Knotted Wood

Maybe it was something to do with the way that the planks were drying out, or something to do with the type of timber that had been used, but the cracked knot holes were really distinct in both shape and colour on this wooden pier, and looked like some crazy kind of deliberate decoration.

Whitstable Woodgrain

Whitstable Woodgrain 1 – 9: Rust-stained woodgrain in old railway sleepers recycled as fencing at Whitstable Harbour, Kent, England.

Information boards in the harbour area at Whitstable say that in the late 1820’s a company was set up to build a railway line linking Canterbury and Whitstable and to construct a new harbour there. The railway opened in 1830 and was the first to carry passengers in trains drawn by steam power. At that time, on the hilly sections of the route, the trains were pulled on ropes reeled in by stationary steam-driven winding machines. Stephenson’s Invicta locomotive hauled trains along the flatter section of the line near Whitstable. Because of its seaside connections the railway was popularly known as the Crab and Winkle Line. The harbour was built two years later in 1832.

Eventually trade declined in the harbour and the railway closed in 1952. It is interesting to speculate whether the old timbers shown in these photographs with all their wear, rust stains, and drilled holes are the actual wooden sleepers from that old Crab and Winkle Line.

Driftwood at Whiteford Point 1

Aspect of a piece of driftwood on a sandy beach with pebbles

What makes this piece of driftwood special is the probability that it is a remnant of a submerged ancient forest that once stood where this beach now lies, and could date back 10,000 years.

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Winkles living on Whiteford wood and rocks

Common winkles, Littorina littorea (Linnaeus), grazing on ancient wood at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (1) 

On the beach at Whiteford, near Llanmadoc in Gower, there is one place where many boulders and occasional water-logged timbers outcrop on the sands. The rocks could well have been deposited by an ice-sheet, while the wood may well be the remains of a forest that was submerged ten thousand years ago.

At low tide, hundreds of thousands of common winkles, Littorina littorea (Linnaeus), emerge from hiding places under stones and sand.  You can see trails in the sand showing how they travel to exposed hard surfaces on rocks and wood to feed. These surfaces may be covered with acorn barnacles but the winkles are vegetarians and are not interested in eating these. The winkles are after the thin encrusting film of microscopic green algae which coats every surface. Winkles have a sort of rough tongue called a toothed radula which they use to scrape this deposit off the surfaces.

Huge numbers of empty winkle shells can occur on the strandline at Whiteford. Many of the empty winkle shells found there, on the sandy spit beyond the point, have started life on the stones and boulders around the old Whiteford lighthouse. 

In common with these drifts of empty winkle shells on the strandline, the shells of these living specimens of gastropod mollusc are also thick and rough with a dull and worn surface. In close-up the shells also appear pitted; pitting can be caused by a lichen living in the matrix of the shell. 

In other locations in Britain – like the seashore along the Jurassic Coast in Dorset – the shells of the living common winkles are not dull and rough like the Whiteford shells: they look very different. You can see some photographs of these, for example, in the post called Holdfast habitat at Ringstead Bay.

Common winkles, Littorina littorea (Linnaeus), grazing on ancient wood at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (2) 

Here is an ancient piece of wood projecting from the sand. At its base you can see the trails in the sand left by winkles as they move towards this hard surface. The winkles congregate at the base of the timber and climb upwards along the worn grooves to graze the algae.

Winkles on wood at Whiteford Sands: Common winkles, Littorina littorea (Linnaeus), grazing on ancient wood at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (3)  

Here is a close-up view of the winkles grazing on the eroded surface of a piece of old water-logged wood.

Living winkles on pebbles: Common winkles, Littorina littorea (Linnaeus), grazing on alga-covered pebbles at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (4)  

A scattering of  living winkles are also found feeding amongst the smaller, smoother, algae-coated stones.

Living winkles on rock: Common winkles, Littorina littorea (Linnaeus), eating algae from boulders on the beach at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (5)  

On larger boulders the winkles are tightly clustered together and may entirely cover the surfaces. In the picture below you can see how dull and worn the shells are. Some of them have grains of sand sticking to them and a few even have barnacles attached.

Winkles at Whiteford Sands: Common winkles, Littorina littorea (Linnaeus), scraping microscopic algae from boulders on the beach at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (5)  

Revision of a post first published 24 September 2009

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Petrified Wood – digital art

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Fossilised or petrified wood can be found in Jurassic Lias Limestone boulders on Monmouth Beach at Lyme Regis in Dorset, UK on the World Heritage Jurassic Coast. In the images of this slideshow, close-up photgraphs of the naturally-occurring patterns and textures in this ancient preserved wood have been digitally colourised to emphasis the natural abstract art in the stone. 

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Fossil wood at Lyme Regis

Fossil wood exposed on the outer surface of a boulder of Lias limestone on Monmouth Beach at Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK on the Jurassic Coast (1a)

As you walk along Monmouth Beach at Lyme Regis in Dorset, hopping from one boulder to the next, you might see strange brown markings on some of the larger stones. Although not as spectacular as some of the finds recorded from this beach, a closer look will reveal that, in some cases,  these are the fossilised remains of pieces of wood. Their presence demonstrates that the rock was formed in seas that were not too far from land. Some pieces have been discovered with the fossilised remains of marine invertebrate animals still attached to the undersurface – showing that the wood was free floating for a while before settling in the sediments.

In this post, three such boulders of blue-grey Lias limestone containing this dark brown textured petrified wood (or lignite) are shown – together with close-up images of the peculiar texture and pattern of the preserved timber.

For more information about the other incredible types of fossils that have been found on this beach, see Ian West’s website at http://www.soton.ac.uk/~imw/liasfos.htm.

Detail of fossil wood exposed on the outer surface of a boulder of Lias limestone on Monmouth Beach at Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK on the Jurassic Coast (1b)

Close-up of fossil wood texture exposed on the outer surface of a boulder of Lias limestone on Monmouth Beach at Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK on the Jurassic Coast (1c)

Fossil wood exposed on the outer surface of a boulder of Lias limestone on Monmouth Beach at Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK on the Jurassic Coast (2a)

Close-up of fossil wood texture exposed on the outer surface of a boulder of Lias limestone on Monmouth Beach at Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK on the Jurassic Coast (2b)

Close-up of fossil wood texture exposed on the outer surface of a boulder of Lias limestone on Monmouth Beach at Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK on the Jurassic Coast (2c)

Fossil wood exposed on the outer surface of a boulder of Lias limestone on Monmouth Beach at Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK on the Jurassic Coast (3a)

Close-up of fossil wood texture exposed on the outer surface of a boulder of Lias limestone on Monmouth Beach at Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK on the Jurassic Coast (3b)

Close-up of fossil wood texture exposed on the outer surface of a boulder of Lias limestone on Monmouth Beach at Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK on the Jurassic Coast (3c)

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Beetle burrows on driftwood at Osmington Bay

Patterns in nature: Patterns made by beetle larvae on driftwood at Osmington Bay, Dorset, UK (1)

I saw these curious patterns on a large piece of driftwood washed onto the beach at Osmington Bay. It was partly charred but most noticeable on it were these stripey markings. I thought they had a certain abstract and graphic quality – artistic even.

A closer examination revealed that they were the remains of tunnels created by beetle larvae eating their way along under the bark of the dead tree. Where some bark survived, there were neat bore-holes showing the place that the newly adult insects had emerged.

I am not sure what sort of beetle was responsible for these particular burrows but I’ve read that certain terrestrial Staphylinid Rove Beetles of the Bledus genus rely on sea-soaked timber on the seashore for laying their eggs.

Patterns of beetle larvae tunnels beneath the bark of some driftwood, and emergence holes in the bark, at Osmington Bay, Dorset, UK, part of the Jurassic Coast (2) 

Patterns of beetle larvae tunnels beneath the bark of driftwood at Osmington Bay, Dorset, UK (3)

Pattern of beetle larvae tunnels beneath the bark of driftwood at Osmington Bay, Dorset, UK, part of the Jurassic Coast (4)
 
Pattern of beetle larvae tunnels beneath the bark of driftwood at Osmington Bay, Dorset, UK, part of the Jurassic Coast (5)
 
Driftwood with beetle burrows on the beach at Osmington Bay, Dorset, UK, part of the Jurassic Coast (6) 

Revision of a post first published 19 June 2009

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Driftwood Textures Part 4

Natural pattern and texture in driftwood: Smooth, wet, satin texture and woodgrain pattern on a piece of driftwood found on the strandline at Rhossili Bay, Gower, South Wales, UK (18)

Satin-textured and sea-soaked driftwood, stripped of bark and showing curvilinear patterns of woodgrain, found among the rubbish washed ashore onto the strandline at Rhossili Bay, Gower, in the UK.

Patterns in nature: Smooth, wet, satin texture and woodgrain pattern on a piece of driftwood found on the strandline at Rhossili Bay, Gower, South Wales, UK (19)

Driftwood patterns: Smooth, wet, satin texture and woodgrain pattern on a piece of driftwood found on the strandline at Rhossili Bay, Gower, South Wales, UK (20)

Woodgrain pattern: Smooth, wet, satin texture and woodgrain pattern on a piece of driftwood found on the strandline at Rhossili Bay, Gower, South Wales, UK (21)

Sea-soaked driftwood: Smooth, wet, satin texture and woodgrain pattern on a piece of driftwood found on the strandline at Rhossili Bay, Gower, South Wales, UK (22)

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Driftwood Textures Part 3

Wood texture and natural pattern in driftwood on the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (12)

As wood decays, it starts to crack and craze. This driftwood on the strandline at Whiteford Sands has been stuck above the high tide line so long it has taken on an almost reptilian texture as it dessicates; and  has also acquired a decorative encrustation of yellow lichen.

Driftwood with yellow lichen: Wood texture and natural pattern in driftwood on the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (13)

Cracks and crazing in weathered driftwood: Wood texture and natural pattern in driftwood on the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (14)

Driftwood close-up: Wood texture and natural pattern in driftwood on the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (15)

Yellow lichen on stranded driftwood: Wood texture and natural pattern in driftwood on the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (16)

Wood texture and natural pattern in driftwood on the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (17)

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Driftwood Textures Part 2

 Wood texture and natural abstract patterns in a piece of driftwood on the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (6)

These photographs illustrate the gradual weathering, eroding, effect of the elements on driftwood that remains mostly above the high tide line. Cracks appear as the wood dries out and starts to decompose. The cellular structure becomes more apparent as the softer organic components disappear leaving the lignified cells – the driftwood ‘skeletonises’ on a microscopic scale. Growth bands become more prominent. Lichens begin the colonise the bare surfaces of the driftwood. The texture becomes more elaborate and the inherent patterns in the wood are emphasised.

Driftwood texture and pattern: Wood texture and natural abstract patterns in a piece of driftwood on the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (7)

Driftwood decay: Wood texture and natural abstract patterns in a piece of driftwood on the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (8)

Growth rings in driftwood: Wood texture and natural abstract patterns in a piece of driftwood on the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (9)

Weathered driftwood: Wood texture and natural abstract patterns in a piece of driftwood on the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (10)

Natural patterns in wood: Wood texture and natural abstract patterns in a piece of driftwood on the strandline at Whiteford Sands, Gower, South Wales, UK (11)

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