For this, our last visit of the summer programme, 10 of us visited the charming market town of Masham, Lower Wensleydale, on a beautiful late summer’s day. The plan was to follow the 3 mile circular walk Leaf Sculpture Trail around the area. The trail is made up of 6 leaf sculptures designed and made by Alain Ayers, with the assistance of local businesses and residents; local stone reclaimed from the old railway station platform was used for the project, which was commission by Masham Parish Council. The route proved to include varied habitats with plenty of interest for the botanists.
Parking in the village square, and ably led by our leader Sally, we set of to find the start of the trail and the first stone, The Acorn, smallest of the 6, which was half hidden in shrubs by the entrance to Masham Primary School on Millgate. On past St Mary’s church which has an interesting history, the present church dates back to the twelfth and fifteenth centuries although a church was recorded on the site in the Domesday Survey, 1086. There is also a cross suggesting a church dating from the Anglo Saxon period. Leaving the churchyard the 2nd sculpture, Standing Tree, can be seen as we cross a grassy field.
As we wander on down a lane we speculate on the number of species we are likely to find, in flower or fruit so late in the season. But as the habitats unfold, riverside, arable field edge, woodland, wet areas, and meadow the total increases beyond our expectations.
We stop for lunch by the river Ure to the sound of Buzzards calling overhead, a Kingfisher is spotted and several dragonflies, Thrush, assorted Finches, and a group of Long-Tailed Tits. We continue on the route, at a pace only BEES can achieve, but by the time we get back to the market square for a welcome cuppa/ice cream all the sculptures have been found, we have even ticked off Theakston’s Brewery, and due to the varied habitats our plants in flower or fruiting recording list has grown to well over a hundred species, including several trees and a couple of ferns. Notable among these were several species we don’t see regularly; Greater Celandine, Corn Spurrey, Greater Burnet Saxifrage, Fool’s watercress, Dame’s Violet, Giant Bellflower,
Several fungi were also seen, Stubble Rosegill, Flaming Scaleycap, Blackfoot Polypore, Earthball Sp, Blushing Bracket, Brown Rollrim, Ageric Sp, King Alfred’s Cakes
The Yorkshire Dales were shaped by sheep farming into the landscape we know and love today. Masham is an important farming centre holding the Masham Sheep Fair in the market place in October. So it was fitting that Maddie encouraged us all to take an interest in the sheep we saw in the fields to try and identify the areas own breed with its distinctively marked face and tuft on its head. The Masham Sheep.
An interesting and enjoyable day in beautiful Wensleydale with many thanks to leader Sally and driver Stuart who made it all possible. See the photos here.