Hainault Forest Website

Written and Designed by Brian Ecott


October - December 2010










Tar spot fungus Rhytisma acerinum on Sycamore 7th October 2010. Tar spot has been shown to increase on Sycamore leaves as sulphur dioxide pollution levels decreases. Recent studies suggest that it might also be a useful indicator in nitrogen dioxide pollution research. The Common European earwig Forficula auricularia found under a sycamore leaf while photographing Tar spot on 7th October 2010. It is a vegetarian and often found in trees. The rounded shape of its pincers (cerci) indicate that it is a male. Female cerci are straighter.

Several fungus forays took place in Hainault Forest during October and November 2010 all led by local mycologist Peter Comber. It was an exceptionally good year and many species were recorded including some rarities. For a full list and photographs click here. During one of the forays 30th October 2010 a Stinkhorn egg Phallus impudicus was found and cut in half to show the mycelium and developing stinkhorn. The outer layer is a jelly like substance, the middle layer is a greeny-brown jelly containing a spore mass and the inner layer looks like polystyrene which will eventually expand to produce the mature stinkhorns illustrated right. Flies are attracted to the stinkhorn because of its pungent smell and eat the sticky green spores which get transferred elsewhere. When all the spores are eaten the top of the stinkhorn is white. Photo Peter Comber.
The Christmas decoration workshop on 12th December 2010 led by Linda Herbert was very successful and produced some outstanding wreaths. For more details and pictures click here.

The Longer Wednesday Christmas walk took place on 15th December 2010 was led by Linda Herbert around the periphery of Hainault Forest. Participants ended the walk with mince pies and warm drinks in the Hainault Room. The 2011 walks commence again in April.



Snow came to the forest at the beginning of December for a few days then more snow before Christmas and the extremely cold spell lasted to the end of the year, and through to the New Year. Here pictured is the little bridge over the stream at the back of the lake. 2nd December 2010.

Two rabbit tracks in the snow. The rabbits are hopping. The front paw marks are close together then as they hop the hind feet move forward.

Photo: 21st December 2010.  December 2010 turned out to be the coldest month for many years with an average temperature of -1C

Black poplars in the snow at the back of the lake. They were planted in 1910. Photo 2nd December 2010. By the end of December the oaks finally shed their leaves. The last trees to do so. The oak tree pictured here at the back of the Hainault Lodge Nature Reserve still retains its leaves and will do so until the new leaves break out in the spring. This is a variety of oak known as the Lucombe oak Quercus x pseudosuber.

Hazel catkins and buds 21st December 2010 at Hainault Lodge Nature Reserve. If we get a period of warmth in January or February they will mature to produce pollen. Leaves of Lucombe oak. The leaves are squat and the lobes pointed. Some of the leaves turn partly brown.  21st December 2010. The oak originated from a hybrid produced by William Lucombe in 1762 in his Exeter nursery and possibly planted here at the building of Hainault Lodge.


July - September 2010 

A flock of Starlings feeding on emerging Craneflies or Daddy longlegs on the amenity grassland 26th September 2010.

Broad leaved helleborine Epipactis helleborine. Last seen in 2002 this spike appeared this year but not where they were last seen.

See May - June 2010 diary.

Spangle galls Neuroterus quercusbaccarum (top) are rare this year in Hainault.  Apart from two individual galls on a single oak leaf the Silk button gall N. numismalis (below) is absent. A scarcity of these two species last occurred here in 2006. The Smooth spangle gall N. albipes is present in its normal numbers.

A tree which had been puzzling me for over a year was identified by Doctor Mark Spencer at the Botanical Department of the Natural History Museum as Alder Buckthorn Frangula alnus. I was privileged to be taken down to the see the museum's specimen files for this species. There is a great variation in the leaf size between specimens, and the one at Hainault has much larger leaves than I have seen before. The museum has a drop-in service weekly in the new Darwin Centre. Alder buckthorn is the food plant for the Brimstone butterfly which is usually seen each spring in the forest. Many thanks to Dr. Spencer.

Wasp spider female on Hog Hill 6th August 2010

The Wasp spider Argiope bruennichi is becoming very common in Redbridge thanks to the policy of leaving wildlife areas within its parks and open areas as advocated by the Redbridge Conservation Rangers. It thrives in the taller grassland areas.

Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus on English marigold in the Wildlife garden. 3rd August 2010. This is a common species, very much in evidence in the wildlife garden which is proving an oasis for beneficial insects and pollinators.


First Prize runner beans. Photo G. Holliday

With the mass of pollinating insects in the Wildlife garden we produced a good crop of Runner beans. Volunteers Griff and Sally Holiday suggested that we exhibit them in the Ilford Horticultural Society's Autumn Show held at Gants Hill Methodist Church Hall.

Emperor dragonfly egg laying in Wildlife garden pond 20th July 2010

  Dragonfly nymph from Wildlife garden pond 6th August 2010.


The pond has been in place for a year in the wildlife garden and is already attracting dragonflies and damselflies. The Emperor Anax imperator left lays her eggs on submerged leaves of the Water soldier. Common darters Sympetrum striolatum  and Broad bodied chasers Libellula depressa have been seen flying earlier and the small nymph found by Sally Holliday and pictured above  may be one of these two or another Libellulid species.

Frog photographed by volunteer Griff Holliday in the Wildlife Garden 13th October 2010.

Zoned rosette Podoscypha multizonata an early autumn species of fungus found in the secondary woodland on Cabin Hill. 7th Sept. 2010.

Harvestman (Order Opiliones) on Turkey Oak 6th September 2010


May - June 2010

Coot parents feed their five chicks with weed. This is gathered from the lake bottom. Coots dive for this.  25th June 2010


One of the good pieces of news for May and June was the discovery of Bee orchids Ophrys apifera in the Country Park on the 22nd June.  I was on my way home and was checking for Broad-leaved helleborine Epipactis helleborine last seen in 2002 when I stumbled upon the Bee orchids. Five spikes in all. I notified the Country Park manager Mr Paul Browne and returned  home  only to find an e-mail from Peter Comber saying that they had been seen and photographed earlier in the day by Gordon Barber. This is a first for Redbridge.

Perhaps the Helleborines will make a comeback this year.

 Bee orchids Gordon Barber 22 June 2010.


 Broad leaved helleborines last seen in 2002.

A thick band of frog tadpoles around the lake 18th May 2010

Broad bodied chaser male dragonfly perches near pond 23rd June 2010

Cornfield corner 25th June 2010

Phacelia tanacetifolia Scorpion weed  27th May 2010

Common Quaker moth caterpillar on maple 24th June 2010

St. Mark's flies on nettles 14th May 2010

Replica spitfire on VE anniversary 8th May 2010, Fairlop.

After a cold and miserable start to the year the weather in May gradually improved and there has been little rain for the whole period. Frosts still occurred nightly from the 1st - 15th May. Some of the vegetables succumbed to the late frosts particularly the sweet corn and tomatoes. The highest temperature was 28C on the 23rd May, but this has been superseded several times in the last two weeks of June when the sun has been shining and it's been hot and oppressive at times.

 The Wildlife garden is developing well this year. It has taken four years to clear the area of scrub, weeds, rubbish and timber and get it wildlife friendly. The aim is to develop a garden which encourages bees, hoverflies, moths and butterflies to feed here. The chives which flowered earlier in May were a favourite of the bumblebees, as are the flowering garden plants. We also aim to encourage ladybirds and lacewings who will feed on aphids and to curb the excesses of pest species through natural predation. To this end we do not use any chemicals or sprays. Click here for garden pictures. A pond was created last year and completed recently and already there are frogs, toads and Smooth newts in the pond and in the garden area. Pond skaters are present on the surface film of the pond and a large number of Water fleas Daphnia sp. are to be seen. Amphibia will feed on insects and other small invertebrates. One drawback to a pond is that various midges and gnats breed there. Having bats flying in the area helps reduce their numbers. Hainault lake was swarming with tadpoles, a large band of them encircling the lake, and some of these were put into the wildlife pond. On the 22nd June tiny froglets were seen leaving the lake in large numbers, crossing paths and grassland. Few of these will survive predation but those that do will remain hidden until the ages of 4 or 5 when they will return to ponds to spawn. The presence of amphibia in a habitat indicates a healthy environment. A wet area to one end of the pond has various plants including Purple loosestrife which is flowering at present.

Blue-tailed and Large red damselflies are present near the pond and a large dragonfly - the Broad-bodied chaser male was found using various sticks to perch on as he quartered the pond. This gave the opportunity to get a close-up photograph.

Some of our plants and vegetables are grown in containers which include discarded car tyres, oil drum, dustbin,  glazed sewer pipes and house bricks. Using old containers reduces the fossil fuels used in the manufacture of plastic pots. Plots are lined with old fence rails and bricks, and raised beds created from old scaffolding planks and even a second-hand pond liner was used. Felled timber and branches make an ideal beetle habitat. Recycling rubbish saves money too.

The vegetable patch contains Sweet-corn, marrows, potatoes, spinach, chard, beetroot, onions, runner beans, peas, tomatoes, peppers and aubergine.

We have created a small cornfield which has an edge of cornfield species such as poppies. One mystery plant which has grown here is the Scorpion weed. It originates from California and is beginning to appear in the UK where it is planted on field edges and among rows of vegetables. It is a favourite of Hoverflies, which in turn feed on pest insects.

One of the raised beds has annual and perennial plants including Phlomis, Lupins, Canterbury bells, Coreopsis, Daisies, Star of the Veldt, Antirrhinum, Aarons rod, Foxgloves, Scabious and Gaillardia The second raised bed has a variety of mints, oregano, marjoram, bronze fennel, feverfew and borage.

Further work to be done over the next year is to complete a path into the garden via the willow tunnel which is doing well and was planted on the 1st March. To develop a bird feeding station near the hedgerow, to install a shed, to create grass paths and to develop further natural areas. To do this work requires the dedication of volunteers. Could you spend a couple of hours a week - light or heavy work at a time to suit yourself. You would be very welcome. Further information from Linda Herbert at the Country Park Office on 020 8500 7353 or linda.herbert@redbridge.gov.uk. Thankyou.

Butterflies seen in the past couple of weeks were Purple hairstreak, Large skipper, Common blue, Meadow brown, Speckled wood, Comma, Green-veined white. While examining Field maple for galls I came across a green caterpillar of the Common Quaker moth Orthosia cerasi. St. Mark's flies Bibio marci were out in force in the grassland and shrubs on the 14th May. They are noticeable by their long legs when flying and towards the end of May the light green Tortrix moths Tortrix viridana were flying around the oaks.

There are a couple of Bird cherries Prunus padus in the Country park, and they were in flower on the 9th May. The flowers hang in large racemes. Bird cherry is much more common in the north and Scotland woodlands. The Whitebeams are a difficult group to sort out. The female produces seed without fertilization. In plants where this happens they are referred to as apomictic. This leads to considerable individual variation and also occurs in Dandelion and Hawkweed families. I know of three Broad-leaved Whitebeams Sorbus latifolia agg. in the forest and two have flowered this year.

On the 8th May on the anniversary of VE day in 1945 several hundred people went to Fairlop Waters formerly Fairlop Aerodrome during the 2nd World War where a replica spitfire was on exhibit. It was a freezing cold day but well supported. Ilford North MP Lee Scott performed the welcome address and indicated to all present his intention to set up a fund to have a permanent memorial to all those air force personnel and civilians who gave their lives in service of this country at Fairlop. Memorabilia was on sale and exhibitions of the Fairlop Oak and Fairlop Fair in the 18th and 19th centuries, photographs of the WW1 and WW2 operations and personnel and a wartime exhibit by Redbridge Museum services.

Bird cherry  9th May 2010

Broad leaved whitebeam  14th May 2010


March - April 2010

Duck family 30th April 2010 - Eleven ducklings

Duck family 3rd May 2010 - 6 ducklings left

Duck family 9th May 2010 - Two ducklings survive.

March began with a week of sunny days and very frosty nights and similar weather continued for the whole month but with the hottest day so far of 17.5C recorded on Wednesday the 16th March.  Cold weather from the north continued  throughout April with  many  ground frosts and

The Stale Bread Brigade with FOOD FOR RATS!  Easter Monday 5th April.

Hainault Baptist Church members at Romford Gate 8th April 2010.

Slime mould Enteridium lycoperdon on old stump 8th April 2010.

Wood sorrel 8th April 2010

Early dog violets in clearing 18th April 2010

The first Essex Farmers Market 18th April 2010

resulted in the season being around three weeks late. There were no flowering bluebells on the Bluebell walk on 24th April and only three people turned up.


At Easter and most weekends large numbers of the SBB (Stale Bread Brigade) arrive with full bags of stale bread to feed the farm animals and the water birds on the lake. Pictured left is the lake edge after the Easter Monday. The birds cannot cope with this amount of bread and it feeds the rats which can be seen darting to and fro most days and there is always the problem of Weil's disease in the water. Each day flocks of Canada geese can be seen grazing on the grassland. This is their normal food.  On the farm people continue to ignore the DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS notices. The farm animals have a balanced diet and the animals soon become ill and overweight by giving extra and inappropriate food. It is in fact an offence to feed the animals on the farm. We didn't have stale bread to waste at home. My mother turned it into bread and butter pudding for afters or sweet, and bread pudding was another of her specialties for a treat. This is something that I still enjoy today.


At the beginning of March the sun streaming through the Country park Office window awakened large numbers of Harlequin ladybirds Harmonia axyridis which had overwintered there. Comma and Peacock butterflies appeared by the 14th March, with a Brimstone male on the 8th April and Orange tips, Speckled wood and Small white seen on the 23rd April. Bee-flies were seen hovering along the woodland edges on the 8th April and on warm days from the 28th April swarms of the harmless but nevertheless annoying long legged St. Mark's fly Bibio marci appeared in the shrub and grassland areas. St. Mark's day is the 25th April. Accompanying them around the oak trees were the long horned metallic micro-moths Adela reaumurella. When the weather is still the males with 5 cm antennae compete with each other in a flying dance to find females who sit on the branches and have a modest 2 cm antennae.


Flocks of Black-headed gulls who overwinter in the area were beginning to get their characteristic "black" head spring plumage in the first week of March. The first Swallow was seen on the 5th April. On 8th April two Herons were seen at Roes well and a Chiff-chaff was heard, as was a Cuckoo on the 21st April.


On a bright sunny Thursday 8th April I walked with the "Time Out" group from Hainault Baptist Church, renewing acquaintances and remembering folk from decades ago and from my childhood. Starting at Chigwell Row, we looked at wild flowers and their identification, visited Roe's well and Sheepwater and looked at pollarded hornbeams. One strange object puzzled the group. It was a slime mould Enteridium lycoperdon growing on an old stump. They used to be included in the fungi but now along with the fungi each have their own Kingdom. Slime moulds known as Myxomycetes are composed of single cell animals who come together in their millions out of a tree stump after rainfall. They form a large gelatinous mass which forms a skin over it. The whole thing eventually dries out in a few days and breaks down releasing a mass of spores which blow away and the cycle continues. For other slime mould pictures click here.


On the 11th April I found several Egghead Mottlegill fungi growing on a dung heap in the farmyard. This is a common species on dung but not edible. Two Semifree Morel fungi were found on the bluebell walk on the 24th April. It likes damp woodland and was found near Roe's well by one of the group. It was later identified by local mycologist Peter Comber. It is said to cause stomach upsets if eaten. According to Roger Phillips book "Mushrooms" it is said to be occasional.


Some woodland and scrub have been cleared or thinned. Along the Hainault Oak path from New North Road to the lake the Early dog violet Viola reichenbachiana was flowering in profusion on 18th April and along several paths from Cavill's walk the Wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella is a welcome sight. Lady's smock or Cuckoo flower appeared on Cabin plain and in the Country Park grassland  this April but in fewer numbers. To grow successfully it requires an early cut but due to the saturated ground this was not possible this year. The bright yellow heads of Coltsfoot Tussilago farfara appeared around the lakeside on the 21st March. The tiny and vulnerable patch of Wood anemone produced three flowers.


The weather lore;

Oak before Ash in for a splash

Ash before Oak in for a soak.

was a dead heat, with individual trees of each species coming into leaf at random over a few weeks. Some trees are still in bud at the end of April. How can we predict the coming weather?


The first monthly Essex Farmer's market came to the Country Park on the 18th April. There were about a dozen stalls and hopefully this will build up in the months to come.


Frogs were spawning in large numbers in Roe's Well on the 20th March and many Toads were spawning a couple of weeks later 5th April in the lake.


The pen swan is still incubating her eggs closely guarded by the cob who attacks aggressively any goose that comes close to the nest. The Canadian geese have produced huge families this year with one brood of 10 goslings. The ducks don't fare as well. One duck produced 11 ducklings on the 30th April and by the 3rd May the family was reduced to 6 and on the 9th May only two survived. The main predators are the Carrion crows who swoop down and pick them off the lake. Pike in the lake may also be responsible. Any duckling who inadvertently strays from its parents may be pecked and harassed by passing Geese and goslings.


 In the Garden for Wildlife has been much planting of perennial plants - lupins, poppy, foxglove, phlomis, Marguerite daisies, Aarons' rod and Star of the Veldt. The Strawberry plants are strong and the herb garden is being developed. Various shrubs have been planted and a small area of cereal crop alongside should have poppies, cornflowers and other wildflowers growing among it. The Willow tunnel was put in place on the 1st March  and is shooting well. The long winter has made planting difficult.

Egghead Mottlegill fungus Panaeolus semiovatus on dung heap, 

Semifree morel fungus Morchella semilibera 26th April 2010

Blackthorn or Sloe flowers look good against the blue sky 18th Mar.

Hornbeam leaves and catkins in the sunshine 18th March 2010.


January - February 2010

Blue Tit in Foxburrows Cottage garden Adam Locke January 2010

Fallow deer at Havering Park Farm Sarah White Jan 2010

Following on from a cold and snowy Christmas period the weather in January and February has been very similar. Extremely cold, snow, ice, much rainfall, strong winds and a general grayness with only a couple of days of sunshine. The days are getting noticeably longer by the end of February and the temperatures rising to around 9C. The whole of the Country Park is waterlogged and paths in the woodland very muddy. Some thinning of trees by the lake has been completed and work continues on the farm with fencing and completion of the pig enclosure. Work on the wildlife garden is progressing slowly. Funding has been secured for fencing and rabbit proofing the site. A path is being constructed. I have managed to secure 500 from the Hainault Community Fund for the volunteers and I have purchased 2 tons of pebbles to landscape the pond area, two tons of topsoil for bedding, and 28 lavender plants to form a hedgerow along with some other shrubs. We had hoped to have Danielle Robson plant a willow tunnel over the path but this was postponed due to inclement weather and we hope to have this completed early in March. We welcome volunteers to join us and if you have a couple of hours to spare from time to time please telephone Linda Herbert at 020 8500  7353 or e-mail linda.herbert@redbridge.gov.uk .

I have very little to report this time, so I am including some pictures that best illustrate the Country Park this winter and I am grateful to Adam Locke for allowing their use here.

Looking at the grassland area. Adam Locke January 2010

Another view of  the grassland area. Adam Locke January 2010

Foxburrows cottages. Adam Locke January 2010

Woodhenge. Adam Locke January 2010

Owl sculpture, Woodhenge. Adam Locke January 2010

Foxburrows farm and zoo. Adam Locke January 2010

Trees on Hog Hill. Adam Locke January 2010

Trees on Hog Hill. Adam Locke January 2010

Wildfowl find a small area of open water. Adam Locke Jan. 2010

Wildfowl on the lake. Adam Locke Jan. 2010