Wharram Quarry is a species rich chalk grassland, home to the many characteristic plants that thrive on the thin soil levels found there. Quarried for chalk from 1919 it fell into disuse in the 1940’s and was offered to the YWT in the 1960’s when the owner found Bee Orchids growing on the quarry floor. Nine of us set off in very unpromising drizzly rain, to discover this promising flower and butterfly rich site in the Yorkshire Wolds.
A small party of eight set off to Foulridge and after parking up near Foulridge Wharf we set off on the canal towpath towards Mill Hill Bridge.
The day started dry but rather cloudy but less breezy than of late. Before long we saw a flock of long-tailed tits We watched them for a few minutes before their high-pitched twittering call faded away as they moved on. A nuthatch was heard before being spotted flying across the canal. A little further on the towpath the descending song of willow warblers gave away their presence before a pair were seen in flight. Large numbers of Canada Geese were gathered in a field and not far away there was also a large flock of lapwing. Some unusual looking white geese with knobs on their orange beaks were quite raucous as they bathed in their small pond and interacted with each other ( later identified as Chinese White Geese).
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.
The day began with a trip to a garage for a replacement tyre after which Julia sadly had to leave us. We had previously received notice of two cancellations and then we had another absentee on the day; so we were left a select band of six, our driver Kevin, Amanda, Alice, Sue N, Jane & myself.
It was a fresh day following overnight rain. A mix of clouds & blue sky with a northerly breeze but thankfully no rain forecast. Our next disappointment was the toilet stop at Kippax Leisure Centre. This venue nowadays only opens at 13:00 on a Tues!
Our first site, Ledston Luck, was just 5 min's around the corner. This used to be a coalmine which only closed in 1986 & is now a YWT local NR. We were able to park the mini-bus in the nearby Enterprise CP and then had a walk of a few hundred yards alongside the very busy A656 Ridge Rd to our destination. A party of volunteers were busy at the entrance removing excessive vegetation, one of them known to our driver!
Today we stayed local for visits to two contrasting sites.
We started at Hirst Wood Burial Ground, gathering in the gloom of the wooded burial ground adjacent to Nab Wood Cemetery. BEES Friday volunteer group have been involved in some management of the site over the past couple of winters, so I wanted to return in the summer to collate a species list for the site, and get some ideas about the best way forward to implement the ecological management plan.
The land is owned by St Paul’s Church and managed by the Hirst Wood Burial Board. Since regular burials ceased in the 1980s, the site has developed into a woodland habitat which the Church recognise as offering value as natural green space and a space to pay respects and for contemplation. The recently devised management plan states the aim to sympathetically manage for both access to graves and support the ecology of the site.
On what was destined to be one of the hottest days of the year, 12 of us set off for Escrick near York, to visit the Three Hagge Wood Meadow project. We were greeted on arrival by Professor Dave Raffaelli and Rosalind Forbes Adam, whose family own the estate on which the project is sited. Through the introductory talk by Professor Raffaelli we learnt that the site was originally an arable field of 25 acres on which had been planted 10,000 native trees of 28 different species alongside local wild flowers, with the aim of creating a wood meadow ecosystem which could support the most diverse habitat thereby increasing biodiversity.
You may have believed that the source of the Wharfe was at the northern extreme of Upper Wharfedale, but you would be wrong. It does in fact rise in the above named minor dale.
A full mini-bus driven by Stuart made its way via Bingley, Keighley, Cracoe, & Kettlewell towards our toilet stop in Buckden and then onto our destination New Bridge. The weather began cooler than expected but later warmed considerably, with plenty of sunshine, but always with a keen westerly breeze.
With the distance putting some people off, and a few last-minute cancellations, it was a small group which made the journey to Cumbria.
I’d been on a course at Blencathra FSC, so it was ideal for me to meet the minibus at the church near Brigsteer, so thanks to Kevin for being sole driver. After lunch on arrival, we set off downhill over the field to a stretch of woodland.
The woodland was full of Black Bryony, several clumps of Hemp Agrimony (just about in flower where it was in full sun), Enchanter’s Nightshade, Wood Sedge and Wood Melick. We saw a solitary Greater Butterfly Orchid and a small amount of Hairy St John’s-wort. The patches of bramble were attracting the butterflies; Ringlet and Meadow Brown being the most numerous.
Nine hardy souls braved the dire weather forecast and journeyed via the M62-A64 to Strensall Common, a site several miles to the north of York. We sort of got away with it as during our 4 hour stay we experienced no periods of the heavy stuff, just light rain for the most part and even some dry spells; alas that yellow orb in the sky was totally absent.
Our lunch was taken underneath pine trees at a crossroad of paths with plenty of evidence of the numerous sheep on the common all around! We were pleased to hear at least 2 cuckoos and we also had good views of a singing Tree Pipit and later a Stonechat.
WFV ASHES PASTURE ,near RIBBLEHEAD, YORKSHIRE DALES. 18th June 2019
A better Tuesday than the last two. The rain kept away, there were fleeting glimpses of the sun and the minibus, driven by Julia, headed out on the much loved and familiar route to the Dales. Our destination was the recently extended YWT Ashes Pasture Reserve near Ribblehead. This is a diverse grassland area with acid pasture, fen meadows and calcareous flushes which hosts a wealth of species. In view of safety consideration we were dropped at the site and the minibus then parked some distance away.