As we left Bradford the bulk of the chatter was that we hadn’t expected rain. Thankfully by the time we reached Old Moor, near Barnsley, the skies had cleared and we had what could be considered good weather for the beginning of March (whatever that might mean these days).
Twelve members of the group set off from the Unitarian church in Bradford on this cold, winter morning to head east for our visit to Burton Agnes gardens. It was a long two hour drive however we were in the safe hands of Kevin and Sue.
Burton Agnes Hall was commissioned by Sir Henry Griffith, Queen Elizabeth's master mason in 1598. Our purpose was to visit the gardens and complete a lovely woodland walk (the option of making purchases of plants was also on offer).
Julia had been keeping a close eye on local starling murmurations in recent weeks as she tried to decide where today's destination should be. Notification was received on the day preceding our visit that Leighton Moss was the favoured site and so, on a misty morning, 12 of us left Bradford a little later than normal to visit this popular RSPB reserve. Fortunately conditions had improved by the time we reached Silverdale where it was agreed that the Causeway Hide would be our first port of call. As we crossed the boardwalk on our way, we were
Fifteen members attended our annual social event held at the Unitarian church hall in Little Horton.
As is the custom people brought some delicious food items for us all to enjoy. We also enjoyed the digital images of the flora and fauna the group had seen in 2018.Thanks go to Julia, Sue and Alice. Discussion followed about our future summer programme and ideas were shared. Finally Julia provided us with an intriguing quiz. We look forward to good weather and many successful outings in 2019.
Nine members enjoyed a New Year walk of 4.5km. Led by Donald, we followed a circular route from Gargrave along the towpath of the Leeds - Liverpool canal and returned across fields along a section of the Pennine Way. Predictions from Donald of good weather, wet grass and mud were all upheld. Blue sky and sunshine accompanied us all day. The pace was slow, ideally suitable to admire the reflections in the canal and to appreciate the beauty of nature as a new year begins.After the razz ma tazz of a modern Christmas the peace and quiet were more than welcome.
Our annual mystery trip is often very popular but there were a few empty seats on the minibus for this year's trip. The destination had remained a well kept secret and John's speculation about the possibility of Shibden Park was soon ruled out as we headed out of Bradford along Canal Road to pick up Sue at Tesco; a late arrangement due to problems with train delays.
These two sites are visited regularly, at this time of year, by the Mid-Yorks Fungus Group in order to see the display of waxcaps and other grassland specialities such as corals, spindles, clubs and earthtongues. Alas; as with our earlier venture this month to the Mirfield site, this too met with disappointment, as apart from one Golden Waxcap & a couple of emerging Meadow Waxcaps at the very start of the day, that was that!
Upon arrival at St Chad’s we were met by Mike Willison, a church representative, who kindly directed us to the nearby toilet facilities at the Community Centre. He also provided interesting leaflets entitled ‘Geological Trail’ and ‘A walk around St Chad’s Churchyard’. Our group of six was joined by Sue, Eric and Margaret who got there using their own steam. A Red Kite flew low overhead. Shortly after that Sue spotted a Red Admiral sunning itself on the southern wall of the church. That not surprisingly was the only butterfly to be seen.
This is the first time we have visited this site, which is an annual favourite of the Mid-Yorks Fungus Group, of which I am a member.
The main attraction is the wonderful assemblage of waxcap and other grassland fungi including the striking Ballerinas. Alas, due to the recent cold snap and relative dry conditions during October the lawns were bereft! Nothing on them at all apart from Honey Fungus (mostly gone over and turning to black mush) and a few tiny orange Galerinas.
The community was founded in Oxford in 1892 and came to Mirfield 6 years later. It is based on Anglican and Benedictine traditions and there is a daily Gregorian chant in the imposing church. The monks, who are permanent residents, are all men. During our walk around the grounds we were shown the graveyard with its unusual triangular wooden headstones.
We started our visit to Leighton Moss RSPB reserve at the shore hides, with the first stop being the Eric Morecambe hide. Within minutes we were watching a Kingfisher in flight, perching and fishing.
There was a large flock of Redshank in clusters across the water, and their sudden take to the air alerted us to the arrival of a Peregrine. It took several attempts but it managed to grab one from the circling flock and taking it to ground to pluck and eat.
Rather more serenely, on the opposite shore we identified two Red Breasted Merganser in eclipse plumage and in one view could compare Little Egret, Great Egret and a Grey Heron.
Although there were recent reports of hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits it seems like a sudden rise in water levels had dispersed them and our sighting was restricted to a singleton disguised in a group of Redshank.
Six years since the group last paid a visit, we set off to the Yorkshire Arboretum at Castle Howard on a fine but blustery day with one or two spare seats in the minibus.
The Arboretum is managed in partnership with Kew and is relatively new, less than 40 years old, but nevertheless contains a splendid collection of 6000 trees from all parts of the world, many of which were resplendent in their autumn tints.
There are two mapped trails through the arboretum and we set off as a group to follow the longer one. Very soon the debate over the difference between Quercus robur and Quercus petraea (English and sessile oak) carried on from where we left off in 2012 and as not everyone wished to participate in the discussion the group started to split up and remained so for the rest of the day, members wandering around to find trees of their own particular interest or simply to enjoy a walk in fine early autumn weather. As each tree has a label with its scientific as well as English name most trees can be eventually identified when the label is located. (N.B. Searching for the labels would be a great way to occupy children!).
Without any of our specialist mycologists being present we didn’t specifically look for fungi but did encounter quite a few different species without being to identify some of them. Birdlife was not too plentiful but Donald did record 17 species including three buzzards and the warmth of the afternoon brought out five species of butterfly – speckled wood, red admiral, small copper, comma and a white as well as a common dater dragonfly. Although Alice was not recording with her usual voracity she nevertheless noted water mint, jointed rush and bogbean at the Sata pond and 18 other plant species in flower in the more open areas while Gillian and Margaret reported seeing Autumn crocus.
An enjoyable day was rounded off by some members enjoying an alfresco drink at the cafe and many were tempted by the variety of Spring-flowering bulbs on sale at the visitors’ centre.
Many thanks to Alice and Sally for leading the day and to Kevin who did the bulk of the driving.