard but the green bottle is interesting. It is embossed R White, bottles of this shape with this stopper can be found in the internet embossed R White & Sons Limited, the name changed in 1894. So it is likely to be 120 years old, does this count as archaeology ?
There we have it just another volunteer day but it’s fascinating what you can find, natural or man made.
Irving Lord, Volunteer