125 posts in the category

Gone for a walk

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Autumn colours and Ogden’s Folly at More Hall Reservoir

For whatever reason, the level of water in More Hall Reservoir is currently very low indeed. Lower, even, than it was in January.

I walked all the way around the reservoir in January, on land normally submerged beneath the waters, hunting for a mysterious sign labelled “Ogden’s Folly” which had been the subject of a letter to the local newspaper.

I didn’t manage to find it in January, and a few weeks later the reservoir had filled up again. This week a commenter reminded me of the sign and I went down to have another look on Friday afternoon.

This time I found it! Ogden’s Folly. I suppose the story must go that a chap named Ogden was fishing at this spot, which is on the edge of a sudden, steep drop. The level of the water must have been such that the drop-off was obscured, and Ogden mistakenly assumed that the ground continued to slope gently. When he took a step forward he plunged into the reservoir, and some joker subsequently erected this little sign to immortalise the incident. And by coincidence, an hour later I found a nearby bench looking out over the reservoir that is dedicated to the memory of a Harry Ogden, Founder Member of the Morehall Fly Fishing Club. That’s some nice closure to my hunt.

One of many old stumps usually hidden beneath the waters - ghosts of trees that once lived a happy life by a charming brook.

The receded water level has encouraged lots of new plant growth. This little alder (Alnus glutinosa) was in the company of many alder, birch and willow seedlings and saplings. Any idea what these daisy-like flowers are?

A willow, one a of a pair that grow in the edge of the reservoir.

This is the other. As you can tell by the tide mark on the trunk, these willows are submerged by two or three feet when the reservoir is at capacity.

Stumps and desolation. It’s hard to imagine that before the reservoir was built this section of the river would have been a rural beauty.

The vibrant autumn colours were striking. I wonder if the angler had any success?

Posted in Gone for a walk

Mushrooms of Langsett (Part Two)

…Continued from Part the First.

The black patches on this sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) leaf, known as tar spots, are the fungus Rhytisma acerinum. Those clusters of red spots are galls caused by the mite Aceria macrorhynchus. Neither have any significant impact on the host tree.

A razor strop or birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) juts from a dead downy birch (Betula pubescens).

An immature fungal fruit body begins to emerge from the soil. Maybe an Amanita?


As above.

I’m fairly sure this is a Suillus something - perhaps a dried-out slippery jack (S. luteus)?

Another Leccinum, but which one? There is so much variation within the different species, I just can never say with any certainty. Could this be a blushing bolete (L. roseofractum)?

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and a dry stone wall – a lovely combination. At this time of year the hawthorns are covered in little red fruits called haws. I suppose you could make a jam from these (edit: of course you can!).

Looking up into the rather open crown of the same hawthorn (or one of its neighbours).

Posted in Gone for a walk

Mushrooms of Langsett (Part One)

I paid a visit to the woods around Langsett Reservoir yesterday to have a play with my new toy, a Nikon D5100 SLR. I knew there’d be plenty of fungi around and I wasn’t disappointed!

I’ve never seen one of these before. I’m by no means confident I’ve identified it correctly but Cystolepiota seminuda is my best guess.

Here’s a typical scene in the part of the woods where I first set about hunting for mushrooms. It’s Scots pine and spruce plantation, with the odd broadleaf chucked in, probably planted in the early 1960s. There were mushrooms about but I didn’t see nearly as many as when I later moved into a mainly broadleaved, birch-dominated part of the woods.

A spruce cone on a conifer stump left behind after thinning. Some small mammal has been making a meal out of it - probably a squirrel (a mouse would have made a neater job and chosen a more secluded place to have its dinner). Whoever was eating it was disturbed (by me?) before the cone could be fully stripped.

Leaving the plantation behind, a cluster of poppies made for a nice juxtaposition.

The birch-dominated part of the woods was also a conifer plantation in the not too distant past, judging by the old stumps everywhere. Native broadleaved species such as downy birch (Betula pubescens) and rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) have quickly colonised the area, and mushrooms were in abundance!

A couple of small mushrooms at the mossy feet of a young rowan.

An unfortunate incident has befallen this mushroom, providing the opportunity for a good look at its pore tubes.

This spiky little ball definitely belongs in the genus Lycoperdon. I’m fairly sure it’s a L. echinatum.

Continued in Part the Second...

Posted in Gone for a walk

Macro monochromes from around Whitwell Moor

Taken August 3rd.

Larch cone.

Larch cascade.

Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) bark.

Beech (Fagus sylvatica) leaf.

Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) berries.

Posted in Gone for a walk

A smörgåsbord of mushrooms (second course)

…Continued from the first course.

I went out for a little walk around Whitwell Moor last week. The weather was typical summer 2011 stuff – hot but cloudy. In the middle of the moor there is a little wood which is much longer than it is wide. The upper part of the wood is predominantly downy birch (Betula pubescens) with some English oak (Quercus robur). I would guess that this part of the wood is very old, and it was here that I found lots and lots of mushrooms.

Before we carry on with the fungi, here’s a glimpse of this birchwood to which you have already been introduced. Old, gnarly, many-limbed downy birches abound – this one is a fine example. The ground layer is made up of short grasses and scattered bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) bushes.

It’s a lovely place to linger.

This is a bolete… it’s a Leccinum… and that’s as far as my certainty goes. I’m tentatively going with an ID of Leccinum scabrum (brown birch bolete) because the scabers (stem scales) are black – if they had been buff or fox-coloured I’d have gone with Leccinum quercinum (orange oak bolete). I don’t think it’s a Leccinum versipelle (orange birch bolete) because the cap does not have an overhanging rim.

For the same reasons I think this too is a L. scabrum (brown birch bolete), but an older, more tired specimen.

This mushroom may be an immature Amanita fulva (tawny grisette), a species that favours birch woodland. From Jordan’s Fungi: “usually without cap patches but with volval bag… [cap] occasionally with brownish velar patches” – I believe the creamy covering on the right side of the cap is such a patch (a remnant of the veil). At the bottom of the stem are the remains of the white volval bag.

I fancy this yellow fellow is a Russula claroflava (yellow swamp russula / yellow swamp brittlegill), a species that is found in damp places under birch.

I guess these belong in the genus Russula, but I’m stumped again. I give up. They do look nice though.

Let’s end with an old favourite - an immature Piptoporus betulinus (razor strop / birch polypore) bursting in slow motion from the chest of downy birch.

* * * * *

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Posted in Gone for a walk

A smörgåsbord of mushrooms (first course)

I went out for a little walk around Whitwell Moor yesterday. The weather was typical summer 2011 stuff – hot but cloudy. In the middle of the moor there is a little wood which is much longer than it is wide. The bottom part of the wood is mostly Scots pine and larch, and I would guess that at some time in the distant past it was planted by human hands. The upper part of the wood is predominantly downy birch (Betula pubescens) with some English oak (Quercus robur). I would guess that this part of the wood is very old (who would plant downy birch?), and it was here that I found lots and lots of mushrooms.

A mushroom from the genus Leccinum. My best guess is Leccinum quercinum (orange oak bolete), but I really couldn’t say.


I’m fairly sure this is a Russula nitida (purple swamp brittlegill). This species grows under birch, especially in damp areas.

Clearly past its best.

Another ?????
Found growing at the edge of the wood where the trees give way to the heather and bilberry of the moor.

This one might be an Amanita – are those cap scales? How would you describe that mottling? Snakeskin? Tortoiseshell?

Here’s one I can actually identify. It’s an immature Piptoporus betulinus (razor strop or birch polypore) emerging from a piece of dead birch.

This pair also belong in the genus Leccinum - given away by the scabers on the stalk (which are unfortunately obscured in this photo). Do they belong to the same species as the first mushroom of this post? I don’t know. The caps are a deeper brown, but that might not mean anything.

* * * * *

August’s edition of the Festival of the Trees is hosted by Beyond the Brambles.

Posted in Gone for a walk

Sessile oak – developing acorns

These tiny acorns aren’t yet far along in their development. I’m sure this is a sessile or durmast oak (Quercus petraea) rather than an English or pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) because: a) the leaves are stalked; & b) the acorns are stalkless (sessile).

Photos taken earlier today in Oxley Park, Stocksbridge.

Brown, many-scaled buds sit to the right of three developing acorns. I wonder if the Lonely Oak will have any acorns this year?

Colourful late-season growth was rocketing from the tips of many of this tree’s branches.

This beech (Fagus sylvatica) was loaded with cupules containing their own developing nuts.

Posted in Gone for a walk

Four birch boletes in Langsett Woods

A couple of weeks ago I headed over to Langsett to have a read beside the reservoir (Stephen King’s Four Past Midnight, if you’re asking). At one point as I walked along the path that skirts the reservoir, I chanced to catch sight of these four mushrooms in the bit of birch woodland to my right. I was compelled to take a closer look:

My immediate thought was “birch boletes”. Back home later, using ID books and the internet, I couldn’t really do any better than that. Were they Leccinum scabrum (brown birch bolete) or were they maybe Leccinum versipelle (orange birch bolete)? Or perhaps they were Tylopilus felleus (bitter bolete) (the cap in the photo of T. felleus in my Black’s Nature Guides Mushrooms & Toadstools of Britain and Europe looks strikingly similar to the caps of my mushrooms). Nope, mine can’t be T. felleus because mine had scabers on their stalks – see the photo below.

Scabers – definition from MushroomExpert.Com: “Scabers are little scurfy things that stick up, like the scabers on the stems of Leccinum mushrooms…”

According to the same book, L. versipelle caps have an overhanging rim. Mine didn’t, so can I safely say that they’re L. scabrum? Not exactly, because all of the photos I’ve found in books and online of that species show a much darker brown cap. The Black’s guide says that “There are around 5 scaber stalk species and each is associated with particular species of tree: Red-Capped Scaber Stalk [Leccinum aurantiacum] (Aspen): stipe scales white when young; Orange Oak Bolete [Leccinum quercinum]: stipe scales fox-coloured; Foxy bolete [Leccinum vulpinum] (Scots pine): stipe scales smoky grey” - plus the orange birch bolete (L. versipelle) and the [brown] birch bolete (L. scabrum). So are my mushrooms any of the first three of these five instead? Well, after further research only led to me getting more and more bogged down… I gave up. There’s a large amount of confusion about the Leccinum species out there, even amongst the experts, and I think it’s contagious.

My four mushrooms belong to a Leccinum species; that will have to be good enough. Although (as always) if you, dear reader, can enlighten the rest of us, please leave a comment or send an email.

Posted in Gone for a walk

Idyllic rurality in the lower Ewden Valley

Not yet in the Ewden Valley – this is my favourite hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna).

One hell of a bull at Hunger Hill.

Leaving Heads Lane, I walked through an old farm and started down to the bottom of the valley…

The pleasant, pastoral view back across the valley from the other side (near Snell House).

Lamb’s eye view?

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea).

More Hall Reservoir is looking empty again. It was about this empty at the start of the year, before briefly filling up in spring.

I passed this imposing and impressive ash (Fraxinus excelsior) in Wantley Dragon Wood. The tree would have been twice as big in its heyday when its stem forked into two equal stems a couple of metres off the ground, but one of them has been removed. The size of the trunk at ground level was incredible! It must be one of the largest ash trees in the local area.

Nearby a dragon slithers into a grassy clearing. According to the information board (sited close enough to ruin any photo from this angle) it was created by wood carver Mark Bell and dry stone waller John Alston, with the head made of elm. The sculpture represents the eponymous monster of the ancient satirical ballad The Dragon of Wantley, first published anonymously in 1685. The dragon lived across the Don valley in a cave on Wharncliffe Crags and devoured children, cattle, buildings and trees. The locals called upon More of More Hall to rid them of the dragon. After donning a special suit of Sheffield armour bristling with six-inch spikes, he hid in a well and kicked the dragon in the mouth as it went to drink, killing it. According to the information board, a “later version [published in 1765] included an explanation that it was based on a lawsuit against Sir Francis Wortley (the dragon) by other landowners, where the lawyer was More (the knight). It is difficult to know if this is true. Some of the elements could be a satire about a lawsuit; others are classic to dragon myths in this area. It is possible that this story is a combination of several tales.”

Finally, the approach to Bolsterstone from a footpath just uphill of Sunny Bank Road. Broomhead Park and Moor are seen in the background.

* * * * *

This month the Festival of the Trees returns to Via Negativa for its fifth anniversary. Go read!

Posted in Gone for a walk

A summery walk in spring (Part Two)

If you could be any leaf, which leaf would you be? A beech leaf wouldn’t be a bad choice.

This post continues from Part One.

Take a look up into the canopy of a big, old beech still thriving in Millstones Wood. There’s some kind of symmetry at work here, I think.

Not far away – but a very different atmosphere. High on the moors below Pike Lowe, ancient tree roots are exposed as areas of peat are eroded. What kinds of tree did they support? How long ago did they live? Were these desolate moors once covered in woodland? I wish I had a time machine.

Dropping down off the moors into the upper reaches of Ewden Valley I lingered for a while at Ewden Force. There was only a trickle falling over the edge by consequence of the long hot and dry spell we are currently enjoying. Compare this gentle side of Ewden Force with the one I saw in July 2009 when there was a real thundering cascade! (I walked more or less the same route on both of these visits.)

I loved these colours. The clear sky, the dead bracken, the new bracken growth, the stones, the bilberry…

These trees on the other side of the valley must grow within an enclosed area. If they didn’t, so many would never have made it to this size without being had by the sheep. It’s on my list of places to explore.

I just can’t get enough of beech-filtered sunlight, especially when a river is involved.

* * * * *

May’s edition of the Festival of the Trees - the 59th - is hosted by Suzi of Spirit Whispers. Don’t keep it waiting, go read!

Posted in Gone for a walk

A summery walk in spring (Part One)

As evident from the buds on this tree, the local hawthorns (Crataegus monogyna) are primed and ready to explode into flower. Driving back to Yorkshire from Wales on Easter Monday, I saw plenty of hawthorns further south that were already white with blossom.

The ashes (Fraxinus excelsior) are in flower at the moment. The structures in this photograph are female inflorescences; I could see no male flowers on this tree. Apparently ashes can be monoecious or dioecious, but dioecious individuals are rather more common.

The bilberry bushes (Vaccinium myrtillus) were also covered with flowers. The new leaves are such a vivid green – they really liven up Whitwell Moor.

Seen on a larch (Larix decidua): something caught half-way between being a flower (larch rose) and a cone.

I saw lots of beeches (Fagus sylvatica) in full leaf; I also saw plenty that still looked bare, like this one on the edge of Millstones Wood.

A closer look shows that it has at least begun to adorn itself in greenery, and reveals that the tree is actually in flower. There are both male and female flowers in this photograph.

Poking up through the leaf litter: a wee rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) seedling.

* * * * *

This post is continued in Part Two.

Posted in Gone for a walk

Spring is sprung

The weather did an amazing impression of summer this weekend. On Friday I went for a little walk to take in some of the spring greenery that has suddenly appeared. It took me past this picturesque hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) that grows in the field between Whitwell Moor and Hunger Hill.

These pictures of a neighbouring hawthorn show how far along they are in unfurling their new leaves.

What a tangle!

I’m looking forward to seeing all the hawthorns clothed with white flowers in a couple of months, but right now it’s great seeing them clothed in green again.

Hole in the bole.

Looking down into Ewden Valley from Heads Lane.

Sycamores (Acer pseudoplatanus) are beautiful at this time of year with their unblemished leaves illuminated by the sunlight.

The bluebells are out in Yew Trees Wood!

I saw these catkins on a male goat willow (Salix caprea) in Ewden Village. My friends’ new house has a female goat willow growing in the garden – it too was covered in catkins yesterday.

* * * * *

April’s edition of the Festival of the Trees is hosted by Georgia of local ecologist. Go read!

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Sunset on Wind Hill

A young oak rises from a sea of bilberry.

Monday evening. The sun was setting as I discovered an ancient oak coppice in a field above Wind Hill Wood.

Here a ring of callus wood has grown around the base of a dead branch to try and seal the tree against infection.

How old is this oak? More than a couple of centuries?

On a nearby downy birch, where one half of a bough has been split off, I found an adventitious root growing into rotting wood.

Beyond the wood, the sun set over the moors.

Posted in Gone for a walk

The view from a suckering rowan in winter

Lichens are just amazing. This one was growing on a detached rowan branch. I’m pretty sure it’s a Xanthoria parietina - one of Britain’s commonest lichens.

This big rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) is interesting because it is surrounded by hundreds of stick-like suckers, many of them dead, that have been sent up from the roots. I’ve never seen a rowan behave like this before, and I wonder why this one should.

The tree had a decent girth for a rowan but it wasn’t particularly tall and looked easy to climb, so I jumped up it.

I couldn’t really have gotten much higher; there were only twigs above me.

On the way home I found this old puffball growing on the moor. It’s definitely a Lycoperdon species - probably L. perlatum, the pearl-studded puffball (I’ve seen these before). Jordan’s Fungi states that L. perlatum has “short pyramidal warts which fall off to reveal endoperidium decorated with a reticulate pattern” (according to the glossary ‘reticulate’ means ‘having a net-like pattern of ornamentation’). Much of the endoperidium does have a net-like pattern.

As an amusing aside, lyco is Greek for ‘wolf’ while perdon is Greek for ‘fart’ –Lycoperdons are literally wolf-fart fungi.

* * * * *

This month’s edition of the Festival of the Trees is hosted by Rebecca of Rebecca in the Woods. Go read!

Posted in Gone for a walk

Lambs’ tails & other signs of spring

Lambs’ tails - the all-male catkins of hazel (Corylus avellana). I took the photographs in this post today in the rural Ewden Valley, but I saw hazels with their catkins already fully unfurled in the middle of January in Sheffield.

This is a female flower, which will hopefully grow into a hazelnut one day. Both male and female parts are found on the same individual, i.e. hazel is a monoecious species.

This hazel growing at Carr House Meadows (a nature reserve in the care of the Sheffield Wildlife Trust) was absolutely covered with golden catkins!

I only found out about the flowers of hazel a couple of years ago, but I now know them as a most welcome sign of approaching spring. How could I ever have missed them?

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) buds are almost ready to open...

…and these beech (Fagus sylvatica) buds have certainly grown in size, tiny cigars no longer.

What a display!

Hazel catkins have been out in force for a few weeks now and many of them are now past their best, turning brown and dry.

More of the female flowers. Is it just me or do they bear a slight resemblance to tiny cuttlefish?

Posted in Gone for a walk

Trees from the past beneath More Hall Reservoir (Part Two)

This post continues from Part One.

* * * * *

*** I will be hosting next month’s edition of the Festival of the Trees. Please send your submissions to mail [at] treeblog [dot] co [dot] uk before the 30th of January, ensuring that you include Festival of the Trees or FOTT within the header. Thanks! ***

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Trees from the past beneath More Hall Reservoir (Part One)

In the Ewden Valley at the turn of the twentieth century.

Once upon a time there was a pristine, wooded valley in the middle of England. Over time ancient humans cleared away most of the trees to create fields for their animals and crops. At the end of the 19th century the lower reaches of this Ewden Valley were covered with fields and not trees but it was still a beautiful and lovely place, from the top of the hills to the river flowing down in the bottom. Nearby was the city of Sheffield, growing rapidly as a consequence of the Industrial Revolution. The industries and populace of Sheffield were thirsty for water, so the Corporation embarked upon an ambitious programme of dam-building in the valleys to the north. Two reservoirs were constructed in Ewden: Broomhead and More Hall. Work started on More Hall Reservoir in 1913, but the First World War caused delays. It was officially opened in 1929.

More Hall Reservoir, winter 2010/2011.
The middle of the reservoir is covered in a thick layer of ice.

The water level in More Hall Reservoir is very low at present, and has been since at least the autumn. I walked around the reservoir on Sunday on land that would normally be completely submerged. There wasn’t a lot to see: lots of mud, a few remnants of old dry stone walls, and a few dozen old tree stumps - trees that were felled almost one hundred years ago, before the reservoir was filled. These stumps have spent the best part of a century underwater and are fairly well preserved. In many places the stumps sit alongside the old stone walls or on the now-desolate banks of the old river, where the water still flows when the reservoir is low. It was quite a sad and eerie walk alone in the drizzle, slipping on the miserable mud and stones that normally lie well below the surface of the reservoir. I tried to imagine the trees that used to grow where today only ghostly stumps remain. I tried to imagine a beautiful alder leaning out over a babbling brook that wound its way merrily through grassy fields. But all I could see was a charred-looking stump jutting from the stony earth beside a dead river.

I didn’t mistake this stump for a lobstrosity, no sir.

This tree’s root still occupies the gap it drove between these two stones (part of a kerb? part of a wall?) over a century ago.

This stump had the remains of a couple of old mushrooms beneath it. A stump spends decades submerged, but no sooner is it left high and dry then the fungi move in!

To be fair, when it’s full up More Hall Reservoir is a nice place on a sunny day. And higher up the Ewden Valley the country gets as wild as one could wish for so close to Sheffield. I love it.

This post is continued in Part Two.

* * * * *

I will be hosting next month’s edition of the Festival of the Trees. Please send your submissions to mail [at] treeblog [dot] co [dot] uk before the 30th of January, ensuring that you include Festival of the Trees or FOTT within the header. Thanks!

Posted in Gone for a walk

Snow, beautiful snow (Part Two)

When the Sun goes down the trees turn black.

The Lonely Oak.

Rabbit tracks.

Bird tracks.

Scots pine.




Whitwell Moor.

* * * * *

Snow, beautiful snow (Part One)

Posted in Gone for a walk

Snow, beautiful snow (Part One)

I met a horse. It was digging for grass with one hoof.

We are in the grip of an exceptionally cold spell – what the media are calling The Big Freeze. Temperatures this low this early in winter are unusual (something to do with a powerful La Niña this year), and man are they low. Even at midday Sheffield is still shivering several degrees below 0°C and some nights we’re plumbing minus double figures. These low temperatures have come with one of the heaviest falls of snow for a fair few years. Again, it’s unusual to see a snowfall this early in the winter (blame La Niña). After a bit of snow on Friday the 26th of November, it put down a substantial amount on the night of Monday the 29th. It snowed on and off throughout the next day, then went absolutely bonkers during the early hours of Wednesday morning (the 1st of December). The snow continued with some fairly heavy showers during the day but it had more or less petered out by Thursday. We got a wee bit more on Friday night but by then it had already started to thaw, or thaw as much as it can in these freezing conditions.

What’s all that got to do with trees? Not a lot, but I do like snow. Call it context for a little walk I went on yesterday…

This pleasant little oak was basking in the last of the Sun’s golden rays.

The track by which this oak grows had been ploughed, leaving snow piled up as high as the walls that run alongside it.

Further down the track, a Scots pine also enjoyed the golden sunlight. I enjoyed the Scots pine, particularly these illuminated needles.

Close by grow my favourite pair of Scots pines. Maybe I should think of a name for these two. The Two Brothers? The Two Sisters? The Two ____? The ____ Pair? Maybe not.

I am fascinated by the left-most (western) pine’s dual-layer canopy. Simply incredible! Look at it glow in the light of the setting sun.

Try another angle; the pine is still perfection.

The Sun sets over Broomhead Moors. Shadow slides from the Ewden Valley, soon to swallow the Salter Hills. But this walk ain’t over yet…

* * * * *

Snow, beautiful snow (Part Two)

Posted in Gone for a walk

The first snow of winter

I love this pine tree. It’s got a great shape, it’s in a great position, and it’s got a great friend…

It snowed a bit on Friday night. Only a centimetre or two settled but it was enough to bring a real feeling of winter to my walk up to the trig point.

Silhouette: European beech (Fagus sylvatica).

Silhouette: Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris).

Silhouette: downy birch (Betula pubescens) (and a Scots pine).

Silhouette: the Lonely Oak. I arrived with perfect timing to see the sun setting behind my favourite oak tree.

And just over the hill, I arrived in the nick of time to catch my favourite pair of Scots pines basking in the last of the golden sunlight.

Silhouette: Scots pine skeleton (or possibly a larch skeleton).

Posted in Gone for a walk

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