Firstly, thanks to Steve for initiating the idea of some field trips using the train, and for suggesting this route taking in Winskill Stones. It was just a shame that in the end he was unable to join us.
We had a successful day, in no doubt helped by pleasant summer weather, but also enjoying a foray into the limestone landscape as a change to the Bradford parks, hills and woodlands.
Once passing through the town, our walk started with the steep climb up Castle Street and onto the fell track. We followed this, with just one little detour to look at the flowers (honest), across the fields and alongside the woodland until we reached the road to Malham.
On the wall tops we saw Wheatears, and a Song Thrush in the pasture amongst the numerous Jackdaws. We saw a few Small Heath butterflies, but in the whole it still felt a bit breezy for the insects.
The road was slightly busier than we would have liked, but decided to stick on the verge, rather than taking the path across the fields in a dogleg, as the stones were calling us as an ideal lunch spot.
Once refreshed, we wandered around the limestone pavement at Winskill. The sections which are still intact offered opportunity to see the plants typical of the cool, deep grykes; Dog's Mercury, Wood Sorrel, Herb Robert, Rigid Buckler and Hart's Tongue ferns.
Where the pavement is only partially intact, the flowers were more typical of limestone grassland; Bird's-foot Trefoil, Limestone Bedstraw, Lady's Bedstraw (still in bud), Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Salad Burnet and Wild Thyme. There were small patches of Mountain Pansy and lots of Pignut.
Once we had ambled around this little plateau for a while, taking in the views as well as the plants, we started our descent along the track to Lower Winskill Farm. Immediately we commented on the increased temperatures once we out of the chilly breeze on top.
The Yellow Rattle, Eyebright, Crosswort and Tormentil became more numerous, and we noted quite a bit of Heath Speedwell. We saw two Early Purple Orchids, past their best but still creating a splash of colour. Whilst admiring the Common Rockrose of the crags, we spotted our first Common Blue Butterfly of the day, fresh and vibrant, and we watched an Antler Moth caterpillar wiggle across the road.
Before heading down to Langcliffe, we walked through the meadow near the farm house. There were plenty of Chimney Sweeper moths, flying around the Pignut, which is the food plant of their caterpillar. In this field we could see masses of Rough Hawkbit and Knapweed about to flower, but it was noticeable how the dominant species changed as we climbed over stiles and passed through gates until we reached the village. Pignut here, Sorrel there, buttercups and clovers elsewhere.
More Common Blues were seen near the trees, as well as a Large Skipper and Green-veined White.
From Langcliffe we choose to complete the final section of our circular route along the quiet lane to Settle. It is bordered by some impressive trees, and we stopped to admire the large elm which we had spotted on our Salmon walk last October.
Timed to perfection, we had time for ice cream before catching the train home. Thanks to everyone who came, it was a very enjoyable day.