Sunday, 30 June 2013

Walk with Nature in Strangford Wood

It was Birding Watching Monday and a small number of my class decided to go by bus to Portaferry, then take the ferry to Strangford and walked through a lovely small wood.  Apart from seeing Gulls and a few Oystercatcher from the bus, Common Tern and Cormorant from the ferry, then the usual woodland birds like Blue, Coal and Great Tit with the odd Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird and Wood Pigeon, there was not much else showing.  Nevertheless, we did find things of interest which I am going to share with you.

Hogweed - Heracleum sphondylium

There was still some Queen Anne’s lace although most had past their best however the Hogweed was coming into bloom.
Hogweed flowers from June to September. The flowers are self-compatible and usually insect-pollinated.  There are several hundred seeds in each flower umbel. The average seed number per plant in ruderal habitats is 5,030.  Seed is shed slowly from August until winter.
Ripe seeds contain a rudimentary embryo that requires 2-3 months at low temperatures to after-ripen. Seed has given 3% germination after 14 days at 5°C and 69% after 96 days.  Seeds do not after-ripen fully at higher temperatures and there was no germination of seed kept at room temperature.   Seeds buried in soil develop a light requirement for germination.

Bud of Hogweed

Roger Phillips in his book 'Wild Food' says "This is unequivocally one of the best vegetables I have ever eaten.
Hogweed is a member of the celery family (umbelliferae) and is actually nicer as a vegetable than braised celery.  However - the taste is not at all like celery.  Hogweed tastes like - hogweed. I know of nothing else similar.  Hogweed has a distinctive and pleasant smell when the leaves are bruised.  The young leaves, slightly furled and young stems are best when cooked as a vegetable".

Plantain -  Plantago lanceolata

Apart from the Plantain above, there were a lot of different types of grasses which none of us knew the names of, however there was one with a reddish/pink colour and was shedding is seed all around the place that I videoed and you will see at the end of this post.

During our walk through the wood we found 2 wood carvings.   Below is an Owl and the bottom was part of a tree with chiseled out words.

"Big bright yellow eyes like moons,
searching into dark forests for careless creatures".


"Big red fox sleeking along the hedge,
white tipped twitching tail, alert and listening".
When we finished our walk we had lunch in the Cuan Hotel and were greeted outside with this lovely cart smothered in small colourful Pansies
Lunch was delicious and this photo below was shot for me by the owner’s wife of some of my group. 

On our way to the ferry we passed a lovely garden and I spied a tree that I knew was unusual.  I found out later that it was Sambucus Nigra ‘Black Lace’ and in the Elderflower family.

We also saw this shrub called Olearia macrodonta.

Every time you cross the ’Narrows’ between Portaferry and Strangford, you see the Tidal Turbine and I thought you might like to know about that.

It is world's first commercial-scale tidal turbine was commissioned in Northern Ireland's Strangford Lough in July 2008. The 1.2MW SeaGen project was developed by Marine Current Turbines (MCT).
The project, SeaGen was installed in Strangford Lough in May 2008.  It was towed to the mouth of the Lough by a barge.  The turbine as a whole weighs 1,000t, and is 43m wide from tip to tip. Designed by engineer Peter Fraenkel, the rotors drive a generator that sends energy along a cable that then links into the national grid across the Lough in Strangford village

"SeaGen works much like an 'underwater windmill' with the rotors being driven by the power of the tidal currents rather than the wind."  Strangford Lough has a highly energetic tide race and so is recognised as one of the main tidal 'hotspots' in UK and Irish waters.
Built at Belfast's Harland and Wolff's shipyards, the birthplace of the Titanic, SeaGen took around 14 days to install, with the system literally being bolted onto the Lough's bed.  SeaGen briefly delivered 150KW of electricity into the grid while it was being commissioned in July 2008.

SeaGen has a mobile cross arm on a single supporting pile 3m in diameter and 9m above the average sea level. The twin rotors begin to generate electricity once the tide runs faster than 1m/s. At maximum speed, the tips move at around 12m/s, which is around 1/3 of the average wind turbine speed. The two rotating blades turn at 14rpm and drive a gear box system. comprising of two 600KW turbines, required a total investment of £12m.

The project reached an important milestone in September 2012 by producing up to 5GWh of power since its commissioning.  This is equal to the power required by 1,500 households annually.  The milestone indicates the completion of the demonstration phase of the project.

Lastly I am showing you a very short video and can be accessed at

I hope you enjoyed today's post even though we did not see many birds.
I would like to thank ALL the bloggers who left comments yesterday on any of my posts.


  1. I did enjoy this. All the different beautiful flowers are like candy for my eyes.

  2. Beautiful flowers and I love the wood carvings. The Black lace tree is pretty. Lovely post and photos. Have a happy week ahead!

  3. Looks like a GREAT time!! Beautiful pics!

  4. Sounds like a delightful trip! Hogweed? I hope it's a different variety than the invasive one we have here. :) I like the Black Lace elder very much, in fact I have a small one in my back yard that I hope will grow very large.

  5. Wonderful collection of photos! Thanks for sharing them.

  6. Pretty flowers and nice sculptures.

  7. Great images Margaret, really like those wood carvings very talented person whoever did it.

  8. beautiful blooms and cool carvings. love the cart full of flowers!

  9. Yet again another interesting and informative post Margaret, you sure manage to visit some wonderful places...[;o)

  10. Wonderful flowers! Have a great new week Margaret!

  11. The first flower image reminded me of sparklers!! Beautiful flowers, I wouldn't mind have that cart full of flowers on my front lawn!!

  12. Well of course I have to know, why the name Hogweed? Do pigs really like it? Your black and white bud picture is so unique and beautiful! The Olearis looks just like daisies to me. Who does thee wood carvings, they are so awesome. And I want to take that cart of flowers and push it all the way home!

  13. That was another lovely post Margaret, I enjoy these so much and love looking at your photos, watching and listening to you on your video and learning something of your area. It's a great trip from my armchair. Thank you!
    An English Girl Rambles

  14. Hi Margaret, I've been AOL for a couple of weeks --while on a couple of short vacations... BUT--I've tried to keep up with some of your blog posts when I could... I always enjoy your posts... You take amazingly fantastic photos... Thanks!!!


  15. the birds can't be guaranteed; as a group caretaker I guess that kind of puts a bit of onus on you to come up with the goods some times. Not that it should though. I enjoyed the journey and the nature images and your lovely group photo outside the pub. How nice to enjoy a good meal with your birding outing; also the car full of pansies, violas is delightful

  16. You found lots of pretty flowers. I love an old wagon full of them, too. Interesting about this unexpected energy resource.

  17. Sounds like you had a lot of fun. The tidal windmill is fascinating, I had to show to my husband too. The blooms are lovely as well.

  18. I love the idea of the wood carvings in the middle of the woods. You've such a variety of 'everything' over there and your photos are beautiful, with all of the great information.