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We collected Stuart & Gillian who had left their car at the end of the walk at Allerton Bywater and proceeded to the starting point at Garforth where we had been very kindly offered a parking spot by Millrace Nurseries. We made good BEES time in ever-improving weather which soon had everyone taking off their outer layers and we lunched whilst watching an air display put on by swallows, house martins and probably the last swifts that we will see on a BEES trip this year before the star of the show - a male sparrowhawk - did a fly past and came to rest in a nearby tree, allowing Sue to record the event on her camera. There was plenty of botanical interest and Joan and Alice recorded a total of 166 plants, most of which were in flower. John noted 11 species of butterfly, including brimstone, painted lady and small copper whilst a few dragonflies and damselflies put in an appearance to add to the variety of the day.
On reaching the end of the walk after lunch, Stuart conveyed Robert back to the start to collect the minibus so that we could proceed to our second site of the day, Ledsham Bank, a YWT reserve on the Magnesian limestone on the outskirts of Ledsham village. The main attractions of the site at this time of the year are autumn gentian and autumn ladies tresses and we were lucky to see both species as well as many other interesting plants such as rock rose, agrimony, betony, greater knapweed and viper’s bugloss. Another speciality of the site, dyer’s greenweed was present but had gone to seed. John showed us where the real star of the site – pasque flower - can be viewed and we made a note to organise a trip next year to try and see this rarity.
Birds were more abundant than on recent BEES trips and we recorded 24 including buzzard, whitethroat, red-legged partridge and willow warbler. We had only experienced a couple of very light showers during the day but as we concluded our visit the skies grew darker and heavier rain threatened as we boarded the minibus and headed off to the Chequers Inn at Ledsham for a comfort stop with refreshments before heading back to Bradford having had a very full day.
Thanks to Joan and Alice who had undertaken a very detailed recce of the area (which included negotiating parking spots) and who gave us a thoroughly enjoyable day out.
I always seem to begin my blog by saying how wonderful the weather was;and guess what? It was, although at times perhaps too warm. Few birds were seen as this is not the ideal time of year to spot them though we did see Coots, Lapwings, House Martins, Pied Wagtails and Goldfinches. Joan and Alice logged 148 flowering plants that included: Sea Aster, Blue-water Speedwell, Lesser Water Parsnip, Blue Cyclamen, Field Madder, Red Bartsia, Borage and Spear-leaved Orache. We were treated to the sight of many dragon/damselflies;Common blue damsels, Brown and Common Hawkers, Ruddy and Common Darters. One freshly emerged Common Hawker perched in a hawthorn tree at a height where we were able to see it up close and take photographs. A green geometer caterpillar was photo'd and after much research eventually ID'd as a peppered Moth. A Mother of Pearl moth was also seen.
Butterflies abounded. We saw a total of 14 species, the star of the day being a solitary Wall Brown, now extinct in much of the south and Midlands and fast disappearing from its traditional Yorkshire haunts. No-one can satisfactorily explain why as its food plant has not diminished. I had not seen one for several years as they seem to have gone form Baildon Bank and Tong Park, my local sites.
The wildlife garden by the reserve entrance proved a delight in our final 15 minutes as alongside the numerous Peacocks we spotted a Red Admiral, then a Brimstone and at the very end a Painted Lady put in an appearance. Our young visitor Eden (Robert's granddaughter) seemed to have enjoyed her trip out with us oldies, despite a grass cut and an insect bite. She particularly loved seeing the damselfly and Peacock that were potted for her to view up close. Many thanks to our driver of the day Sue. John Gavaghan
The two sites we visited today were of equal interest but in different ways. In the morning we explored the grounds of Burnby Hall Gardens, in the afternoon we completed a linear walk along the Pocklington Canal. The gardens held the national collection of Water Lilies and in the summer sunshine they were at their best- white, pink and red. The group took a leisurely stroll around the gardens visiting the Victorian gardens, Rock garden, Stumpery and Arboretum. We enjoyed lunch by the side of the lake.
In the afternoon led by Peter we walked along the Pocklington Canal, constructed between 1815-18, enjoying the flowers and grasses, butterflies, dragonflies, fish and bird life. The flowers and grasses seen (total recorded 60) included Arrowhead, Greater Willowherb, Marsh Woundwort, Yellow Water Lily, Sneezewort, Bindweed, Water Forget-me -not, Unbranched Bur-reed, Common Reed, Reed Canary Grass, Reed Sweet Grass. We were hoping for sightings of Red Eyed Damselfly but none were seen. However Banded Demoiselles were seen in flight also a Brown Hawker Dragonfly was photographed in breezy conditions. Butterflies seen during the day were Peacock, Red Admiral, Holly Blue, Meadow Brown and Green Veined White. Mallard and Moorhen made their appearances from time to time and a Kestrel was seen by Gillian flying overhead. Robert the fisherman brought our attention to Perch and Roach swimming under the bridge, Stuart spotted a Vole by the side of the path. The sunshine we enjoyed in the morning was replaced with cloudy conditions as the day progressed. Our group of 14 returned to the Unitarian Church stimulated and well satisfied following a good day out.
What the botanists did. Our main aim on this glorious summer day was to examine the flora of three unique botanical areas- the walls of the Abbey, the flora of the riverbank of the River Skell and the meadow in front of the Banqueting Hall. A good number started this venture however we gradually lost members as the day progressed, the heat of the day playing its part. There is an unusual plant community growing in the cracks and crevasses of the Abbey walls which have been contructed from locally quarried gritstone. One of the first species that caught our attention was the aptly named Pellitory-of-the-Wall. Other species included Harebell, Golden Rod, Hop Trefoil, Field Scabious, Knapweed, Ivy Leaved Toadflax, Marjaram and Wallflower. The ferns included Maidenhair Spleenwort, Wall Rue and Harts Tongue Fern. Our search for a speciality of the Abbey, Proliferous Pink ended in partial success. The dried up leaves of the flower were identified hanging from a wall. The other speciality Fine Leaved Sandwort was seen but not in good condition.There were an abundance of attractive plants on the banks of the River Skell including Mimulus, Knapweed, the Willowherbs and the Umbilifers. The final destination - the meadow - was reached by one of our group - Margaret, it was just too good to miss! It proved to be a carpet of deep red with Betony and Knapweed growing in profusion together with Eyebright and Lady's Bedstraw. A hunt was made for orchid species. There were good numbers of Twayblade however Common Spotted Orchid was not seen. A wealth of flowers was seen on the day of which a few have received a mention.
The wealth of plant life meant that the pace of the walk was BEES snail but we were rewarded with particularly beautiful stands of betony and marsh helleborine as well as common and marsh fragrant orchids in profusion, including white versions of the common. In total over 130 plants in flower were recorded by Joan and Alice which included twayblade, rest-harrow, field gentian, black bog-rush and saw-wort. Despite the sunny conditions, butterflies were not very numerous and we recorded only six species. Likewise, bird numbers were not great but we were entertained by two circling buzzards for some time and as the (relatively) faster walkers waited for the botanists to catch up at the end of the walk we enjoyed watching a spotted flycatcher teaching its young how to catch flies whilst a redstart flew past as willow warblers flitted amongst the trees. The final total of 17 bird species also included tree pipit. As the group gathered to prepare for our departure we were lucky enough to spot a red squirrel running through the branches of nearby trees. This made a fine ending to a very enjoyable walk.
We had planned to visit another nearby site, but time was running short and so we headed back towards home taking the scenic route via Kirkby Stephen, Hawes, Ribblehead and Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Skipton in glorious sunshine. In Skipton, in a repetition of the year’s previous extended day out, we headed to Bizzies for a fish and chip treat before wending our way back to Bradford.
We had enjoyed a lovely outing and were grateful to Julia and John for the planning and leadership of the day.
A party of 11 led by Donald headed off to this limestone hillside about 2 miles north of Horton-in-Ribblesdale, where we stopped for a toilet break. Unlike the rained-off Wimbledon of the day before we again had a warm, dry day and plenty of sunshine.
This lovely weather brought out the butterflies/moths in good numbers; lots of Common Blues, Chimney Sweepers, Grass moths galore, also Small Heath, Northern Brown Argus, Meadow Brown and a single Dark Green Fritillary. Several Tree Pipits were seen singing.
The main objective, however, was to see the special plants which included Alpine Bistort (only known from 4 sites in VC64), Limestone Bedstraw, Lesser Meadow Rue, Heath Fragrant Orchid and Common Spotted Orchid. It did seem that we were going to be unlucky with our main target; Frog Orchid. We had been on site about 2 hours and despite lots of searching I couldn’t find any. Fortunately; Amanda was with us this trip and she wasn’t going to be denied and towards the end of our stay the cry went up; FROG ORCHID! Several examples were found near to the path, up on the ridge, closest to the gate where we had entered. Well done Amanda. Also to Joan who found the one in best condition and was able to identify Limestone Bedstraw.
Ribblehead Quarry, afternoon of the 1st July After Brae we then travelled to this disused quarry. Menacing dark clouds arrived during our visit but luckily we were spared.
Amanda discovered a huge colony of Common Twayblades on a flat hill immediately to the right of the gate. Other orchids present were; Common Spotted and Northern Marsh and numerous hybrids, presumably Common Spotted/Marsh. Margaret found the small colony of Marsh Helleborine though these were not yet in flower. A total of 100 plants were recorded at both of these sites.
Right at the death I came across a Latticed Heath moth and managed to take its picture. A few spots of rain hit the front of the mini-bus as we set off back. Our driver was Robert.
Yet again we had some minibus troubles at the start of the day so arrival at Buckden was slightly later than planned. We had a lunch date at the farm at Cray so Joan decided to only make a mental note of the plants to speed up our progress up Buckden Rake. Once at home her list amounted to 168 species, 129 of which were in flower.This not only indicates the floral pleasures of the day but Joan's mental agility to recall so many!
Some of the most numerous species we saw included Common Rock Rose, Pignut and Yellow Rattle. In the farmyard at Cray there was a wet flush with a lovely display of Northern Marsh Orchid and Ragged Robin, and descending the gill we saw our first Common Spotted Orchids of the day. The most inconspicuous species we recorded was Marsh Arrowgrass, and we were pleased to see the beautiful Melancholy Thistle opening on the river side as we neared the end of the walk.
The most numerous birds were probably Chaffinch and the Pied and Grey wagtails. We saw fledging Redstart on the Rake, and caught a glimpse of a Pied Flycatcher near Hubberholme. Other species included Greater Spotted Woodpecker in the Buckden car park, Willow Warbler and Blackcap, and plenty of Swallows and House Martins.
We had a couple of scheduled stops on route. First a glimpse at the dry stone wall that the BEES Friday volunteers have been repairing over several weekend residentials (we didn't have time to examine them closely, but you can look at the photos in the Buckden residential galleries).
Then, once safely over the stepping stones, we had our lunch in the farmyard at Cray, listening to Chris Akrigg who has been the tenant farmer here for over 30 years. His priorities for farming are 1) environment 2) sheep 3) cattle. 80% of the farm is governed by a Higher Level Stewardship agreement with Natural England, a bespoke management plan for this farm.
Of note are the good numbers of breeding Redshank, Lapwing and Oystercatchers. This time of year sounds the worst for the sheep, with risks of disease. Chris explained that the low grazing density results in higher numbers of triplet lambs. We met some of them that been hand reared. Most of the sheep are Swaledales but they do have a few Blue Faced Leicesters. These produce a lovely knitting wool, but I realise now why it is expensive; Chris explained that once born their only ambition is to die! These sheep are valley dwellers rather suited to being left on the moor tops.
Look at the photos from today here.