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- 2008 -Reports of Summer Outings
2010 Annual Report Part 3Uploaded: March 4, 2011, 1:20 pm
17 July - Saturday - COMMONDALE - Carole Sobkowiak
Eight members met on a cool clear day at the Castleton end of
Commondale and walked along the dale parallel to the railway track
towards Commondale village.
Eighty-nine botanical recordings were made and the ditches were
particularly interesting. The Round-leaved Sundew, Drosera rotundifolia,
an insectivorous plant was found in flower. Perhaps the most exciting
discovery was Bog Pimpernel, Anagallis tenella that is a delicate matforming
perennial with pink bell-shaped flowers. We also saw Water
Boatmen and Tadpoles in the ditch water. Lunch was eaten in a wood full
of mainly oak and birch trees.
Eighteen birds were seen or heard including Spotted flycatcher,
Goldfinch, Kestrel and Moorhen with chicks. When we approached the
village we looked for the falconry that we had visited on the same outing
in 2005 but it was no longer there.
The day ended with tea at Kildale and before leaving we visited the St.
Cuthbert's Church to admire the beautiful stained glass windows depicting
the flora, fauna, life and times of Kildale.
20 July - Tuesday - SOCKBURN HALL (NZ 349071)
On an overcast afternoon 15 members and guests drove along the
private track to Sockburn Hall in a loop of the Tees near Neasham where
we were greeted by Sarah Geary and her sister Mary. Sarah explained that
the Hall and its grounds were owned by her family and that the Hall and
the grounds had fallen into disrepair in recent years. The Hall itself is not
habitable although it has an imposing aspect on a fine site overlooking the
River Tees. Sarah is working to bring the grounds back to their former
glory with the help of a group of volunteers called "Friends of Sockburn
Near the hall is an early church that is partly in ruins but contains many
artefacts found on the location dating back to Viking and Anglo-Saxon
grave markings, including the grave cover of the knight, Sir John Conyers,
who is said to have killed the Sockburn Worm. The "Worm" is shown as a
small dragon at the knight's feet.
A field behind the church has the remains of earlier settlements dating
back to medieval times that have been excavated then reburied to
preserve them - See next paragraph
.The following is a statement from John Wheeler disputing the above statement -
There has been a very detailed site survey and
geophysical survey of the old manor house site but there has never been
any actual excavation, certainly not in modern times. There is a plan
for Durham University to do a small dig there this year, which should be
very interesting. The survey was written up by Dave Went and Marcus
Jeacock of English heritage in York and I believe it can be found on the
English heritage website.
The visit was cut short by a torrential rainstorm while we were enjoying
tea and biscuits in a gazebo in front of the Hall.
I would like to thank Sarah and her sister for their hospitality.
25 July - Sunday - REETH CIRCULAR - Christine Lunn
Eight members undertook this six-mile outing originally planned by Don
Griss. The weather was warm with a mixture of sunshine and clouds and
the odd sharp shower. We left Reeth by the Arkengarthdale Road and just
after the cattle grid where the roadside verge widens out we came upon a
small stream with a profusion of Monkey Flower. Shortly after this we
crossed a stile to pursue our way across a series of walled fields, five of
which were hay meadows, three still uncut. It was interesting to observe
the hay meadows this late on, just ready for harvest, with the Yellow
Rattle not very yellow any longer but full of rattle.
After this botanical feast we continued through the fields to join the
track to Castle Farm House that we followed across the little bridge over
the Arkle Beck at which point we stopped for lunch. An immature Redstart
was the highlight of our observations. Hunger satisfied we made our way
up hill, turning left to follow the path along the east side of the beck.
Where the path dropped down again closer to the waterside it became
very wet, muddy and boggy underfoot. Earlier in the week there had been
a prolonged period of very heavy rain - the beck had burst its banks and
the footpath we were on had been submerged under several feet of water.
This was a very different habitat to the start of the walk and among the
interesting species noted were Great Horsetail, Greater Tussock Sedge
and Remote Sedge, and, non-botanically, a rather large Common Frog.
We re-crossed the beck by another delightful little bridge and made our
way up the broad stony track to and through East Raw Croft Farm and
thence to the valley road which we crossed to take the path up the flanks
of Calver Hill. This presented us with a third very different habitat, this
time moorland. Not a lot of bird life as by now most birds had finished
breeding but we did spot Golden Plover, Wheatear, Oyster Catcher and
Lapwing. Circling below the hill summit we followed the path across the
moor to reach the shooting track that runs alongside the intake walls
above Healaugh and Reeth. Across the valley Maiden Castle was clearly
visible on Harkerside. This was followed to Skelgate Lane, a very ancient
narrow walled path dropping down in to Reeth and absolutely full of
flowering summer species. A beautiful end to a slightly longer outing than
usual. Rabbits were the only mammals noted. Insects included Meadow
Brown butterfly, Soldier beetles, 7-spot Ladybird and a Lesser Yellow
Underwing moth. The twenty-one bird species recorded included Dipper,
Spotted Flycatcher and Meadow Pipit. 149 botanical species were
recorded, the most important being Great Horsetail, Greater Tussock
Sedge, Remote Sedge, Golden Male fern, and Eared Willow.
My thanks to Don Griss for planning the route, John Turner for
recording the birds and Falgunee Sarker for being our botanical recorder.
27 July - Tuesday - Red Kite Walk (GR NZ175596) - R Colley
Eight members and one guest attended. The walk started from the car
park next to the Derwent Caravan Park in Rowland's Gill. It followed the
Red Kite Trail to the viewpoint just beyond the Nine Arches viaduct and
back. Most of the walk was on the bed of the old Derwent Valley railway
(1867-1962). South of the railway was the Gibside Estate with the 40
metre tall Column of Liberty visible for most of the walk.
Regular stops were made to look for Red Kites over the Gibside
Estate. Several were seen in the distance, their identity being confirmed
Trees have grown up on the old embankments so much of the walk
was in shade or partial shade. There were three distinct habitats along the
walk. The first part was a dry shaded section that was followed by a damp
shaded section with standing water beside the path. The final part from
the viaduct to the viewpoint was mostly open.
Falgunee Sarker recorded the flora for mid-summer. 122 species of
trees, grasses and plants were recorded with Great Horsetail, Tall
Fescue, Wood Melick, Leaf Hawkweed and Irish Fleabane being the more
unusual ones. Also recorded were 14 birds, 2 butterflies and 3 bees.
Just before we left a Kite was spotted close to the car park and slowly
circled overhead for several minutes before disappearing over houses.
Everyone was able to get o good look at the distinctive markings and the
forked tail. A perfect ending to an enjoyable walk.
31 July - Saturday - MINSTERACRES - Gordon Simpson
Eight members attended. We met at some buildings close to the
Priory. From the buildings we walked to the Priory and looked at the
Treecreeper roosts in the soft bark of the Giant Trees Sequoiadendron
giganteum. The Treecreepers enlarge hollows in the bark and fit their
bodies snugly into the hollow to roost. Only their backs and tail are
exposed to the cold weather. Great Spotted Woodpeckers had bored
cylindrical holes into the bark to a depth of about 10cm but had stopped at
the trunk. Maybe these are roosting holes. From the Giant Tree Avenue
we walked to the Priory and were met and welcomed by Father Jeroen.
Permission was granted for the group to make a convenience stop then
visit the chapel, an impressive place of worship.
The walk commenced to the large ponds so that we could look at
Royal Fem. On the way butterflies frequented Creeping Thistle. Walking
quietly towards the large pond we saw waterbirds. From the ponds we
returned to our cars to collect our packed lunches. Somebody found picnic
tables at the back of the Priory and a few cats and hens found us whilst
we ate sandwiches.
After our lunch stop we walked across the lawns that displayed hay
meadow flowers. A Humming Bird Hawk Moth was seen at the flower
garden in the centre of the lawns. From the lawns we then explored the
arboretum. Volunteers are tidying the derelict arboretum so access was
restricted to half of the woods. A short stretch of fairly rough path had to
be negotiated to cross from one side of the arboretum to the other. The
collection of trees planted amongst native trees is around 100 years old at
least. Several specimen trees are tall with inaccessible foliage at the top
so identification is difficult. Hornbeam, Large-leaved Lime, a Weeping
Morinda Spruce Picea, smithiana, White Spruce Picea, glauca, Lawson's
Cypress, Western Red Cedar, Japanese Cedar Cryptomeria japonica, a
glaucous variety of Douglas Fir and a Chinese Juniper were some of the
On our return to the Priory we passed the new gardens alongside the
drive. 'Peace be with you' had been woven into the tall wire fence using
sheep's wool. A female scarecrow had been constructed using plastic
bottles and sheets of plastic. At the Priory I had arranged for tea and
biscuits but we were surprised by Sister Therese who took us to a
magnificent room with laid on beverage and an iced chocolate cake. The
cake was delicious and little was left. There was no charge so donations
were left for the refreshments and the chapel. We all were grateful for the
hospitality and welcome offered by the staff.
12 September - Sunday - WITTON CASTLE - David Bellamy
It was my privilege to lead a late summer walk around the grounds of
Witton Castle in Weardale. The choice was mine as it almost in my back
yard and it has recently come under new ownership. The management
team are heaven bent to turn it into a show case for caravan and lodge
holidays all bursting with history both natural and man made.
The Castle dates from the 14th Century and time has taken its toll but
great plans are afoot. Meanwhile a walk on the wilder side now follows a
time line from the end of the last ice age (or was it) to last year’s holiday
season when nature trails began to spring up.
En route we past ancient Oaks, the remains of a deer park and other
big native trees some showing the effects of ancient coppicing and all
buzzing with invertebrates.
There are young woodlands planted to heal the effects of coal mining
and a magical stand of semi-ancient Yews. Fishing lakes new and old and
forgotten ponds and wetlands now being rejuvenated to the delight of
Dragonflies and Kingfishers.
One of the great problems of letting me lead the pack is I still rush
about and jump in the wet bits shouting loudly to the annoyance of the
avifauna. My only excuse is that I am a botanist and despite my
shortcomings I hope we all will visit the castle again and see how the big
experiment is working out.
14 September - Tues - DRINKFIELD MARSH LNR (NZ287174)
On a cloudy, cold and breezy evening 12 members visited Drinkfield
Marsh to search for bats. As the weather conditions were not favourable,
bats were in short supply but eventually the bat detector picked up a
lonely Pipistrelle flying over the lake. Whilst waiting for the bats we were
entertained by a small flock of Starlings doing their evening pre-roosting
manoeuvres over the lake and flights of Canada Geese flying low over our
heads to settle for the night on the lake with the resident Mallards. A
Tawny Owl was seen flying over the entrance to the reserve,
Flowers recorded were Sticky Groundsel Senecio viscosus, White
Bryony Bryonia dioica (at its northern limit on this site), Leopard's Bane
Doronicum pardalianches, Corn Marigold Chrysanthemum segatum and
Large Bindweed Calystegia silvaticum. Mare's Tail Hippuris vulgaris was
growing vigorously in the lake despite recent efforts to clear it.
18 September - Saturday - CROWTREES COLLIERY and
NATURE RESERVE (GR NZ334376) - Steve Keeney
Six members and 2 guests attended. Fortunately, although there had
been a lengthy spell of dull weather before the visit on the day of the walk,
the weather remained dry and bright but cool. The group took the
opportunity to visit the adjoining churchyard of St Paul's church.
Consecrated in 1868 and demolished in 1993 the vacated church became
unstable following blasting from the nearby Cold Knuckles limestone
quarry. The churchyard is being managed as part of the living
churchyards’ project and includes well-designed information boards and
balances maintaining wildlife areas with the need for access to graves.
The group then entered the nature reserve and followed the
suggested route of the Crowtrees Heritage Group who have produced a
leaflet and erected excellent information boards on the reserve. There
were 3 Crowtrees Collieries that encapsulate the history of mining on the
Durham magnesian limestone plateau. The first colliery started in 1780
won coal close to the surface. This was replaced in the 1830's when a
deeper shaft was established further east with the coal being transported
by rail to Teesside. In 1866 this pit was closed and a new shaft sunk with
the coal being used to fuel ironworks at West Cornforth. The remains of
the headgear from this phase, which finally ended in 1897 after the
collapse of the Iron market, can still be seen on site.
The site is a local nature reserve and SSSI managed by Durham
County Council. Rare magnesian limestone grassland on the plateau
provides habitats for a variety of wildlife and rare plants such as Blue
Moor grass, Rock Rose and Orchids. As a result a great diversity of plant
species were kindly recorded by Falgunee Sarker. 10 species of common
birds were recorded with good views of a Grey Heron and a Kestrel
hovering. The site, including ponds, proved to have abundant insects and
butterflies including Speckled Wood and Meadow Brown, and Brown
Hawker and Emperor Dragonflies. A dead Field Vole was found and
became an instant celebrity surrounded by enthusiastic photographers. A
very enjoyable outing with interesting industrial archaeology and wildlife!
21 September - Tuesday - FUNGUS FORAY IN FLATTS WOOD,
BARNARD CASTLE - Alan Legg
The discovery of two new fungus species for County Durham at this
site last year provided the impetus for the arrangement of the Club Foray
in autumn 2010. Disappointingly only half a dozen people made the
journey for the short but attractive afternoon walk through mixed woodland
northwards along the course of the Percy Beck.
The weather was pleasant and, although nothing exciting was in
evidence, forayers enjoyed finding the fairly representative sample of
common species we listed. Out of a modest total of 27 species, 17 were
toadstools, 2 brackets and 2 puffballs.
As well as its very common relative the Sulphur Tuft, Hypholoma
fasciculare, we found material of the less-frequently collected H.
capnoides on a conifer stump. Inocybe asterospora, the name of which
focuses on its decidedly spiky spores, also turned up. The genus
Melanoleuca produces a number of quite large species but is, for some
reason, little-remarked. On this occasion the collection was of M.
cinerascens. The specimen causing the most interest and comment,
however, was the rather beautiful if not uncommon Amethyst Deceiver,
Laccaria amethystea, found under oak almost at the end of our walk.
26 September - Sunday - TEESMOUTH - Don Griss
As the wind had moderated and swung to the north-east overnight
seven members gathered at the end of the Zinc Works road at the start of
the day, ready to search the bushes for migrants. We had been enthused
by a report of a Woodchat Shrike at Hartlepool but were soon disillusioned
as no birds were present. As we were so near .we walked along the dunes
to the slag wall overlooking the Greatham Channel. Here we were able to
take some shelter from the still strong breeze and set up the telescopes.
Fortune was still against us as a survey vessel was cruising up and down
and disturbing the area in front of our position. We were, however, able to
note several species of bird including Grey Plover, Red-breasted
Merganser, Shelduck, and Bar-tailed Godwit. A Grey Seal was also seen
but this soon moved to avoid the boat. While this was going on some of
the party disgraced themselves by doing some surreptitious botanising
and will give a separate report. After a while the need for hot drinks and
sustenance forced us to drive to RSPB Saltholme for lunch.
An hour later, after admiring the Greenshank parading in front of the
visitor centre, we started our round of the hides beginning at the wildlife
watch point. Here we had several duck, a Stock Dove and a Little Egret
but the highlight was two Common Snipe that were crouched beside a
clod of earth in a muddy area and were extremely difficult to see. Some
people were unable to see them even when the telescope was set up
pointing straight at the birds.
We moved on via Paddy's Hide to Saltholme Pool seeing a flock of
migrating Pink-footed Geese while we were walking and hearing their
distinctive calls. At the pool we were shown a Curlew Sandpiper with
some Dunlin. Other species present were Golden Plover, Ringed Plover,
Black-tailed Godwit, Pintail, Pochard, Shoveler and several other ducks.
Some Dunlin and a Redshank came very close to the hide giving beautiful
We left for the visitor centre and home at c16.00hrs just as the rain