River Tees Cruise
Langdon Beck Hotel Cow Green Reservoir
The Field Club’s 90th Birthday
Westgate in Weardale
Bowlees -High Force
Cow Green -Cauldron Snout High Cup Nick
Ingleton White Scar Caves and Glens
Shandy Hall and Byland Abbey
Dawn Chorus -Brignall Banks
Northumberland Coast (Farne Islands)
Richmond Applegarth Circular
Biller Howe, South of Whitby
Redcar and Coatham Marsh
Wath -Bowderdale -Cautley Spout -Cross Keys
Grinton and Maiden Castle
Barnard Castle Circular
Dawn Chorus Witton-le-Wear
Lake District Ullswater
Bempton -Flamborough Head Cliffs
Berwick on Tweed
Westgate in Weardale
Cloughton, near Scarborough
Causey Arch ~Belsay Castle
A Lunedale Ramble
Cow Green High Cup Nick -~ Dufton
Pond Dipping, Brinkburn Ponds
Kendal ~Levens Park
Lake District -Rydal
Nenthead -Nentdale -Alston
Marske in Swaledale
Holgate Moor and Gill Skelton Marske Beck -Helwith
Hudeshope, Middleton in Teesdale
Middleton in Teesdale
Reeth Calver Hill Arkle Beck
Middlehope Burn, Weardale
Robin Hood’s Bay
Gateshead Garden Festival
Bowes Moor -God’s Bridge -Pennine Way
Malham Cove -Gordale Scar
Castle Eden Dene
Deepdale, Barnard Castle
Rosa Shaito Nature Reserve, Spennymoor
Swaledale -Hard Level Gill, Gunnerside
St. Peter’s Church, Croft
Hudswell Woods, Richmond
Cromford, Matlock, Derbyshire
Billingham Reed Beds
Saltburn to Skinningrove
Gilling Whashton -Hartforth
Kildale, Roseberry Topping, Ayton
Flatts Wood, Barnard Castle
Cleasby to Manfield
Wensleydale ~ Ballowfield _ Askrigg Hardraw
Bede’s World and South Shields
Forcett -Stanwick -Brigantian Earthworks
Langdon Beck Blackcock Lek
Knaresborough and the Nidd Gorge
Hudswell Woods, Richmond
Slapworth Skelton Green
Askham Bog and York Old Cemetery
The Otter Trust North Pennine Reserve
Fungus Foray to Elemore Woods
The Devil’s Arrows -Sermons in Stone
Romaldkirk Mickleton Middleton
Low Dinsdale Church Circular
Romaldkirk Mickleton Middleton
Middleton in Teesdale to Bowlees
Kielder Reservoir and Forest
South Shields Planetarium
Whorlton and Eggleston Abbey Circular
Durham Coast near Easington
Trimdon Grange Quarry
Thirlby and Gormire
Teesmouth Sand Dunes
West Cemetery Fungus Foray
River Tees Cruise.
22nd September 1979 – Phyllis Garrod
An unusual excursion for the Field Club was a three-hour cruise on the river Tees on Saturday the 22nd September. Our boat, the Water Iris, left Stockton at 2 p.m. in glorious sunshine. As we travelled downstream towards Tees Dock, where the boat turned to return upriver, the boatman gave a comprehensive account of the history and industry associated with the river – unfortunately this was inaudible to many of the passengers.
Initially we passed many derelict industrial sites and wharves, the former having outlived their usefulness although some of the sites are now being reclaimed, and the latter being abandoned because of larger ships. We went under three bridges, all completely different in style; the new A19 road bridge, an elegant concrete span, the engineering masterpiece of the Newport Bridge, and the unique Transporter Bridge.
We saw many ships, mainly cargo and small tankers, and the only shipyard still working where the fitting out of the two ships, being sold to Poland at less than cost price, was being completed. On the north bank we passed a huge complex of chemical plants and the oil refinery with its four jetties for large tankers. Here the oil received by pipeline from the Norwegian Sector [of the North Sea] is treated before being transhipped to Norway.
This was a memorable and very enjoyable trip for all of us. Here was a completely different and more attractive aspect of industrial Teesside.
Langdon Beck Hotel – Cow Green Reservoir
6th June 1980 – Myra Burnip
On a warm morning 19 people left Darlington for a walk in Upper Teesdale but on arriving at Langdon Beck four decided not to do the full walk but just walk from Cow Green to Cauldron Snout. Many thanks to Miss Cox who brought the drivers back from Cow Green to Langdon Beck for them to do the full walk.
Cow parsley had lived up to its alternative name of Queen Anne’s lace along the road verges on our journey. At Langdon Beck we saw it again with another umbellifer, sweet cicely, which has a denser head of flowers and paler green dissected leaves. Swallow, house martins and swifts were flying overhead, while yellow wagtail and dipper were seen by the beck. Three redshank perched on fencing posts nearby and we heard and saw them for several minutes.
Mountain pansies were frequently seen in varying shades of blue and white, while marsh marigolds made bright splashes of gold along streams and marshes, but no globeflowers were seen. Bird’s eye primrose, early marsh orchid, lousewort and milkwort were noted in the damp heathy pasture of Widdybank. The fields were very colourful with common flowers such as daisy, buttercup, bird’s eye speedwell, lady’s mantle, tormentil, yellow rattle, pignut and others. Sedges predominated in the flushes – black sedge, yellow sedge and carnation grass; butterwort was in flower. Lapwings were displaying, and larks and meadow pipits were seen and heard.
Bistort was seen flowering at Widdybank Farm. After the farm, heath rush seemed to be predominant. We had our lunch on the bank of the Tees where thyme was growing, and we watched the many black-headed gulls and common sandpipers that flew up and down the river. During lunch a heavy hailstorm began and as a nearby wall offered little shelter we decided to plod on – the path had become a stream but there was no turning back.
With the rain and the difficulty of the rocky path below Falcon Clints it was difficult to do any botanising, but I did notice rowan, juniper, and in one place, aspen trees growing on the cliffs; also a large patch of bird’s eye primrose. Near a patch of yellow saxifrage (not flowering) I saw three plants of butterwort with the greyish mauve leaves of [pale butterwort] Pinguicula lusitanica; it was not yet in flower so I will not say it was this species, but other plants nearby had the usual pale yellow-green leaves, so if it was a climatic or habitat aberration it must have been very local.
On nearing Cauldron Snout a ring ouzel was heard, and then seen carrying food in its beak. By this time we had taken off our waterproofs and had an early tea – several people not having finished their lunch owing to the hailstorm. There was not much water coming down the falls although they looked quite spectacular to those who had not seen them before. A grey wagtail seemed to have a nest in the cliffs nearby, while good views were obtained of two wheatear.
After our rest we climbed the side of the falls and met one of the smaller party, being the only one who had reached as far as that. We then crossed the bridge into Cumbria and climbed the 133 steps at the side of the dam and walked across. Two oystercatchers were very noisy on the pebbles below the dam. We could see that the reservoir was ten to twelve feet below the overflow, and many yards of beach were visible as well as the road constructed by the builders of the dam – normally submerged.
Thunder began to rumble and rain could be seen in the distance so we did not loiter although we did notice that the sugar limestone had been protected from sheep rubbing by wire netting. We were too late for the gentians this year because of the early heat-wave; but we saw spring sandwort, limestone bedstraw, northern bedstraw, viviparous bistort and mountain pansies in the area fenced against sheep and rabbits. Miss Vickery had found a moonwort, a small fern, and while looking at it, several more were seen. Three-flowered rush were also flowering well in a roadside flush. We all managed to get back to the cars before the next heavy spell of rain caught up to us.
Other birds seen on the walk but not mentioned elsewhere were – mistle thrush, curlew, yellowhammer, willow warbler, chaffinch, wren, pied wagtail, tree pipit and golden plover.
The Field Club’s 90th Birthday
28th April 1981 – Phyllis Garrod
On Tuesday the 28th April the Field Club celebrated its 90th birthday. The hall at the Arts Centre was beautifully decorated with greenery and floral decorations; Miss E. Shaw having made the centrepiece for the buffet table with all aspects of the Club’s activities depicted in flowers, fossils etc. The President, Barry Hetherington, welcomed the sixty-four members who, after being served with wine, were able to admire the long buffet table with its colourful and tempting display of cold meats, salads, trifle, jellies, pies and cream. The Birthday Cake, baked by Mrs. Mary Wood, was suitably inscribed and decorated, having our emblem of wood mice clambering around its four corners.
After the meal, and coffee, the glasses were refilled and the President proposed the loyal toast to “The Queen”. Miss Winifred Dunning, President-Elect, then rose to introduce the President, saying he was perhaps the youngest we have had, who joined the Club in 1975. He was geology leader and editor of the Annual Report; he was a lecturer in astronomy for the WEA in Darlington, and he applied his energies with diligence to both organisations.
The President then thanked everyone who had helped, especially the Ladie’s Committee who had worked extremely hard to make this a successful and enjoyable function. His address The Field Club was a fascinating account of the Club compiled from a detailed study of the Club’s records.
On 29th April, 1891, twenty-two people had attended a meeting convened by Dr. Richard Taylor Manson, physician, and the Darlington Naturalists’ Field Club was formed. There were three sections – Zoology, Botany and Geology, and Dr. Manson’s Zig-Zag Ramblings of a Naturalist formed the basis of the Club’s activities. In September of the same year the assets of the then inactive Darlington Naturalists Society were handed to the Club. In 1896 the name of the Club was changed to the present one. Dr. Manson died in 1910 and in that year the Club erected a glacial boulder in his memory at the Victoria Embankment entrance to South Park.
Our first President was William Fothergill, a dentist, who was also joint founder of the Darlington Total Abstinence Society, and a Quaker. The first Secretary was George Best, a chemist and dentist, who held the post for seventeen years. He was an eminent geologist, and a unique British fossil, found at Stainton, was named in his honour – Fayolini besti. When he resigned he was presented with a suite of furniture.
Other notable members were Robert Hastwell Sargent, Treasurer, who taught botany, chemistry and physics, and was one of the founders of the NNU; John Edmund Nowers, President, who was a botanist and entomologist; and Bentley Beetham, a teacher at Barnard Castle School, and photographer on Col. Norton’s Everest Expedition in 1924. The Nicholsons, father and son, totalled sixty-nine years’ service between them in various positions. The first woman President was Miss Ruth Dowling, elected in 1939.
In 61 years the Ornithology Section has only had five leaders; Albert Stainthorpe for 32 years and our present leader, Vic Brown, since 1963. In all we have had 21 sections, some of them existing just as long as that particular specialist leader was active. Today the Club is very active; few organisations can boast of holding 60 meetings a year, entailing a great deal of work by our committee who willingly serve the Club.
When the Club was founded, one of its aims was to compile, as accurately as possible, an account of the recent and fossil flora and fauna of the neighbourhood. This has never been fulfilled and was regrettable as many past members were specialists who could have done important work on the natural history of Darlington. Today our present members are enthusiastic amateurs “in the true sense of the word” and the President hoped to see the Field Club produce a Natural History of Darlington, possibly for our Centenary in ten years’ time. With the goodwill and support of the members such a project would be crowned with success. He thanked everyone in anticipation of the work to be done.
The President then cut the cake and Miss Ruth Vickery rose to propose the toast to the Club. She said she was honoured to have been asked to do so. As a member since 1949 she had been part of the Club for a third of its life. She was delighted to share in this happy and formal occasion. In the Field Club we enjoyed not only companionship but a generous sharing of knowledge. We achieved a very high standard of speaker and the interest of members was shown by their many questions. Our outings were also memorable and she felt sure everyone must have had magical moments on these as she had. One of hers had been to be among the birds on the Farne Islands, another was on the all-night walk from Barnard Castle, and only last year she had the excitement of finding moonwort on Widdybank Fell. The President’s address had brought back many happy reminders of the past. She remembered with particular affection Albert Stainthorpe and his gift of bird mimicry, and hearing in Polam School grounds the birds answering his call. Miss Vickery proposed the toast The Field Club – and to its continued Success. Miss Frances Griss then presented a posy of flowers to Miss Vickery.
This memorable evening ended with a prize draw. There were two prizes; the first, a picture, was won by Miss R. Vickery, and the second, a bottle of sherry given by Mr. Geoff Wood, was won by Mrs. K. Stansbie. Then followed a draw for the many flower arrangements, very much appreciated by the winners.
Westgate in Weardale
2nd May 1881 – Myra Burnip
For this excursion we had dry weather and even a sunny afternoon although the wind was still in the north. During a stop of one hour at Stanhope we noticed the many plants of fairy foxglove on the Castle and other old walls, and some members noticed two plants in bloom. [Garden arabis] Arabis caucasica and ivy-leaved toadflax were flowering in similar habitats. The large fossil tree was noted as we went into the much restored 13th century church. Some members followed the leaflet Walkabout of Stanhope while others had a short walk by the river Wear.
At 12.45 p.m. we met Mr. Peter Bowes at Westgate who led and instructed us on our 2½-mile walk which began at the hamlet of Weeds, just off the main road. This hamlet has grown around the site of a 1230 house which had been built just outside the Bishop’s Park wall and at the edge of its three different kinds of fields – meadows to the south, pasture to the northwest surrounded by a wall (much of which was still intact) and dividing it from the moor which at that date went right down to the farm.
We climbed up the hollow road to High House, a miner’s cottage built in 1861 consisting of two rooms, one up and one down, with a lean-to cattle shed. This was in a very sad state of repair and had had a very short life compared with other houses in the district. In this area we had to pass a huge bull which the farmer had assured Mr. Bowes was mild tempered, and this proved to be correct on this occasion. Still further up this ancient highway, where cowslips, violets and barren strawberry flowered, we came to Low and High Crooked Well farms. The word Well was probably a corruption of Wall as we were walking parallel with the Old Park boundary although little of it was seen on this side of the valley. Looking across the Wear valley we could see a large part of the wall running to the west of Swinhope Burn and turning eastwards before reaching the top of the hill.
We came out on to a minor road where the pasture wall turned westward and here the moor had been improved and turned into meadows with a flourishing farm called High Meadows. Going eastward we came to old lead spoil heaps with the remains of an old shop where miners stayed during the week. We were standing on the line of the longest lead vein in Weardale, the Slit Vein, which runs from Frosterley to Wearhead. A reservoir made to hold the water used in the various stages of mining had a fringe of water horsetail around it. The old leet leading from the reservoir was followed for some way northwards and then, after our leader and the President had made stepping stones for us, we crossed the Middlehope Burn.
Middle Slit Mine and Lower Slit Mine were inspected and their water wheel slots noted. Brittle bladder fern flourished on the old walls and hart’s tongue fern were seen at the latter site. At one time around 400 people worked at Lower Slit Mine which is in a narrow gorge, and before work on the lead could begin they bricked up the banks of the river and even built over it to make a level area for working. The old shaft here goes down 585 feet and is only covered by a metal sheet which is beginning to rust; the surrounding barbed wire fence has been broken down.
It is a very pleasant walk down Middlehope Burn, or Slit Wood as it is often called, and we recorded primroses, anemones, wood sorrel, wood goldilocks, opposite-leaved golden saxifrage and one early purple orchid.
Near Westgate the riverside path runs through the garden of a house which used to be a corn mill. As the path enters the road, to the right, we were shown the site of the old Hunting Lodge of the Prince Bishop of 1183, while to the left was a Wesleyan Church now converted into houses. Our President thanked Mr. Bowes for a very enjoyable and informative afternoon and after having tea we returned home seeing many pheasants, black-headed gulls and lapwings on the way.
15th – 17th May 1981 – Phyllis Moses and Phyllis Garrod
All 28 members who had booked for this weekend were on time on the Friday evening and we got off to a prompt start for our journey to Grange-over-Sands. On arrival, there was a slight hiccup when we failed to find our hotel at the first attempt and directed the coach driver to the top of the steepest road in Grange where we ran out of road! However, he was unperturbed and it took only a little longer to locate the Grayrigge Hotel where, after settling in, we faced the huge pile of sandwiches and gateaux put out for us. In spite of rain, most of the party took a stroll before retiring.
Saturday dawned fine and warm and this tempted a few early risers to be about before the birds – several hundred shelduck were found to be still asleep when we arrived at the mudflats! However, honey bees were awake and busy feeding on a huge bush of rosemary in flower in the promenade gardens. Plants flowering on the saltmarsh were scurvy-grass, sea campion and sea pink.
Following breakfast we left for a full day at the RSPB Reserve at Leighton Moss which lies in a wooded valley and has three meres with extensive areas of reed-beds. During the day 49 species of birds were seen with good views of heron, kestrel, pintail, gadwall, wigeon and teal. Pochard, mallard and greylag were all seen with young. Most of us saw a marsh harrier which appeared on several occasions and a few caught a tantalising glimpse of a bittern which had been heard booming at various times of the day. Only two or three of the group were lucky enough to spot a bearded tit darting through the reeds but everyone heard the grasshopper warbler reeling. Willow, reed and sedge warblers were also seen.
There were good numbers of butterflies about and we recorded green-veined white, small white, small tortoiseshell and orange tip; chimney sweep moths were seen in the grassy areas. There was an interesting variety of flowers including bistort and gromwell, the latter being a new plant for many of us. Before leaving the reserve we visited the Nature Centre (opened in 1980) which has a display area and shop. On our return to the coach we found that it had been blocked in the car park by other vehicles and we watched with admiration our driver’s determined efforts to manoeuvre his way out; his success being greeted with cheers and applause.
After our dinner at 6pm, we had time for an evening walk in Grange – the local park proved interesting with its collection of ducks, including red-crested pochard and mandarin. In a pool on the mudflats just below the promenade a family of young, fluffy shelducks made a delightful scene but they seemed very vulnerable and we wondered where their parents were! Happily, they were still there safe and sound the next morning with the parent birds in attendance.
Sunday’s programme concentrated on botany and geology with visits to Gait Barrows – a National Nature Reserve declared in commemoration of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 – and to the Lancelot Clark Storth Reserve belonging to the Cumbria Trust.
En route to Gait Barrows we stopped at Arnside where we had arranged for a local botanist, Mrs. Baecker, a charming Austrian lady, to accompany us. At the reserve we were joined by Dr. Rose – a geologist, and his wife. Dr. Rose explained that a special feature of this reserve was the Grikeless Pavement, a more or less solid sheet of limestone. There were some protruding joints, about a centimetre thick, of harder rock considered to be of Triassic age because of their iron content, the ironstones being of this period. We were shown a series of circular holes (cheeseholes or friatic tubes) which passed through the pavement to underground channels. These holes were linked on the surface by a series of semi-circular runnels about six-inches deep, the runnels deepening in the direction of the sloping strata. They were formed when underground water from the melting glaciers 10,000 years ago forced its way up the tubes to the surface of the rock which was still under ice; the water draining away to form the runnels. These features pre-date the grikes – the vertical joints in the pavement – which are deep and often have jagged sides formed along lines of weakness.
The flowering plants and ferns which grow in the grikes were shown to us by Mrs. Baecker and included the rare rigid buckler fern and angular solomon’s seal – both plants being new to all of us. Massed leaves of lily-of-the-valley filled many of the grikes along with dark red helleborine, ploughman’s spikenard, lesser meadow rue and rue-leaved saxifrage to name but a few of the botanical treasures. Not many birds were seen but the chiff-chaff was calling all the time.
During the day, when we had a short break, some members took the opportunity to visit the Parish Church of St. James at Burton-in-Kendal. The church is built of limestone rubble with sandstone dressings, and has several interesting features; the oldest part being the West Tower which is 12th century and has a Norman arch forming the entrance.
In the afternoon we were met at the Lancelot Clark Storth Reserve by the manager, Mr. Law, who explained the importance of the six district areas of limestone pavement which form clearings amongst the woodland scrub starting around 350 feet and rising to 850 feet. He led us quickly over the area as rain was now threatening, but we were able to note the transition from closed woodland to open grasslands and heath. Regeneration was taking place due to the absence of grazing and a good number of mature trees were seen such as yew, holly, birch (Betula pubescens), elm and whitebeam (Scorbus rupicola). Many of the plants seen at Gait Barrows were again in evidence but orpine and alpine lady’s mantle were extras. Mr. Law took us through an ancient piece of woodland, Pickles Wood, where there were marvellous drifts of bluebells and large clumps of herb paris.
Mr. Law explained that the pavements occupy only a fraction of their former extent owing to exploitation for rockery stone which continued until recently when the Cumbria Trust took over the management.
When we reached the top of the hill we were only able to have quick glimpses of Morecambe Bay, the Lakeland Hills and Ingleborough before torrential rain obliterated the whole view.
Being thoroughly soaked we said a quick farewell to Mr. Law and climbed into the coach for the journey home. A short stop was made in Kirby Stephen to allow those who wished to have refreshments before we made the final stage to Darlington. The rain did little to dampen our enthusiasm for the weekend and we thank those who made it so interesting and instructive for us – Dr. and Mrs. Rose, Mrs. Baecker, the hotel management who looked after us and not least the driver who drove so well in the narrow, twisting roads around Grange.
Bowlees – High Force
6th June 1981 – Myra Burnip
The weather decided to show us why a reservoir in Upper Teesdale was a good idea: it rained. This meant that we had both lunch and tea in the coach and visited the Information Centre at Bowlees. However, we did brave the elements and walked up to Gibson’s Cave, seeing a dipper several times along the Bow Lee Beck and hearing willow warblers. The purple flowers of wood cranesbill were seen; violets, primroses and wood sorrel were still flowering, while in the marshy area in the bottom of the disused quarry, butterwort, one of our insectivorous plants was flowering.
After lunch and still in our waterproofs we went across the fields to Winch Bridge. In the woods some areas were blue with bluebells, others white with garlic and pignut, the latter being very prolific in both fields and woods. In pools near the river Tees we saw frog tadpoles and a common newt.
Viviparous, or alpine, bistort and mountain everlasting were flowering well on the south side of the river; globe flowers were fairly abundant near the river over the fence from the path, while two other members of that family, marsh marigold and meadow buttercup, were in full flower and abundant. Lady’s smock, common milkwort, lousewort and both the common and heath spotted orchids were seen.
Beginning to flower were the many bushes of shrubby cinquefoil that we noted on an island as we made our way westward. Nearing Holwick Head Bridge we saw the common and shady horsetail growing near each other and were well able to see the differences in colour and shape. After climbing a slope we entered the Nature Reserve and the juniper wood. Juniper seems to grow into all sorts of shape, but we could see no correlation between the shape of the females and the shape of the males which we had wondered might be the case.
By now the wind had risen considerably and both it and the rain were coming at us from the direction of travel and it took us all our time to progress without attempting to look at the plants; in fact one who did so came to grief and had a very bruised and swollen leg. High Force was reached, viewed and photographed, but when we came out of the juniper wood into the open we appreciated how much shelter juniper gave and decided not to continue to Blea Force in the face of the wind and rain which was now coming at us horizontally.
We traced our steps across the duck boards to Holwick Head Bridge which we crossed, walked a short way down the main road, then up to Dirt Pit. Here, on the bridge over Etters Gill, shiny leaved cranesbill and columbine, Aquilegia, were flowering. We continued along the cart track to Bowlees with lapwings and skylarks calling overhead. At Ash Hill, whole trees were shaking in the wind. As we finished our walk the weather improved! We had sunshine all the way home but we all agreed that fresh air is good for you and cagoules are a wonderful invention.
Cow Green – Cauldron Snout – High Cup Nick
16th August 1981 – Phyllis Garrod
Fifty-one members and friends waited an hour for the coach which was to take us to Cow Green for the eleven mile walk to Hugh Cup Nick and Dufton, in the Vale of Eden. On this walk would be seen some of the most spectacular scenery in the North of England; two outcrops of the Whin Sill at Cauldron Snout and High Cup Nick, and a stretch of the Pennine Way considered to be one of the wildest in the Pennines. Fortunately, we had a glorious day, being bright, hot, sunny and clear.
Thirty-eight members set off for Cauldron Snout while the rest went to Dufton with stops in Middleton and Appleby.
The private road leading to Cauldron Snout is on the Western flank of Widdybank Fell. We had long views over Cow Green Reservoir to Great and Little Dun Fells, and Cross Fell, which at 2891 feet is the highest summit in the Pennines. We crossed over a Barytes vein worked by the Cow Green miners and there were many specimens to be seen by the road. This heavy white mineral is used in the paint and cosmetic industries.
As we walked over the limestones, sandstones and shales of the Carboniferous rocks we could see the very different vegetations they support; short green turf on the limestones, and heather and bog on the sandstones and shales. We came to the sugar limestone which was formed when a sheet of molten lava (Whin Sill) was forced horizontally between the beds of limestone. The basalt lava baked the adjacent limestone which developed a granular texture and is the home of many, and often rare, plants.
Cauldron Snout falls 150 feet in steps over the Whin Sill. The columnar jointing of the sill was observed after crossing the bridge and walking towards Birkdale. The Dam is 82 feet high, holds 9,000 million gallons of water and covers 70 acres; it regulates the Tees and was completed in 1970.
We passed Birkdale Farm, very isolated before the building of the Dam and the coming of the Pennine Way. It was here that we saw green spleenwort. Walking over the heather and peat we came to the ruins and spoil heaps of Moss Shops where lead miners lived during their working week, only going home at the weekend. Here we had lunch. After an easy crossing of the Maize Beck we were again walking on limestone grassland where we saw starry saxifrage (Saxifraga stellaris). Soon the dramatic view of the horseshoe-shaped cleft of High Cup Nick came into view. This is part of the Pennine Escarpment, a geological fault which occurs all along the east side of the Vale of Eden. Six to seven hundred feet below the 80 foot crags of the Whin Sill, High Cup Gill winds its way down to the Eden Valley. On the crags we saw one plant of roseroot (Sedum rosea) and lots of parsley fern (Cryptogramma crispa) while in a wet gully we found mossy saxifrage (Saxifraga hypnoides).
As we dropped down to Dufton we passed large quantities of New Zealand willowherb (Epilobium neterioides) and some Alpine scurvy-grass (Cochlearia alpina). Dufton Pike came into view, one of a series of similar conical hills of much older rock which occur along the fault; the others being Knock, Murton and Hilton Pikes.
Dufton village is built of the local New Red Sandstone which is younger than the Carboniferous rocks and formed when the climate became very hot and arid, after the warm tropical conditions of the Carboniferous period.
Ingleton White Scar Caves and Glens
20th September 1981 – Phyllis Garrod
After a night of torrential rain and strong winds, we went by coach to Ingleton to visit the White Scar Caves and the Ingleton Glens.
The entrance to the Caves is interesting as the Carboniferous rocks rest uncomfortably on the much older Ingletonian rocks. The caves had been flooded to the roof at 9 a.m. but the water had subsided sufficiently for us to have a guided tour. The rushing streams and roaring waterfalls were an unforgettable experience during our half-mile journey into the hillside.
After lunch we parked in Ingleton and our leader – Mr. Harry Burnip, took us up the River Twiss showing us the anticline in the Great Scar Limestone, very noticeable on both sides of the river. In two locations we could see the Craven Fault; the first being the contact zone of the Carboniferous rocks and the Ingletonian Shales, and the second was in a large quarry of Ingletonian rocks.
Photographers were busy as we climbed steeply upwards past Pecca Falls. We left the gorge behind with its fine trees and reached Thornton Force, a magnificent waterfall over Carboniferous rocks resting on a bed of ancient Ordovician rocks. The sun was now shining and highlighting the beautiful white Great Scar Limestone which outcrops everywhere in this area. Ingleborough soon came into view, flat-topped because of its capping of harder sandstone. We continued down the River Doe, with its spectacular wooded gorge and Beezley Falls. Our visit ended with a quick look around Ingleton before setting off for home.
3rd October 1981 – Myra Burnip
On our way to Spurn we stopped to marvel at the longest single-span suspension bridge in the world which crosses the Humber and had been opened by the Queen earlier in the year. From a large car park which has been made at a good viewing point we were able to walk onto the bridge.
Spurn Point is a small sand spit about one and a half miles long jutting south-west into the mouth of the Humber; it has no natural rock foundations so keeps moving westwards under the influence of the North Sea. Various military and coastguard structures help to keep it stable but even they get covered with sand.
The main plant was sea buckthorn which lined the track practically its whole length; the female ones having orange berries at this time of the year. Amongst these bushes we saw the leaves of sea bindweed, a patch of Hungarian spurge, much woody nightshade and one plant of yellow horned poppy; the petals had dropped but the long seed pods were conspicuous above the glaucous leaves. On the mod flats were sea lavender, spurreys, sea aster, glasswort and seablite. The muddy shoreline was filling up with cord grass (Spartine townsendii). We also saw sea holly which was a new plant to some of our members. Several of the plants reminded us of Teesmouth but others were new, not growing that far north on the east coast.
Shandy Hall and Byland Abbey
1st May 1982 – Patty Lumb
For our first coach excursion of the year some 50 members left Darlington in bright sunshine but a cold wind for our journey to Shandy Hall. The countryside was looking very beautiful with blackthorn very conspicuous in the hedgerows. On arriving at Coxwold we walked to the Hall where the curator divided us into two groups, one to go around the Hall and the other to visit the church.
The first thing we noticed about the Hall was the outside chimneystack which pointed to the great antiquity of the building; dating from about 1450. The inside was characterised by small rooms and low beams, each room containing memorabilia of Laurence Sterne, the author of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent. (1760-7), and A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy (1768). Sterne had once lived in the building; hence the name Shandy Hall, and his gravestone can be seen in the churchyard. During the restoration of the Hall some wall paintings had been uncovered which showed some fifteenth century ecclesiastical inscriptions.
The fifteenth century church is unique in having an octagonal tower, while inside there is a two deck pulpit and some rather flamboyant memorials.
After lunch the main party set out for Byland Abbey while the remainder explored the village and walked to Newburgh Priory. By this time the wind was very strong and bitterly cold.
Byland Abbey was founded in 1177 by monks who had come from Furness. The ruined walls are magnificent, and of special importance are the glazed tiles with their geometric patterns which still cover some of the floor. There is a small and interesting museum on the site.
We left Byland Abbey and journeyed to Sutton Bank where some of us battled against the cold and gusty wind to visit the White Horse. The silhouette of the horse is made of chalk and can be seen from a great distance.
We were all glad to return to the shelter of the coach and set off for home at 6 o’clock after a long and interesting day.
14th – 16th May 1982 – Mary Yule and Phyllis Garrod
It was a sunny afternoon when 27 members assembled at Vane Terrace for the journey to Kirkcudbright. The coach, with driver Ray, left promptly and our route took us across the Pennines, through the Vale of Eden to Carlisle, on over the border to Annan and Dumfries, and finally, by about 9pm, to the Royal Hotel, Kirkcudbright.
Coffee and sandwiches awaited us and then most members set off to explore the town which stands on the banks of the River Dee. There is a small harbour and several boats were moored at the jetty. Buildings of particular interest included the Old Tollbooth, a 16th century building with some gruesome neck-irons on one of the walls; and Maclellan’s Castle, built about 1577 for Sir Thomas Maclellan, the first Provost of the town.
There are a number of Georgian houses and one, called Broughton House, was the home of the late E.A. Hornel, a noted artist, and is now a museum housing a collection of paintings and Galloway books. Kirkcudbright has long been a favourite haunt of artists and potters who have their studios in some of the many old Closes.
Saturday morning dawned fine and sunny, and some members took an early walk through the fields bordering the river. Willow and sedge warbler, linnet, greenfinch, heron and redshank were all seen and there were shelduck on the mud-flats. Returning to the hotel past Maclellan’s Castle we saw fairy foxglove growing on the walls.
After an excellent breakfast we collected packed lunches ready for the expedition to Ross Bay. Our leader, Mr. Arthur Howatson, secretary of the local branch of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, arrived at 9am, with a colleague, Mr. Frazer Patterson. Our coach followed their car along the narrow, winding road with the sparkling waters of Kirkcudbright Bay on one side and woods full of bluebells on the other. From the road we bumped along a farm track for about half a mile before stopping near the rocky shore where shelducks and oystercatchers could be seen, and gorse bushes were a blaze of colour.
The path took us first through fields and then we came to an area planted with young conifers. Thrift, red campion, bluebells and primroses were flowering in abundance. The plantation opened into a more grassy area, and here we found spring squill (Scilla verna), a pretty blue flower with star-like form, flowering all around. Other plants recorded were mountain everlasting, rockrose, thyme-leaved speedwell, tormentil, butterwort, sea campion, lousewort, sea plantain, stag’s-horn plantain, bloody cranesbill, milkwort, false fox sedge, spring whitlow-grass, carnation sedge and several others.
Willow and sedge warbler sang in the bushes; a hare and a weasel were sighted, and Mr. Howatson showed us a rock pipit’s nest, well hidden in a crevice behind overhanging grass. Butterflies seen included green-veined white, small tortoiseshell, wall and a fritillary.
At this point we had a steep climb up the cliff. The effort was worthwhile when we saw the view of the coastline with Little Ross Island and its lighthouse just offshore. We watched kittiwakes, guillemots and fulmars on the sheer cliff face, and we also noted black-headed gulls, lesser black-backed gulls and cormorants.
Further along the cliff top we looked down onto sloping rock formations and were delighted to see black guillemot, the first sight of this species for many members. Herring gulls were nesting nearby and their well-camouflaged eggs were difficult to see amongst the rocks.
The spectacular, steeply dipping rocks were very old Silurian (450 million years old) sediments known as greywackes, laid down in deep ocean troughs. They became tilted by mountains that were rising to the north. Within these rocks occurred granite intrusions; two of the main ones being of Cairnsmore of Fleet, east of Newton Stewart, and Loch Doon, north of Loch Trool. Purple milk vetch was seen here on the cliff top. We then walked over the brow of Meikle Ross and back, through fields, to the coach.
As we thanked Mr. Howatson he gave us all a postcard showing the Otter Pool in the Galloway Forest Park, and he said he might be joining us on our visit to Loch Ken.
After a picnic lunch by the water’s edge we set off for Loch Trool, passing through Gatehouse of Fleet and along the coast to Creetown where the Cairnsmore of Fleet granite was being quarried. We then turned north to Newton Stewart, where the granite had been used in some of the buildings, on through Bargrennan and into Glentrool Forest. This is the largest of seven state forests which make up the Galloway Forest Park, some 33,000 acres of plantation and a slightly smaller area of rough hill ground. Sessile oak grows in three areas of the forest.
We split into two groups, one to walk the forest road to Bruce’s Stone, the other to follow the forest trail. Starting at the camp shop, the trail leads through a wood consisting mainly of large Scots pines, and after crossing the Pulharrow Burn, climbs up through Norway spruce and Sitka spruce. Almost continuous willow warbler song was heard but the trees were dense and very few birds were seen, and our view across the glen was restricted.
Signs of glacial activity in the area were apparent; Loch Trool infills a V-shaped valley and as we neared the head of the Loch, through a gap in the trees, we could see above us the hanging valley of Buchan Burn. At this point, too, we found a dead wood warbler by the path and were able to examine it closely. The path had been very uneven and strewn with rocks, but as we descended to the valley bottom it became easier and, reaching Glenhead Burn, we stopped for tea.
Refreshed, we set off again, noting the many granite erratics brought in the ice from the Loch Doon granite; and roches moutonnees were seen by the roadside. Crossing the Buchan Burn, with the Buchan Falls to our right, we continued up-hill to the Bruce Stone, which commemorates Robert the Bruce’s victory over the English force in 1307. At this point there is a superb view down the Loch.
We followed the forest road downhill, catching a glimpse of some of the wild goats which live in the glen, and rejoined the rest of the party at the coach. Birds seen during the afternoon included great and coal tits, black-headed gulls, raven, tree pipit and a goosander with three young. We also heard a cuckoo. Among the plants we saw were bog myrtle, marsh violet, yellow pimpernel, bitter vetch, male fern, hard fern, beech fern, and golden scale male fern.
As we left the glen the rain started and continued through the evening with some thunder, so after dinner most of us were content to sit in the lounge and talk over the events of the day.
On Sunday morning the rain had cleared and after packing our luggage into the coach we drove to Loch Ken/Dee RSPB reserve. On the way we noticed glacio-fluvial deposits, flat Valley bottoms (dried up glacial lakes) and numerous drumlins. The soils in this area, coupled with the mild climate, support some of the most productive dairy farming in the country. It was interesting to see some of the Belted Galloway cattle, which are black with a distinctive white belt round their middles.
At Glenlochar we passed the Hydro-electric Dam. We were met at the reserve by the warden, Mr. Ray Hawley, and were then joined by Arthur Howatson and Frazer Patterson.
The reserve, acquired by the RSPB in 1980, has two wetland areas frequented by Greenland white-fronted geese and large numbers of ducks during the winter, and an area of broadleaved woodland. From the track leading into the reserve we saw song thrush, oystercatcher, curlew, lark, yellowhammer, wren and chaffinch, and a brief glimpse of a snipe with its characteristic zig-zag flight.
In a small hazel wood we were shown a buzzard’s nest; garden warbler, wood warbler, blackbird and robin were all singing, and water hemlock was growing in the burn which flows through the wood. On open ground near the marshes we saw globe flower, marsh marigold and harestail cotton-grass, and two plants of special interest were spignel-mew and upright vetch.
Teal and mallard nest in this area and we were startled by a teal rising up from a clump of rough grass immediately in front of us. The nest was found to contain eleven eggs. Greylag geese and redpolls were also seen here and a single green-veined white butterfly was observed.
In an area of mature woodland containing magnificent beech trees and English oaks, a male pied flycatcher was seen calling from the top of a tall tree. Beneath the trees, bluebells were in flower and we watched a slowworm gliding through the grass. Other plants recorded were golden-scale male fern, opposite-leaved golden saxifrage, wild pansy and wood bitter vetch, and other species of birds included coal tit, blue tit, tree pipit, willow warbler and whitethroat.
After saying goodbye to Mr. Hawley, we drove to Threave Gardens. Presented to the National Trust for Scotland in 1948, they have been gradually developed and in 1960 Threave School of Gardening was opened. Threave House was converted into hostel and school accommodation. We ate our packed lunches at the rustic picnic tables, with spotted flycatchers flitting through the trees above us, and then we were ready to explore the many different areas of the gardens; the rose garden, walled garden and glasshouses, the rock garden, heather garden, and the arboretum – containing such species as Oregon alder, snowy mespil and spindle. Chaffinch, and red admiral butterfly were seen.
Members wishing to visit Threave Castle had only a very brief time in the gardens before taking a short ride in the coach and then walking along field paths to the river where we had to ring a bell to summon the boatman to ferry us to the island. Threave Castle was once the mighty stronghold of the Black Douglases, Lords of Galloway, and it stands on a grassy island between two branches of the River Dee. Said to have been built by Black Archibald, third Earl of Douglas, about 1369, it has changed hands many times and was used in the Napoleonic wars to accommodate French prisoners.
It consists of a tower-house, tall and massive, surrounded by a curtain wall with drum towers at the four corners. The tower-house had five stories, and the basement contained cellars, a well and a dungeon. We were able to climb up to the level of the Great Hall, from where we had a good view of the surrounding countryside.
All too soon it was time to return to Threave Garden and rejoin the rest of the party, and there, we just had time to sample the delicious cream cakes from the tearoom before boarding the coach for the homeward journey. After a brief stop at a motorway service station there was time to sit back and think over the events of the weekend, the highlight of which, I think most members would agree, came when we were able to watch, for several minutes, a pair of peregrine falcons at their nest site.
And so we arrived back in Darlington where we expressed our thanks to Mrs. Mulliner and Miss Stephenson for making the arrangements for a successful and enjoyable weekend, and to Ray, our driver, for his skilful driving throughout.
23rd May 1982 – Phil West
It’s an experience that you will never forget. Those words were going through my head at 3am on a Sunday morning when, along with six other club members, I met up with the leader, Don Griss, at Brignall Banks to listen to the dawn chorus.
We set off in good spirits despite the threat of rain and were soon rewarded by the call of a curlew. Following the path alongside the river we eagerly awaited our next bird song but the only sound we heard was when one of the party fell over a tree stump! However, this might well have awoken the birds for we soon heard robin, blackbird, mallard, song thrush, pheasant, pied flycatcher and willow warbler. A species of bat was observed, followed by the call of redstart, rook, chaffinch, blue tit, carrion crow, great tit, wood pigeon, starling, and wren.
As we continued by the river the barking of a roe deer was heard, and then it appeared on the opposite bank for a few minutes, giving the leading members of the party an excellent view. During the next thirty minutes jackdaw, wood warbler, blackcap, greater spotted woodpecker and swift were observed.
With the time having reached 6am we decided to stop for breakfast and during this respite some members took the opportunity to identify the flora of the area. We then retraced our tracks and had good views of pied wagtail, garden warbler and lapwing.
Just before arriving back at the cars the heavens opened and everyone became well and truly soaked. However, it was an outing that I was glad to be part of and I look forward to my next opportunity of listening to the dawn chorus with the Field Club.
Northumberland Coast (Farne Islands)
6th June 1982 – Vic Brown
As we left the town the weather was dull and uncertain, and the coach soon ran into rain which cleared north of the Tyne. Worse followed from our point of view when slight mist turned into fog until, by the time we reached Seahouses, the coast was enveloped by a dense north-east ‘harr’ and a word with Mr. Shiel, the boatman, confirmed our fears – no Farnes crossing.
Deciding to visit Bamburgh, we travelled alongside the fine dunes shielding the road from the shore and disembarked below the fogbound castle rooted on its basalt cliff. Here, each member followed their own interests, but the majority explored the dunes where soon, in the haunting light, bright anoraks crawled like exotic beetles through the sheathed flower-heads of marram grass and the seed-heads of lyme grass, rippling like patches of tawny wheat.
Yet even the poor light failed to hide the whereabouts of Myra Burnip, earnestly botanizing, for there the crowd was thickest. The larva of burnet moths climbed the grass stalks to pupate, and a drinker moth larva was found. Black ants teemed in their home beneath a rotting plank of wood, and wolf spiders lurked in wind-formed tangles, many bearing their treasured spherical egg cocoons.
Beautifully varied and decorative were the wind ripple marks in the sand were white-lipped and brown-lipped banded snails were legion, and, with liquid twittering, a goldfinch traced a glint of sunlight through the murk. With idiot laughter, herring gulls searched the tide-flung flotsam, seeking the pale dead things of the shore. A gamma moth rested on a broken-kneed marram stalk, and cinnabar moths flew weakly.
Ladybird larva hunted and slew the aphids clustered around the thistle stems. A sedge warbler flickered where the sun-trapped pockets were filled with wild irises in the dune slacks, and meadow pipits spun up to the safety of the sky. Song thrushes, blackbirds, dunnock, chaffinch, blue tit and a wren foraged on the marram-bound slopes.
Empty sea-shells with exquisite infolding curves beautified the tawny sand. A piece of broken bottle, ground harmless by the sea, glowed like the translucent glaze of ice on stone. A barnacle-covered baby’s shoe lay like a shell encrusted casket amid the innocent eyes of daisies, and a willow warbler sang its little voice of tumbling song from a copse beside the dunes.
A single whinchat was seen, and patches of bloody cranesbill were noted. The larva of a common blue butterfly was seen in the low, creeping trefoil. Stubby fulmars were nesting on cliffs, leaping upward to their castle crown. The fog still held the outer sea in mystery and all hope of the Farnes slipped away.
We left Bamburgh and journeyed to Newton-by-the-Sea. Like a sudden bloom across the sea, the sunshine came and summer drenched the land. The foamy billows of hawthorn ‘may’ were touched with rust, and thorn-guarded bouquets of dog rose garlanded the roadside. The tang of the sea mingled with the sweetness of gorse, and the huge scarlet bowls of garden escape poppies added colour and beauty to the day.
Common and arctic terns plunged for fish offshore with a graceful perfection and sunshine gave their crimson bills a purple glow and glinted on the wet of blood-red gapes. Cormorant and shag, somber birds, laboured low above he million radiances of the sea. Redshank hung on quivering wing above rock scars with olive seaweed tones. House martins skimmed the grassheads, and swifts etched their outlines under the sky.
A half-sunk reef was bestrangled with herring gull, lesser black-back and black-headed gull, and where the rocks thrust naked shoulders into the surf, green-naped eider drakes, bedewed with spray, dived for food, aloof and uncaring for the ducks and ducklings poppling on the water nearby.
We walked between tangled domes of thorn, bramble and briar; through the rising green foam of cow parsley, where pollen-touched bees sang their slumber song and great wide-eyed Hereford cattle tail-flipped the biting flies buzzing at their rumps. Spangled starlings gave their iridescent beauty to the eaves of an old building, and house sparrows bawled in the dusty rafters. Lapwings took to the air with stiff blows of their blunted wings.
On the mere we saw mallard with ducklings, and shelduck too, and a shoveler drake floated near the nesting colony of black-headed gulls. Moorhen, coot, and a graceful swan swam by; the riffles ruffled the mirrored calm of the water. A dunlin, sandwich tern and a kittiwake were almost out of place where skylarks filled the air with song, and pinned upon the sky’s hot wall, a kestrel altered its pitch of wing as it rode the rising thermals.
A pied wagtail tripped in the mud, and we saw ring dove and stock dove where a ringed plover flashed in swift display above an arable field.
The breeze sang to itself as it blew from the sea, softly touching our sun-hot cheeks. Then we left the slow music of the surf and the cry of the gulls to travel home through a land of pleasant contrasts in form, texture and colour as the day drew old. The sky, with spreading silent fire which softened and faded to tender shades, heralded the dusk, and a curlew flew into the sunset.
19th June 1982 – Robin Thwaites
Twenty-seven members and friends boarded the coach which was to take us to Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria for the beginning of a two-part walk along the edge of the river Eden and beneath the Pennine Way. Fortunately, it was ideal walking weather after the rains of the previous week.
On arrival at Kirkby Stephen we met another member of the Club and the party set off in a southerly direction through the town. After admiring the houses built of local stone we left the main street and headed across meadowland, from where we gained a good view of the nine cairns erected on top of the Pennines, and known as the Nine Standards.
We left the meadowland and made our way along the road until we reached the bridge where we took the steps down to the Eden. Here we saw how the continuous flow of water had formed circular holes in the limestone rock before it cascaded down into the gorge.
We crossed back over the road and into Stenkrith Park where we enjoyed lunch. From here we split up and spent half-an-hour exploring the area with its deciduous trees, grassy areas and small streams which cut their way through the rock until they met the Eden. Meeting at the far side gate of the park we set off again through pastures, where we found common spotted orchid, until we reached the footbridge. Once across the river we continued in single file along the narrow path eventually widening at a deciduous wood. Two weeks earlier the woodland floor had been a carpet of bluebells. Here the red sandstone was in evidence where a drover’s lane had been cut into the hillside.
For the next half mile we strolled along the tree-lined edge of the Eden until we arrived at Franks Bridge: it was in this area that we saw a female mallard and nine ducklings. This concluded the first part of the walk; those not wishing to continue crossed the bridge and took one of the small alleyways leading back to the market place. The remainder stopped by the bridge for a while to take refreshments and watch a pair of grey wagtail taking food to the nest.
When we commenced the second half of the walk we received an unexpected bonus. We passed the mill, crossed the road and took the footpath opposite, at which point we saw three red and yellow and two blue and yellow McCaws flying in the wild. Following enquiries we discovered that they belong to a local man who, in the summer months, allows them to fly free. Everything after that unusual sighting seemed quite ordinary. However, we carried on only to meet a heard of friendly heifers which we eventually led into a field rather than allow them to roam the road.
Taking the road left we climbed the hill with the impressive castle-like manor house of Staubers Hall on our right, and continued down into the town. The coach was not due to leave until 5:30p.m., which allowed us ample time to wander around the church and other interesting buildings before setting off for home.
Richmond – Applegarth Circular
26th June 1982 – Phyllis Garrod.
It had rained heavily the previous night; it poured down all morning and was still raining when we set off for Richmond at 1:45p.m. Thirteen hardy souls turned up, the skies cleared, and we enjoyed a very warm and sunny afternoon. A lovely sight on the way there was the carpet of oxeye daisies and meadow cranesbill on the verges and roundabout at Scotch Corner.
Leaving Richmond we approached the stile into West Pasture and were delighted to see two goldfinches on the fence. In the pasture we recorded chaffinch, thrush, willow warbler, blackbird, gulls, jackdaws and robin. Among the nettles and thistles was eyebright. Looking south across the Swale we saw ‘The Howe’ – the round hill by the river which now belongs to the National Trust, and probably of glacial origin. Its former owner, Cuthbert Reedshaw, built a pagoda on top with paths leading up to it.
We rejoined the road and there were flowers in profusion in the hedgerow, including bush vetch, cleavers, crosswort, pignut, water avens, ladies mantle, gorse, black medick, and mayweed; we saw chimney sweep moths, swallows, meadow pipit, curlew and yellowhammer. On entering Whitcliffe Woods, beautiful mature mixed woodland, we saw long-tailed tits and dunnock, honeysuckle, yellow loosestrife and broad-leaved willow herb. Leaving the wood, the footpath was through sheep pastures – limestone grassland under the Carboniferous limestone cliffs of Whitcliffe Scar. The bird song was mixed with gunfire from the army ranges. We saw many rabbits, pigeons and a wren. The Swale flowed very full and brown below us. Here was mullein, thyme, biting stonecrop, speedwell, dovesfoot cranesbill, chickweed, ground ivy, hawkweed, and ragged robin and strawberry near a pool with tadpoles. We saw the sponge fossil Hyalostelia smithsi in the rock outcrops, and in this area we looked, without success, for signs of the Iron Age site, supposed to be visible under the scar. There appears to have been quarrying and rock falls, the going being very rough away from the path. Here we saw rock rose.
We approached Applegarth and Deepdale, a steep-sided valley without a river, considered to be a glacial overflow channel formed by meltwater from the retreating Stainmore glacier 10,000 years ago. We noted the sheer face of the limestone, the horizontal bedding and the crinoid fossils. Vipers bugloss was growing on the steep slope, also milkwort, heath bedstraw and ferns. We also saw a golden pheasant.
After the steep climb and tea, cut short with a shower, the sun shone. Walking back to Richmond along the top of the scar, with bracken encroaching everywhere, we had excellent views across the valley to Hudswell, up the Dale, to the Hutton Monument and the ancient strip lynchets. The path was now muddy and slippery and we had to take care. We stopped to read the inscriptions on the monuments at Willance’s Leap, and saw wood sage, plovers, partridges and a donkey! Rejoining the road back to Richmond we filled our pockets with gooseberries, having had a very enjoyable afternoon’s walk with varied habitats and scenery.
Biller Howe, South of Whitby
17th July 1982 – Myra Burnip
Thirty-five members were favoured with warm sunny weather for our coach trip to Biller Howe under the able leadership of Brian Walker. Our coach driver nobly negotiated the narrow track and bridge at our destination to take us into the forest car park.
It was not long before we realised it was going to be an entomological day; moths, beetles and damsel flies were frequently seen on our walk over the acid moorland and forest track to Biller Howe. These are some that could be identified: broad-bordered yellow underwing moths everywhere; a caterpillar of the emperor moth; small white, tortoiseshell and small heath butterflies; dor beetles, red cardinal beetles and green tiger beetles; blue damsel flies, red damsel flies and a yellow damsel fly; a dragon fly; a common green grass-hopper obligingly rested on Stephen’s finger for quite a few minutes while most of us had a close look.
Bog myrtle, with its pleasing aroma, was one of the first plants I particularly noticed, as it is not found in County Durham. Bog asphodel, bogbean (fruit), lousewort and red rattle, cranberry and bilberry in fruit, marsh pennywort, hare’s-tail and common cotton grass, masses of sundew, bell heather and cross-leaved heath, and one patch of bog pimpernel all tell of the kind of habitat through which we passed.
Some members were lucky enough to see two adders; palmate newts and frogs added to our amphibian list. Many of us had enough energy left to visit Falling Foss which was about ¾ mile through the woods from our coach. We all had a wonderful day in quite a new area thanks to the suggestion from Brian, and many had bilberry tart for lunch next day.
Redcar and Coatham Marsh
24th July 1982 – Barry Hetherington and Myra Burnip
On a fine sunny day we made our way, via cars or train, to Redcar where we met our leader, Dr. Ted Hinton-Clifton. Our visit coincided with low tide so we made our way over the sand to the rocky shore to explore the rock pools. The rocks in this area were formed in the Jurassic period, specifically the Lower Jurassic, known as the Lias, and are rich in fossils. We found the remains of ammonites and fossil shell beds of gryphea.
Several varieties of the larger seaweeds were found, including sugar kelp and tangleweed. A number of dead specimens of our common jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) were found in a poor state of preservation but, luckily, a live one was discovered in a rock pool which showed the distinctive pattern of four horseshoe-shaped purple-violet reproductive organs. Ted was also fortunate in finding a starfish which was feeding on a mussel. However, by the time the rest of us had slithered over the rocks the starfish had withdrawn its stomach from inside the mussel.
The rocky shore produced its usual variety of animal life and we recorded plumose anemone, breadcrumb sponge, sea-mats, tube-worm casts, opossum shrimps, barnacles, common and dog whelks, shore, edible and hermit crabs, and young greater sand-eels.
After lunch we walked along the edge of the sea for about a mile and a half and then made our way to the dunes. The first plants we came across on the strand line were sea rocket and orache. The dunes themselves had been stabilised by marram grass, blue lyme grass and sand couch grass (Agropyron junceiforme).
Behind the dunes was a level area with many ‘fixed dune’ plants such as hawkweeds, common ragwort, kidney vetch, blue fleabane, nodding thistle, common centaury, yellow-wort and one late-flowering purple milk vetch. Several plants of great prickly lettuce (Lactuca virosa) was a new species to many. There were several salt-marsh areas with sea lavender, sea aster, greater sea spurrey, herbaceous seablite, glasswort, common salt-marsh grass and sea club rush. Both sea and marsh arrow-grass were seen and compared.
In the brackish water pools were tassel pondweed (Ruppia maritima) – a good find as it has not been seen for many years on the north side of the Tees, and brackish water crowfoot (Ranunculus baudottii). In fact, this is a very good area to show the different habitats found at the coast.
With such a variety of plants, it is no wonder that we saw several butterflies – small white, green-veined white, meadow brown, common blue and small copper. We also recorded six-spot burnet moths, damselflies and a dragonfly. Sunshine added to the enjoyment of the day and no doubt encouraged the flowers to open and the insects to fly. Amongst the birds we saw were cormorant, dunlin, ringed plover, yellow wagtail and partridge.
Wath – Bowderdale – Cautley Spout – Cross Keys
15th August 1982 – Richard Armitstead and Vera Chapman
Forty-six members and friends joined the Club’s second ‘August excursion’, this time to visit the Howgill Fells in Cumbria. In spite of a wet start, the forecast was reasonably encouraging and hopes for a fine day were high.
After a short break in Kirkby Stephen we arrived at Wath, a small village about five miles east of Tebay, and by 11.25 am 34 of us were ready for the assault on the Howgills. The remainder of the party continued by coach, via Tebay and the M6, to Sedbergh (birthplace of the leader!!) where they had lunch. They then proceeded up Cautley to the Cross Keys Temperance Hotel to await the arrival of the walkers.
Meanwhile, we walkers had made steady progress up Bowderdale. Most of the Howgill Fells consist of Silurian rocks which are coarse-grained, containing many small igneous dykes of lamprophyre, rich in mica. Rocks of Ordovician age make up the rest of the fells. Starting on the Bannisdale Slates, our long and gradually rising journey took us through grits, shales and flagstones. The high fells above us were of Coniston Grit, which forms most of the summits.
We soon left the cultivated farmland behind and followed a well worn track heading south (upstream) by the Bowderdale Beck, between West Fell and Hooksey. Unfortunately, the tops of the fells were shrouded in mist but we noted their soft, rounded contours contrasting with the more familiar Lake District hills to the west.
By 12.30 we had worked up a healthy appetite and had arrived at some convenient old sheep pens in the bottom of the valley by the beck. While we were eating we had the first of two short spells of drizzle, otherwise the weather was ideal for walking. After lunch we climbed gently up towards Bowderdale Head at just over 1,400 feet, passing up the valley to the west of Yarlside which rises to over 2,000 feet. As we walked we noticed a lot of soil erosion on the valley sides, which in places looked like small landslides, and small streams had piled up gravel on the valley floor.
We reached Bowderdale Head at about 3.30 and had our first glimpse of the top of Cautley Spout. As we descended through Coniston Flags and Stockdale Shales (dark shales with thin limestones) we had splendid views of the waterfall and also met up with some of the other members who had walked from Cross Keys. At this point we watched three shepherds and six sheepdogs gathering their sheep for dipping. The flock of about 200 sheep and lambs passed by us as they made their way down the side of the spout and on to the farm below the Hotel after fording the River Rawthey.
In this area is the minor ingredient of the Howgill Fells; a small, older patch of Ordovician rocks exposed only around Cautley. It comprises the Ashgill Shales and the Coniston Limestone Series (dark shales with impure limestone).
On our walk the botanists found the small rills and flushes we had to cross most rewarding, recording sundew, butterwort, chickweed willowherb, starry saxifrage and bog pondweed. Parsley fern was prolific in one place only, on rough scree just after we went over the watershed. A large area of wayside cudweed amongst bracken was unusual although the track, its usual habitat, was nearby. The ornithologists noted raven, buzzard and wheatear. On the path we saw many dor beetles.
To complete a very pleasant day, 34 of us feasted on the Cross Keys speciality – ham and eggs teas, and for me personally, it was just as good as I first remember it some 45 years ago.
Our journey home from the Cross Keys took us along the Rawthey valley, along which runs the Dent Fault. This feature separates the Howgill Fells from the Pennines. On our left stood the steep, smooth, rounded Howgill Fells with ancient rocks and a complex structure, much folded and faulted. On our right, in contrast, lay the Pennines with a simple structure of horizontal layers of Carboniferous rocks with the flat-topped, table like summits of Wild Boar Fell and Baugh Fell. Below these, on the lower slopes near the road, the terraces of scars of the massive Great Scar Limestone were very much in evidence. Rarely does one travel along a valley with two sides so clearly and dramatically different.
Grinton and Maiden Castle
4th September 1982 – Thea Mulliner
On a fine, sunny day, 36 members travelled by coach to the area above Grinton where there was much activity in the days when the lead mines were working. Here we were met by Mr. Barker, Warden of the North Yorkshire Dales National Park, who took us to the head of a ‘hush’ at the top of the hill and explained the various processes of lead mining. A dam would have been built to hold water which, when released, would rush down the hillside, washing away the earth to expose the lead veins.
We then followed the hush down to the Smelt Mill in the valley. One arched entrance to a level was seen, and a few specimens of galena (lead ore) were found on a spoil heap. Spring sandwort, a plant that can tolerate lead mine spoil, was still flowering in places. The Smelt Mill dates back to 1840 and is in such good condition that a fund has been started for its restoration and preservation as an historical monument.
From the mill we walked down the hillside with magnificent views all the way, and after our picnic lunch, boarded the coach and travelled beyond Healaugh and Scabba Walk Bridge. Here we noticed a large stand of juniper on the hillside. Walking again, we went along the minor road towards Grinton and then upwards across the moor to Maiden Castle. This is a large square area believed to have been a Bronze Age settlement. On the east side, an avenue led to a tumulus.
After a short stay at the site our party divided, the majority walking on to Grinton and the remainder back to the coach. Throughout the day we were delighted to see so many butterflies, mainly red admirals, as well as painted lady and peacock. In appreciation of a very pleasant day the club sent a donation of £10 to the Smelt Mill Restoration Fund.
Barnard Castle Circular
18th September 1982 – Vic Brown
As we left Barnard Castle the morning mist lay upon the Flatts Wood and rolled above the peat-stained waters of the River Tees. There were voices in the landscape; those of the robin were everywhere. Our path led us through the trees, whose arches of greenery were bordered with the long wands of grasses and the pale blue of scabious; here was the green and bitter smell of decaying weeds.
A soft sibilance of goldcrest voices came from the dark larches ranked up the valley side, where four roe deer froze, stared and slipped away into the shadows, soft and mysterious in the fog. We walked through places dark, cool and sedgy, below torn walls of rock where, with an explosion of sound, a wren sang. A song thrush fled where blackbirds flicked over leaves in the russet tangles. It was very still and silent where often no life moved, for these are the bird-silent days of September.
Then, up onto the open fields. Stepping out from the dark shadows of the trees we found a different world; the fog had gone and sunlight softly touched the grasses. The distant fells were a glorious hyacinth blue. Rooks foraged where wayward sheep-tracks wandered on the hill, and we heard the far-off plaintive cry of a peewit. Oaks were heavy with acorns and there leaves were thick with spangle and cherry galls. A chaffinch ‘pinked’ and a pair of carrion crows lifted from the cow-manure-crusted byres of West Holme House Farm. Here, house sparrows ‘chirruped’ and starlings ‘wolf whistled’ from the rooftops.
From here, we went down through a little ghyll where dewdrops – those delicate jewels of the morning – wove gossamer necklaces of translucent light, and where liverworts slimed the rocks in the damp, dark crannies low down by the stream. Birchbracket fungi and woodpecker holes hastened the end of a dying tree. Ring doves rose and fell in a display flight above the larch plantation, hanging upon the hillside like a curtain of golden lace. A bluetit sang were ash-keys thickly clustered and bright red splashes marked the berry laden rowans. Sloes, the gin flavouring fruit of the blackthorn, had a beautiful bloom on their skins, and the ground-covering bramble trapped unwary feet. The sunshine and heat brought out the butterflies; small white, peacock, red admiral and small tortoiseshells were everywhere.
Our lunch and a well-earned rest were taken below Cotherstone, where dappled sunlight lay on a river singing its watery music. A pied wagtail tripped on the bank of clean washed stones while swallows and house-martins flew in a paradise of light. We watched the water, fanning out in little gushes and then vanishing again. Our senses where overwhelmed with the intricacy and textures of our surroundings. We heard the minute song of a midge and saw a solitary wasp, and a bee leaped head-first into the orange and lemon blend of toadflax flower. We shared our surroundings with violet ground beetles and eyed-ladybird, while under the stones we found millipedes, centipedes, click beetle larva and a pill millipede (Glomeris marginata). We also found a nest of Pygmy ants.
After our lunch we made our way into Cotherstone, passing two ruby tiger moth larva on the path. In the cottage gardens the small tortoiseshells clustered on ice plants. The tall arching sprays of roses were still laden with blossom, scenting the tranquil air. Ice lollies were bought from the village store to temper the heat of the afternoon. Furry-bottomed bumble bees and flies, those hovering specks of colour, were wandering gems of living things, passing and re-passing through the light. The cottages seemed to have grown out of the earth itself and the grey limestone walls were a picture of sunshine and shade. It is the small things in life, as well as the large things, which make the world a wonderful place. The restless presence of the towns went unheeded.
We turned down a hot, dusty lane and walked by a beck that wound its way with many twists and turns into the heart of a September day. We passed Towler Hill Farm with its sharp tang of horse manure, and made our way into Towler Hill Plantation. Here, white down from the seeding heads of massed rosebay willowherb drifted like delicate sunshot wisps of mist, covering our clothing as we toiled up the slope. Common gulls, black-headed gulls and a lesser black-back gull were grouped on a field. Pheasant poults, some forty strong – keeper reared and freed to feed the twelve-bores mouth – were seen running through a hedge. Beech trees were shining a golden green, so heavy with mast the wonder was they did not break. There were gulls on the river and we saw trout trying to catch the floating flies.
We walked onto the bridge, cobwebbed with the corpses of flies, and stopped (bridges are made to lean on) to watch the subdued dazzle on the arches as the network of reflected ripples drifted by. The county bridge was like a rainbow set in stone and we marvelled at the play of sunlight on the castle; for man is the designer but nature is the artist. To the west were low clouds, while the sky above was like a meadow, herringbones with the last windrows of the hay.
On our homeward journey we reflected on a rather uneventful, quiet day, but a lovely one and typical of the pleasures inherent in walks with the Field Club.
26th September 1982 – Don Griss
This outing was planned to start from the RSPB car park but as all members seemed to gather near the Reclamation Pond shortly before the appropriate time we started from there.
The Reclamation Pond was alive with birds, mainly duck. These were made up of a very large flock (c. 100) of teal, several shelduck and wigeon. A large number of lapwing had gathered on the mud area together with a small flock of golden plover. We also saw swallows, kestrel, great black-backed gull, meadow pipit, coot and mallard. Mr. Brown, who had been before the main party and whom we eventually caught up with on Saltholm Pool, also saw pochard, tufted duck and, while passing Dormons Pool, stock dove.
The previous week Saltholm Pool had been the temporary residence of a long-toed stint – the first British record. We, however, had the usual autumn migrants of little stint and curlew sandpiper, together with the ever present dunlin. Some of the little stint were very tame and came within ten yards of the watching party. The curlew sandpiper were wilder but still gave us some very good views. Other birds seen here were a wheatear, a flock of linnet, and, not so common away from trees, greenfinch and chaffinch. On the portions of the pool near the road we saw ruff, redshank, coot and several little grebe. The grebes breed on this part of the pool and both young and adult birds were to be seen.
From the Saltholm area we moved on to the Long Drag which used to be the old sea wall before the large area of Seal Sands was reclaimed. Now, all that is left on the seaward side are a few rather muddy pools. It was here that we saw redshank, curlew, sandpiper, dunlin and grey plover. The latter, as always, an immaculate bird in its silver grey plumage. Rook, meadow pipit, and skylark were also seen.
As we reached the end of the Long Drag and looked out over Seal Sands the storm clouds started to gather and, as the RSPB hide is no longer there, we just had to sit and take it. By donning waterproofs and sitting with our backs to the rather strong wind we were able to sit out what proved to be a very nasty spell of rain. This was made easier by the fact that, because we were less conspicuous than normal, birds coming in off the mud tended to fly near to us, a strong reminder that to sit and wait is the best way of seeing wildlife. Cormorant, scaup (a pair), red-breasted merganser and great crested grebe were to be seen on the water, and bar-tailed godwit, great black-backed gull, ringed plover, black-tailed godwit, oystercatcher, turnstone, common tern, curlew, wigeon, pintail, teal, shelduck and redshank were either on the mud or flew over us. As if to emphasise how Seal Sands got its name, about twelve grey seal were lying on the mudbank.
We returned down the Long Drag and had lunch in the cars, after which we drove to the golf course car park and went on the North Gare. The weather was still very patchy but, by finding shelter from the wind and ignoring the showers, we were able to see more birds from the breakwater. Cormorant, bar-tailed godwit, turnstone, sandwich tern, and both common and arctic terns, arctic skua, wigeon, guillemot, sanderling, wheatear and rock pipit were there. And as a bonus our second marine mammal – a single porpoise rolled once and was gone.
Altogether a very good day; plenty of interesting birds and the weather just bearable.
23rd October 1982 – Elsie Stephenson
Eleven members met at Barton on a lovely sunny day and walked by “The Ashes”, along a cart track to the Piercebridge road. We then followed this road for about a quarter of a mile, turned left up by Micklow Hill Farm and over the field paths to Aldbrough. From there we went along a minor road, crossed the Piercebridge road again and continued over field paths, by Brettanby Manor, to Church Lane and back to Barton. The length of the Walk was about six miles.
There were 41 plants still in flower, and some very large mushrooms were eagerly gathered by certain members of the party. We saw several butterflies – small tortoiseshells and red admirals – and a silver Y moth. There was very little bird life but we did record two herons and a flock of yellowhammers.
We did see a very striking thing that none of us had seen before. Two fields, one ploughed and one with grass, were covered with millions of spider threads and, in the sunlight, the whole fields were a shimmering mass of gossamer.
20th – 22nd May 1983 – Mary Wood
On Friday afternoon 28 members left Darlington by coach for Derbyshire. At Bakewell we were joined by Mary Yule. The Sandringham Hotel, Buxton, was reached in time for dinner after which most members went to explore the town and Pavilion Gardens.
On Saturday morning we set off in bright sunshine for Miller’s Dale. Here we were pleased to be joined by Mr. & Mrs. Norman Thorn, former members of our Club now living in Bakewell. The botanists had a field day in the Miller’s Dale Reserve where Mrs. Penny Anderson, a consultant ecologist and botany recorder with the Derbyshire Trust, was our guide. The Reserve is a series of disused limestone quarries where hairy violet, hairy rock cress and cowslips grow; on the spoil heaps were thale cress and rue-leaved saxifrage, while the presence of wood goldilocks and dog’s mercury showed that we were in an area of undisturbed original woodland. It was very noticeable that the butterbur was mostly female in contrast to the male which is the only one found in the Tees valley. We were lucky to find several plants of the small fern adder’s tongue on the floor of the quarry. The President, Mr Phil West, in expressing our thanks to Mrs. Anderson, presented her with a copy of Magnesian Limestone of County Durham and The Natural History of Upper Teesdale; also a donation to a sponsored birdwatch she was doing for the Trust – 30 birds had been recorded during our walk in the Reserve.
We left Miller’s Dale for Tideswelldale where we had our picnic lunch in warm sunshine, listened to the birdsong and delighted in the orangetip butterflies flitting to and fro. After lunch we walked along the river where we recorded both dove’s foot and shiny-leaved cranesbill, spring whitlow grass, lamb’s lettuce and wall whitlow grass before being caught in a heavy shower. An hour’s drive brought us to Treak Cliff Cavern which most of the party visited. We entered by the old series of chambers discovered by lead miners in 1750. In this area, seams of the famous Blue John Stone (banded fluorite) were seen. This wonderful mineral is still being mined today but only in small quantities. The new series of chambers – Dream Cave, Aladdin’s Cave, witches cave and Fairyland – lived up to their names. The stalactites and stalagmites were magnificent, some, although only 2 inches apart could take over 1,000 years to join together. The wonder on the faces of our President’s children, Ruth and Keith, told it all.
Next we visited the plague village of Eyam where, in August 1665, the rector persuaded the villagers to remain in the village and so prevent the disease from spreading. Whole families were wiped out.
On Sunday morning we left for the RSPB reserve at Coombes Valley, Staffordshire, where we were met by Mr. Maurice Waterhouse, the warden. Disregarding the heavy rain most members went on the one and a half mile nature trail through fields and deciduous woodland where the paths were very muddy. Despite the conditions, birds recorded were pied flycatchers, blackcap, willow warblers, coal tit, nuthatch, dipper and redstart. Many members saw lesser and greater spotted woodpeckers feeding at the baskets provided near the hide.
After lunch we went to Hardwick Hall, situated nine miles southeast of Chesterfield. This splendid Elizabethan house was built for Bess of Hardwick between 1591 and 1597. The house remains virtually as it was built with its important tapestries, furniture and paintings intact, due mainly to the fact that Bess’s descendants, the Devonshires, chose Chatsworth as their principal seat and Hardwick was left unused for years. We enjoyed a fantastic tour into the past, moving from room to room, from gallery to staircase, culminating in a visit to the High Great Chamber with its marvellous fireplace, fine furniture and the famous Natural History Plaster frieze. Tea and cakes were served in the Great Kitchen and all too soon it was time to take our leave of Hardwick: also to say goodbye to Mary Yule who was met by her husband.
On our way home the President expressed our thanks to Phyllis Moses and Mary Yule for arranging a most successful and enjoyable weekend; and our driver for his skilful driving.
29th May 1983 – Don Griss
This year it was decided to exchange the singing of the river Greta for the more solid roar of the river Wear as the dawn chorus outing was transferred to Witton-le-Wear.
On the way to our 3a.m. meeting at the reserve several car occupants were delighted by the sight of two fox cubs playing on the road, chasing each other with the abandon of puppies.
Normally we have to wait for our first singing birds but this time we were met by vigorously singing sedge warblers. This was at 02:56 hours and they went on for the whole of the time we were there. At 03:21 we heard our first chaffinch calling but some time later we realised that the sedge warbler was fooling us and incorporating chaffinch and pied wagtail calls into its song.
We walked slowly around the reserve listening for more certain sounds.
03:31 we heard a little grebe trill and then started to hear more.
03:40 tawny owl calling
03:44 a roding woodcock flew over and we heard our first wood pigeon
03:49 the first robin
03:52 a distant blackbird
03:54 a moorhen called
03:59 we detected song thrush in the increasing mass of blackbird song
04:01 the call of a heron
04:03 common sandpiper calling
04:14 the first warbler – a willow warbler
04:18 the first of several tree pipits
04:22 a common whitethroat
04:39 two cervids flew over (rook/carrion crow) dark against the morning sky
04:50 blue and great tits started together
05:00 seen or hears – magpie, jackdaw and curlew
05:03 several tufted duck seen of the smaller pools
05:10 the cuckoo started to call
05:16 definite sighting of chaffinch (we no longer trusted call notes) and starlings were flying around
05:18 heron flew over
05:26 the first swift
05:27 linnets singing near the buildings
05:28 our noisy passage disturbed a roe deer which stopped to look over its shoulder and then moved off
05:35 a wren was heard – very late for this species – we had been listening for it for a long time
05:57 an electric blue flash over the pool as a kingfisher arrived
06:03 the mute swan’s nest is easily seen
06:23 yellowhammer singing
06:31 a piping in the bushes near the buildings was traced to a pair of bullfinches
The next hour will be remembered by many of the fifteen members present (we had one visitor from Sunderland) as the best of the morning and for that we must thank Mary Wood and Phyllis Moses for producing a very welcome cooked breakfast which was treated in the appropriate way by some very wide-awake naturalists with healthy appetites.
26th June 1983 – Vic Brown
As the coach left, the day was dull but there were birds to see on the journey; kestrel, lapwing, stock and ring dove, starling, house sparrow, magpie and a redshank on a roadside marsh. In the infinite variety of colour flooding by, the hawthorn hedges appeared as if covered with snow. The weather brightened and huge clouds sailed as serene as swans. More birds – snipe, skylark, swallow, yellowhammer, and a corn bunting sitting with drooping tail on a wire.
At Seahouses all the signs were set fair, house martins and swifts flew high, the wind blew offshore and the sea was moderate. As we boarded the boat my heart jumped like a captive grasshopper for the familiar scene brought the magic of old association. As the boat slid away from the breakwater three gannets, down from Bass Rock, noiselessly rode a highway in the sky where a great black-backed gull cruised and fulmars glided. A sombre cormorant laboured towards the islands, guillemot dived and puffins whirred away, their little red paddles stuck sideways from their bodies.
The Farnes drew close, their huge whinsill rocks rising to stark cliffs with breakers thundering at their feet. Here, in November, white seal pups lie in rocky nurseries while their parents moan above the fury of cold grey sea. Forever linked with Grace Darling’s name, the Longstone Light thrust into the sky where gulls white-peppered the rocks and outlined shags stood on the upflung crags. Curious grey seals, upright in the water, gazed with clear fathomless eyes before slowly sinking back.
As we approached Brownsman, guillemots dived through the clear green water in an effort to escape the close proximity of our boat. On every ledge, niche and cranny were birds at rest – hundreds of guillemots and odd pairs of razorbills, scores of shags and a thousand kittiwakes calling their name aloud to the unheeding sky. The clamour and movement was bewildering and we simply sat and stared. Here, if anywhere, was the reality that true interpretation of nature lies not in simply recognising its beauty but also in catching the spirit of that beauty.
Landing on the weed-strewn rocks at Staple Island was a little tricky but we soon spread about the deeply fissured island enjoying close approach to breeding birds, most of which had young. Kittiwakes kissed and gently caressed each other’s neck and head, and dark-eyed mauve-gaped fulmars cuddled. Jade-eyed shags neck-snaked and vibrated gular pouches, and guillemots packed, tight as a Cup Final crowd, on the Pinnacles. Wil-o-Wisp, a rock pipit tried to sneak to its nest. Puffins flew in with tiny fish crammed crosswise in their painted nebs or – clownish little sentinels – stood where their nesting burrows pockmarked the turf. There, too, were herring and lesser black-back gulls ever alert for a meal of puffin chick.
Inner Farne, and a landing in St. Cuthbert’s Cove where a pair of agitated ringed plover ran across the wave-rippled sand, and we ran the gauntlet – not unscathed – of angry, diving terns. Tern chicks were everywhere, tiny huddles of mottled down. An arctic tern was picked up, the warmth of life still in its body but its wild spirit had flown, its bright existence gone forever, and we felt something exquisite had left the world even as we admired the spotless plumage.
A few common tern were seen – there are few on the islands – but the plumed heads of sandwich terns were easy to see, and their breeding colony easy to define. Brooding eiders were patiently sitting, a tiny jewel of light in their steadfast eyes. Banded snails were common, a few rabbits and a small white butterfly were seen. Severe erosion of the thin soil bore witness to the heavy and prolonged spring rains which had seriously affected puffin burrows and tern nesting ground. Oystercatchers probed the wrack tangles on the shore. A bumblebee flew above the waves as the Farnes fell astern, and as we looked to the mainland we saw the bright scarf of the tide-line shimmering in the distance.
At Newton-by-the-Sea, on the way to the mere, we saw wild parsley, burnet rose, patches of white campion and bloody cranesbill. Willow and sedge warblers sang, and there were song thrush, blackbird, blue tit, rook, jackdaw, carrion crow, pied wagtail and a cock chaffinch; also burnet moth and a small, very ruddy-coloured toad.
On the mere were shelduck, mallard and pochard, mute swans swam above their own reflections, little grebe dived with only a small ripple, and moorhen and coot, with their chicks, fussed about the reed beds. Black-headed gulls screamed and tufted ducklings ran like tiny speedboats in a flurry of flying droplets along the surface of the water. Last, but not least, a black-necked grebe in breeding plumage – the bird of the day!
18th June 1983 – Vic Brown
The shrill screaming of swifts greeted us at Cotherstone and a rabbit ran for the safety of a bush. Trout were rising in the river and an orange-tip butterfly flew by. We climbed a slope beneath old trees gnarled and twisted through years of upland weather and emerged onto high open fields. We listened to the chaffinches lilting, ecstatic outbursts from wrens, lazy croodling of ring doves, blue and great tits and thrushes chiming in. Dunnocks, willow warblers, blackbirds and robins joined the chorus.
We followed the Balder through bluebells and red campions, a pheasant called and hawthorn flies – their legs adangle – hung black and heavy. There were spiders and a nest of meadow ants beneath an old log. Lapwings and curlews circled and called above. Goldsborough and Shacklesborough rose ahead beyond wide-open spaces filled with light. Small and green-veined whites danced in the sun. A blackcap and a garden warbler spread music in the sweetness of their song.
Of footpath there was little sign until beyond an old railway viaduct a farm road led to West End Farm. A mallard towered up from the river and a stock dove flashed by. An awkward stile was surmounted and we were rewarded with breathtaking views of the dale, beneath the trees and river was a tumbling wild thing glimpsed through the intervening leaves. In a cloud of gorse the curve of the hill rose to meet the sky.
It was hot, the first really hot day of the year. As we paused for lunch a treecreeper crept like a shadow while redstart and pied flycatcher sang in the sun-dappled shade. There were larvae of heart and dart moths, also click beetles, ground beetles and wireworms. A tree pipit darted from a tree and Mary Yule heard the vibrant song of a wood warbler. A starling’s pale blue egg was found. We had a flash of white wingbars as a redshank left its secret place.
We came to a farmyard filled with swallows where a carrion crow furtively slid away and we saw four long legged foals and their sleek mares, with pied and yellow wagtails darting beneath their hooves in pursuit of disturbed flies.
At Hury Reservoir a lesser black-back gull high in the sky and black-headed gulls in turmoil, their trailing legs cutting bright lines in the water as they rose. Rainbow trout in holding cages lashed and slashed as they were fed and the boilings without showed where wild fish waited for food drifting from the cages. Perch traps were piled onshore ready for use – perch are not welcome in game fish waters. An alder fly ran across the water where dark olives dimple the surface. A grateful coolness rose from the peat-stained water.
On down a sun flecked road where a redstart pair called plaintively and rooks called above the fresh green larches. We saw rove beetles and flycatcher while the skylark filled the sky with song. At East Briscoe four domestic pigeons sat atop a lichened barn the image of their rock dove forebears. Then to Balder Grange and finally Cotherstone where we watched house martins sweeping, saw collared doves on the roofs of houses, a greenfinch flew by and we heard the loud chatter of sparrows.
Lake District – Ullswater
21st August 1983 – Raymond and Phyllis Garrod
Forty-four members went by coach to Ullswater on a glorious day when the Lake District was seen in all its splendour.
There were fourteen in the first party which was dropped off at Dockray, 960 feet up the steep road between Gowbarrow and Glencoyne Park. We climbed up the fellside to reach a narrow footpath which traversed high round the beautiful steep-sided valley of Glencoynedale. There were many drumlins in the bottom of this once glaciated valley. A mine entrance and spoil heap below the path were signs of past lead mining activity. These rocks of the Borrowdale Volcanic Series are lavas, 400 million years old, and very hard, forming all the rugged mountain scenery in the Lake District. Later there was uplift, erosion and finally glaciation which overdeepened the lakes – Ullswater is 230 feet deep – and formed U-shaped valleys, the ice having scoured and smoothed the valley bottoms.
The shoulder below Greenside was reached at 1886 feet and some “bagged” Sheffield Pike and Beacon at 2232 feet and were rewarded with superb views along Ullswater, to the Pennines and Cross Fell, High Street, Kirkstone, Catstycam and Helvellyn. The path now dropped steeply to Sticks Pass and to the site of the Greenside Lead Mines. This pass, between Glenridding and Keswick, went out of use for carting ore in the early 1800’s. These mines operated almost continuously for 150 years from 1822 to 1962 and were some of the best mines in England. There were crushing and washing plants, and the dressed ore was carried to the smelter at Alston via Glenridding and Ullswater. When the mine closed in 1962 the site was cleared, all the temporary buildings removed and the entrance to the mine obliterated for safety. A Youth Hostel and Mountain Rescue Post make use of the Mine Shops where the miners lived during the week. We continued down to Glenridding, not an old settlement but developed with the expansion of the Greenside Mines, and now a flourishing holiday centre. Buzzard, green woodpecker, ravens, wheatear, and rock and meadow pipits were recorded.
The rest of the party went on to Glenridding and caught the 11:30 boat to Howtown, a very enjoyable and scenic half-hour’s trip. Two of the party had a longer cruise, three stayed in Howtown and came back on a later sailing, and twenty five walked the six miles back to Glenridding via Sandwick, Long Crag, Silver point and Blowick. The path was sometimes near the lake, sometimes high above it – the views were always magnificent. On the lake were yachts, passenger boats, windsurfers and bathers, and very tranquil since a 5mph speed limit was introduced in July.
Both parties had ample time to stop often to rest and enjoy the wonderful scenery, arriving in Glenridding with time to have an ice cream, cool drink or cup of tea before setting off for home.
4th March 1984 – Vic Brown
A 7:30am start from Vane Terrace, in rain and 8/8 cloud. There was a noticeable thinning out of the woods by fallen trees after the January gales. Rook nest bundles in the delicate tracery of treetops, loomed black against the dullness of travelling clouds, proof of the sound construction in their very existence. Rooks themselves, tough as pirates, rolled about the fields with a seaman’s gait. Proud cock-pheasants strutted where fieldfare and redwing dotted the pastures and starling flocks wove intricate patterns. Blackbirds were everywhere. Carrion crows were, as usual, in pairs, and house sparrows clustered about farmstead and village. Ring doves were numerous. There was a solitary collared dove near Greta Bridge, and a single pied wagtail. We saw lapwing, black-headed gulls, song thrush and magpies, in ever increasing numbers.
Over Stainmore’s wilderness of peat, sedges, boulders and bog, a fog settled like a grey shawl on the shoulders of the fells. Once clear of the shrouded steep broken hills, we entered into the peaceful loveliness of the Eden Valley, and on to the mist coiled fields of the Border Esk. The border country was winter-bitten and bare, but a red-breasted merganser on the River Annan held a promise.
At Caerlaverock Wildfowl Refuge, eager eyes found a perfection of birds, viewed from the shelter of the Information/ Observation glass panelled centre, and the respective hides on the reserve. Gorgeous whooper swans, mute swans, slim and beautiful pintail ducks, hordes of widgeon, mallard, busy little tufted duck, shelduck, and rarer, gadwall. Pochard with heads shining like newly opened horse chestnuts. Geese – hundreds of them – perfect as if newly minted! – greylag, pink feet, small neat barnacle. By the Solway, more shelduck, cormorant, oystercatcher, ringed plover, curlew and redshank. A kestrel above Blackshaw Mere. A scatter of rain-bright finches. Herons – grey birds on a grey day. Herring gull, golden plover, jackdaw, blue tit and great tit. Linnets with their sudden cascade of twittering flight notes. A robin singing. A dunnock shuffling in a drift of dead hawthorn leaves. Greenfinch, meadow pipit and perky chaffinch. Intense excitement, too, when we saw a goose, the very image of a blue phase snow goose, but this bird, on closer inspection, had yellow legs, not dull purple pink, and was believed by the experts to be a barnacle/emperor goose hybrid.
Something disturbed the geese and swans and as we watched from the observation centre we heard the typical call, like a pack of yapping dogs, of the whooper swans as they lifted above the reserve in a visual perfection of swan in flight. We could cheerfully have spent much more time at the reserve but calls were scheduled at Glencaple on the River Nith and Carlingwark Loch at Castle Douglas, both quiet by comparison, but a lesser black-backed gull was sighted and several goldeneye displayed in the water beneath the willows. A sight to delight the eye were the huge carpets of snowdrops, especially around Castle Douglas. Loch Ken, lonely and lovely (filled with a bird-watchers dreams) leading us to tumbling country beyond New Galloway, afforded the party some walking along a lane bright with fresh unpolluted lichens and mosses. A hen harrier was one of the first birds sighted, which caused great commotion amongst the coot and moorhen; they scattered for safety and the duck sprang into flight. The harrier departed, peace returned, and we saw great crested grebe, goosander, teal and other species noted earlier in the day.
White fronted geese were seen on top of a high slope, and when a motor cyclist roared through the narrow lane a large flock of white fronts and greylag rose with a thunderous babel and rush of wings – breathtaking moments as the great birds broke into wavering skeins across the canvas of the sky p a stirring picture in wild nature to close our ramblings before the long journey home.
18th – 20th May 1984 – Marjorie Bullen
Twenty-six field Club members left Darlington to spend the weekend at Grange over Sands. We arrived at the Grayrigge Hotel in time for dinner and a walk. Many different water birds can be seen on the estuary including shelduck, mallard, black-headed gull, herring gull and heron.
On Saturday morning we set off to Eskmeals Dunes Nature Reserve at Ravenglass. We were taken on a tour of the Reserve by the Warden, Tony Warburton. There had been a ban on visits to the Reserve because of contamination from the nuclear power station at Winscale. However, it was given the all-clear in time for our visit.
Sand dunes are a unique and, unfortunately, very fragile environment. The southern peninsular of Eskmeals is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. So far, over 300 species of higher plant life, 103 bird species, 16 mammals, five reptiles and amphibians, and 18 butterflies have been recorded on or around the dunes. One of the most exciting things we saw were a pair of natterjack toads, which are becoming quite rare.
Of the plants seen were heartsease pansy, storksbill, rest-harrow, lady’s bedstraw, and birds-foot trefoil. Two insects were flying about, St. Mark’s fly and cinnabar moth. Birds recorded on our visit were skylark, cuckoo and meadow pipit. The weather was perfect and Tony Warburton a most informative guide. Unfortunately, we did not have nearly enough time to see everything.
The afternoon was spent in and around Ravenglass. Three members of the party took a ride on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway from Ravenglass along the Esk Valley, a popular trip with visitors to the village. The rest of the group split up into two, some people having lunch in the village and walking up to Muncaster Castle, which was the destination of the rest of the party.
There has been a building on the site of the castle since Roman times, when Ravenglass was a busy port. The present castle had its beginnings in a Pele Tower built in 1325. The castle is still a family home, full of antique furniture and paintings, collected over generations of the family, but the best part, in May and June, is the garden. Muncaster is famous for its azaleas and rhododendrons. When we were there it was a blaze of colour.
Sunday morning saw us on our way again to Whithernslack to visit the Hervey Reserve, a Memorial to Canon G.A.K. Hervey, the Founder of the Lake District Naturalists Trust. There are about 250 acres, including woodland, limestone grassland, low scars and limestone pavement.
With excellent guides, our ‘A’ party took the high route, and the ‘B’ party took the lower, through beautiful woodland and enchanting landscape; the views from the limestone pavement were crystal clear, but then we saw the rain clouds gather. A feature of the Reserve is the hoary rockrose, which we were fortunate to see. Also seen were early purple orchid, yellow pimpernel and herb paris. Again, we had not enough time to see everything but the walking conditions were good.
Our last port of call was Sizergh Castle, near Kendal. Like Muncaster, Sizergh started as a Pele Tower and has been in the hands of the Strickland family since the 13th century, although it now belongs to the National Trust. The gardens here are very worthy of a visit, and especially the rock garden.
So ended a memorable weekend. We were lucky to have had beautiful weather; an added bonus. The party settled back contentedly for the coach ride home.
23rd September 1984 – Vic Brown
We started out with heavy showers and a strong cold wind from the NNW. Against the dullness of the sky a rainbow in a splendour of colour arched high above Newcastle, dwarfing the man-made bow of the Tyne Bridge.
The sea at Whitley Bay looked like grey satin and wind swung gulls hung above the ridges of surfing water. Black-headed and herring gulls were common with fewer lesser black-backed; a surprisingly large number of great black-backed and a few common gulls. Cormorants flew above the sea or loitered darkly about half sunken reefs. A wheatear flirted its tail on the sea wall as a company of knot swirled like smoke above the tide. There were a host of golden plover and hundreds of lapwing. The delicate melancholy, yet bubbling, clear call of the curlew, together with the other impressions, made up the sounds and sites of this day.
We were caught in a fierce rainstorm; slim daggers of rain had the sting of sleet. A heron flew low to the breaking waves while house martins sheltered in the sea wall. A rock pipit darted where oystercatchers probed the seaweed tangles. Sanderlings, those wave nymphs, twinkled at the edge of the sea.
From below the towering white lighthouse on St. Mary’s Island we saw Manx shearwater, gannet, eider, scoter, and a single mallard. Two Arctic tern chattered above the causeway while redshank and ringed plover ran about the streaming boulders and meadow pipits danced about the grass near our coach.
At Seaton Sluice the wind continued to blow hard and cold, and eyes were tear-filled. A baby rabbit fled. We watched birds on those fragments of land, now reefs, scarred with water runnels and sunk in the scent of the sea. We saw turnstone, knot and redshank probing among bladderwrack. Purple sandpiper too, busy little waders, often almost awash – so close to the surf they go. Strangely there were starlings too, birds perfectly at ease on the reefs with the waders and looking not unlike waders in their form and behaviour. A long-eared owl coming from the grey northeast made landfall at the end of a North Sea crossing. Kittiwakes drove north, flying slowly and easily, oceanic birds finding no problems in the prevailing conditions. Occasional puffins and guillemots flashed silky-white underparts, and the cackling of jackdaw voices defeated the sound of the sea.
Holywell, where the air was filled with the liquid music of sparrow chatter; they occupied a rooftop as they took time off from the gleaning of a nearby cleared wheat field. Rooks, overhead, called one to another. Blackbirds hackled us from the safety of dense shrubberies, and a bluetit slipped from sight. Carrion rows watched from the safety of a tree. Mute swan, mallard, pochard, tufted duck, and great-crested and little grebe swam on the mere. Swallows dipped to the water, leaving bright widening rings on the surface. Coot and moorhen fussed in the reeds; crinkled, ribbed and whispering round the verges.
At Gosforth Park the wind had blown itself out. The sun, together with fleecy sails and silver cloud, filled the sky. Autumn had touched the trees with early tints of russet and gold. Within the wood, secret and remote from the outside world, we walked beneath high-branched trees whose leaves curled, crisp as wafers. Patches of moss clung to old grey trunks, and the air was spiced with scent of wet leaves decaying in the shelter of spread tree roots. Coming to a broken building, half buried in a hummocky wilderness where brambles bound the stones, we looked for a lake no longer. An accident had hit the sluices and the water had drained away; now only a reed forest of bronzy-brown plumes remained. Clacking above the reed swamp a low-flying helicopter put up a cloud of teal, and ring doves fled in panic. A jay scolded. Woodpecker holes riddled the jaggered stumps of broken silver birch. We explored a badger sett, and had fine views of a sparrowhawk soaring above the racecourse. A red admiral butterfly glowed in a dark wood clearing, and a grey squirrel sought the retreat of burnished leaves.
Bempton – Flamborough Head Cliffs
12th May 1985 – Cliff Evans
We boarded the coach at Vane Terrace at 9:05 a.m. and had a very pleasant drive through the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. The sun was shining brightly and the scenery was beautiful.
However, as we reached our destination, the sun disappeared behind clouds and by the time we arrived at Bempton it was quite misty. It was also very windy. Fortunately the wind was from the sea to shore but had it been the other way round we may have lost some members!
Some people ate their lunch on the coach while others took to the cliff tops to sit among the long grass to eat there, whilst watching the birds flying past.
Kittiwakes in their thousands wheeled around; their calls echoing around the cliffs. The high winds gave them no trouble. They were nest building and as they approached the cliffs they twisted in mid-air and did “stall turns” before landing neatly on the narrow ledges. The fulmar, too, were masters of the conditions, soaring past on stiff wings.
After lunch people began to walk along these impressive 400 foot high cliffs. Three species of auk were seen – razorbill, guillemot, and everyone’s favourite – the puffin. They could be seen in flight and several hundreds of feet below on the surface of the sea.
The main attraction though was probably the gannets. This in England’s only gannet colony, and Britain’s only mainland one. In 1984 we read in the local press of volunteers being lowered down the cliffs on ropes in order to remove lengths of blue and red polypropylene rope that the gannets had used for nest material. It was felt necessary to do this because some birds had become entangled and subsequently died. Binoculars were not needed to see that the birds had not learned their lesson as blue and red strands showed among the other material in 1985.
The gannets were sitting on eggs and it looked as if it was going to be a good breeding season. It was with sorrow that we heard later in the year that a section of cliff had fallen into the sea and had carried several nests with it.
Our younger members grew tired of looking at thousands of seabirds, and disappeared to look for something different among the bushes and hedgerows. They reappeared with broad smiles, having found a female bluethroat. Other birds seen were shag, cormorant, herring gull, jackdaw, linnet and partridge. The warden helped by walking round with some non-birders and sorted out the various species for them. Fortunately the RSPB have provided fenced areas, so good views of the cliffs and birds can be obtained quite safely.
From Bempton we went on to Flamborough Head where there is a café at the car park. Energetic members walked down the long flight of steps to the beach. Very few birds were about but junior members still managed to find one – a male bluethroat. How do they do it? Seen from below the cliffs were impressive and we looked at the rock formations; one member even had a cool paddle. A dead lumpfish was found on the beach.
Wee arrived home at 6:45 p.m. and I’m sure everyone slept that night after a day in the “fresh air”.
Berwick on Tweed
17th – 19th May 1985 – Dorothy Parkin and Geoffrey Wood
At 4:45 p.m. 28 members assembled at Vane Terrace, Darlington, where they boarded the coach for the journey to Berwick upon Tweed. The weather was fine, but had deteriorated by the time we had reached our destination, the Nessgate Hotel in Berwick, at about 8pm. After a substantial meal, most of the party went out exploring this historic and lovely old town, including walking round its famous walls and battlements, undeterred by the damp weather.
On Saturday, 18th May, the early risers were out again before breakfast, some to walk along the break-water, from where various sea birds, waders and eider ducks from the Farne Islands may be seen, as well as many mute swans which inhabit the harbour.
After breakfast, the coach took us on the eight-mile journey to Holy Island, and, fortunately, the tide was in our favour. The weather was misty, and a heavy shower of rain greeted our arrival on the island. After this had ceased, the party divided, the botanists making for the dunes, and the others having the choice of either, firstly, visiting the castle, or having a walk round the village, followed by a visit to Lindisfarne Priory.
The romantic looking castle has had its present appearance since 1902, when the original 16th century castle was rebuilt. It is no longer occupied and is managed by the National Trust. The now-ruined Priory was built by Bebedictine monks in the 11th century on the site of the original founded by St. Aidan in 635AD, who was followed as Bishop by St. Cuthbert. It has been described as the cradle of the birth of Christianity in the Kingdom of Northumbria, which included north-eastern England and much of southern Scotland.
The village community of this isolated place is largely of seafaring stock, but tourism now contributes to their way of life. Visitors to the Lindisfarne Mead Factory were welcomed with a free glass of their product.
After lunch near the car park, the heavens opened again, and there was a rush for the shelter of the coach. The rain eventually cleared and some of us had a circular walk round the island, returning via the castle and limekilns. During the walk, eider duck, turnstones, rock pipits, ringed plover, mallard, black-headed gulls, and moorhen were seen, the latter three occupying a tarn. The wet, but hardy, botanists met us at the coach, and their finds included sea campion, dark and small spring vetch, lambs lettuce, meadow saxifrage, and bog bean. We returned to the mainland with the falling tide lapping at the coach wheels.
On the following morning, Sunday, 19th May, we bid farewell to the hospitable Nessgate Hotel, and set off through the fog for St. Abbs Head Nature Reserve, some 20 miles up the Scottish coast. The reserve is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, and the 192 acres are part of a larger Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is nationally important for cliff-nesting sea birds, geology and plant life. At the reserve car park we were met by the warden who, after a short introductory talk, led us along a path above high spectacular cliffs. The view must be very fine on a clear day, but sadly, the fog was as thick as ever and the foghorn at the lighthouse was booming away.
However, we were able to see many of the sea birds nesting on the cliffs, including guillemots, razorbills, shags, kittiwakes, herring gulls, and smaller numbers of puffins and fulmars. The site of an ancient settlement was visited and we passed a tarn, home of tufted duck, mallard, mute swan, little grebe, coots and moorhen. The yellow gorse was at its best, and primroses were in bloom.
The weather had somewhat improved and it was clearer by the time we had ended our walk at the car park, where we thanked our knowledgeable and helpful guide. It was felt that a further visit to this reserve was desirable. Lunch was taken at the nearby village of Coldingham which has an interesting seashore.
Our next journey took us up the Tweed Valley to the very pleasant boarder town of Kelso, and to nearby Floors Castle, set in beautiful parkland, overlooking the River Tweed. The castle, home of the Duke of Roxburgh, was first built for an ancestor of the present occupant, in 1721 and the years following, but later additions have been made to the building. We were pleased to alight at the main entrance for a guided tour from the reception hall, where a huge log fire welcomed us. The contents included priceless collections of Tapestries including Gobelin’s, china, 18th century French furniture, and some fine paintings. There is also a large collection of stuffed birds. Before departure there was time to admire the gardens and grounds, and for tea.
The journey home took us through Jedburgh and over the Boarder at Carter Bar, where the beautiful views were enjoyed, and we arrived in Darlington at 8:30 p.m. In spite of the disappointing weather, the weekend, spent in such an interesting and attractive area, appeared to be enjoyed by all.
Westgate in Weardale
1st June 1985 – Joyce and Hilary Jackson
In perfect summer weather 25 members went by coach to Westgate, to walk up the Middlehope Burn. Part of this excursion was the route of a walk in May 1981 in the opposite direction.
The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, built in 1791, on the site of the first Methodist Meeting in Weardale, has been converted into Chapel Cottages. Here we took the riverside path to the left, past the old corn mill, now a private residence. There are waterfalls, areas of flat limestone showing ripple marks, and open areas in the woodland, so we passed through a variety of habitats in a short distance. The welcome warm sunshine brought striking patches of summer flowers into bloom in profusion, while a few later spring flowers, including primroses, cowslips and hybrids, violets and parasitic toothwort, were spotted. Masses of wood anemones flowered under the hazel and birch.
We stopped to inspect the site of Low Slit Lead Mine, 1800-76, where the valley is crossed by the Slit mineral vein yielding lead and iron. The shaft is over 560 feet deep and has tunnels leading from it. The lowest tunnel runs S.E. almost to Cambo Keels, near Eastgate. There are remains of the bays where ore was stored. It was crushed and washed by hand – often women’s – or by waterpower. The level area built over the burn formed a perfect situation in warm sunshine for us to lie and study the tiny “look-alikes”, knotted pearlwort (Sagina nodosa) and vernal sandwort (Minuartia verna). Woodland birds were easier to hear than see.
Continuing upstream to Middlehope Shield Lead Mine, large patches of wood sorrel, and especially pansies, delighted us. Oil beetles were abundant on the grassy path. We ate our lunch enjoying the sunshine, sounds and scents. Grey and yellow wagtails were seen and we watched meadow pipits on a nearby wall. The route of the old railway line could be traced. Here, the earliest railway into Weardale crossed the burn. It came from Tow Law, via Rookhope, to the reservoir above Low Slit Mine in 1855.
From here we followed the railway track southwards, gently uphill, through Slit Pasture iron workings up to the road. Turning left along the road for a short distance we came to West Rigg Ironstone Quarry, a geological SSSI. A great block of mineral vein is exposed showing iron ore above, and also where the lead miners had worked upwards from underground tunnels. We walked back down the road to another surprise, a brilliant bank of early purple orchids as we turned into the limestone quarry. Here we hunted for fossils, and also found a pigeon’s egg lying on bare rock.
We had a marvellous bus driver who was interested in the district. When we returned to the coach in Westgate at 3:30 p.m. he agreed to take us to the Weardale Museum of High House Chapel in Ireshopeburn. This was only recently opened, and is well worth a visit. We had a further treat in store as we returned by the narrow gated road from Daddry Shield over to Newbiggin. We stopped to enjoy magnificent views to the north over the Durham moors, and then south over Teesdale and North Yorkshire.
Cloughton, near Scarborough
30th May – 1st June 1986 – Winifred E. Dunning
Over thirty participants left Darlington at 5:00 p.m. conveyed by Messrs. Watson Coaches of Hurworth. We travelled towards the Cleveland Hills, via Guisborough, and over the moors to Whitby, heading for Cober Hill Guest House, Cloughton, six miles from Scarborough on the A171. The journey was made in beautiful weather conditions, over hill and dale into the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. We arrived, having to make a quick dispersal of belongings at Court Green, to be in time for the evening meal at 7:00 p.m.
Cober Hill Guest House, with its annexe Court Green, is ideally situated in 6½ acres of grounds, with magnificent views of sea and cliffs. It is only 200 yards from Cloughton Wyke, with delightful walks on coastal footpaths which form part of the Cleveland Way. Facilities were ideal for our use. Possible, but less easy, was the parking of the large coach.
Our guest leader, Athol Wallis, of the Scarborough Naturalists’ Field Club, was already there. All preparations were completed for an evening of slides on the natural history of Scarborough district, including the geology of the coast and the Tabular Hills (there is no collective name for the charming dales between); a close look at Forge Valley, bird life, flora and fauna, local knowledge, the river Derwent, and Hackness Hall and village.
It was interesting to discover that Cober Hill Guest House had been founded by the Rowntree family, that they in turn were members of the Society of Friends, and were also staunch members of the Scarborough Naturalists’ Field Club, founded in 1889. Arnold E. Wallis (father) and Athol Wallis (son) both enjoyed these same interests. Proof of the dedication to natural history, it is exciting to record that Athol Wallis, among others, notably Professor Spaul of the University of Leeds, and Professor Pearsall in the University of London, was instrumental in making possible the publication, in two volumes, of The Natural History of Scarborough District (1953 and 1955) with which I have since been able to compare our findings during the weekend; a long but fruitful exercise.
For over 200 years there have been keen followers in the study of natural history in the district. One, William Smith (1769-1839), who lived at Hackness (1828-35), was in 1831 acclaimed to be ‘the Father of English Geology’ when he received the first award of the now coveted Wallaston Medal. The title has clung to him ever since. He founded the science of Stratigraphical Geology. Others won national and even international fame. Among them Miss ‘Kit’ Rob of Catton Hall, Topcliffe, who was a tireless worker in the fields of botany and entomology. We can claim to have known her well. All this adds greatly to the significance of our weekend, especially as our own Field Club was founded (1891) just two years later than Scarborough and thrives in great strength today, built on similar sound foundations.
Eager naturalists set forth on a rather damp Saturday, 31st May, to explore the Tabular Hills and Forge Valley through which the river Derwent flows. Our route took us up and down steep wooded hills. We stopped at Reasty Top Bank on the Forest Trail for our first botany and bird count. All vegetation, however, showed signs of a cold, wet spring, with flowering plants just starting to appear. On the highest point, nearly 600 feet above sea level, the dominant wind is southwest, and in April and May northeast winds blow for six to eight weeks which are cold and dry (worse still if wet), often killing off opening buds and young leaves on trees, stunting growth and causing the trees to lean over to the land side. The rainfall increases towards the high moors (Fylingdales Moor is the source of the river Derwent) and can be as high as 36 inches, some seven to eleven inches above that at many places in the plains. The great variety of ecological conditions has resulted in a very rich fauna and flora. On this occasion we were only able to see a small amount and properly to record, still less.
Along the forest trail one of the first observations was of coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), exactly as described the evening before – some florets with heads held high, others having flowered, with drooping heads to keep out the rain until the seed is ripe, when it will again raise its head for seed dispersal by wind and birds. Another early observation was of wood sedge (Carex sylvatica), common in damp woods, and common twayblade (Listera ovata). Bird song was regular, recognised to the individual species by Athol Wallis and some of our members, so we heard many more than were actually seen that morning.
We made our way down the valley, by coach, to Hackness, an unchanged medieval village in character, with ancestral hall in beautiful grounds, framed by lovely trees; the church of St. Peter (AD 1060) with its rare octagonal stone spire, and a history closely connected with St. Hilda of Whitby.
The earliest church bell in Yorkshire is that of one at Hackness in the eighth century. An ancient roadway includes a wayside stream and is crossed by an arched bridge, only 10 feet high, too low for the coach to pass under, thus we made a long detour to get to the other end of the village. We have since heard that the bridge has been gravely damaged.
One of the most exciting finds of the hedgerow at Hackness was the delicate fresh green tuberous moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina), a rhizome with a creeping white lateral flower with five petals facing north, south, east and west, as a clock tower, the upper flower facing the sky. It grows in shady lanes and banks and is a symbol of Christian watchfulness – its habitat at Hackness certainly met this description!
As we descended the hills into Forge Valley where we stopped for our picnic lunch, we walked to an observation area for birds where some of us were lucky enough to see a great spotted woodpecker.
Back in Hackness village for a comfort stop and to visit the trout fisheries, was an interlude greatly enjoyed by all. The trout are introduced in three sections from finger 4 inches growing to 10 inches, then sold to anglers. Michael Bentley fed the trout and showed us how they are protected from predators, human and others.
We proceeded by coach to the south of Forge Valley. A walk starting at West Ayton, passing well-kept cottage gardens, took us through a pasture thick with buttercups and clover. The ruins of a 15th century castle provided artistic expression for one of our number.
The habitat of green hellebore (Helleborus foetidus), flowering abundantly in a hedgerow, with nearby colourful tree berberis, were special finds. On a steep slope facing the river Derwent, a tranquil stretch, many spring flowers bloomed and field maple was very attractive.
Another evening of slides entitled “Watching on the Yorkshire Coast” delighted all of us, making us realise that there were many new trails to follow.
Our Sunday morning exploration to Ravenscar was marred by pea-soup fog off the sea. We missed the wonderful views but enjoyed the glades of broom and gorse and wonderful slopes of bluebells. Cobwebs, thick with dew, looked like jewels. We distinguished two varieties of spider by their webs. Because of the weather we cut short the walk, not before expressing sincere thanks to Athol Wallis. Incredibly, within yards of leaving the foggy coast, we were in clear sunny conditions which bode well for the scenic drive en route for Kirkdale, this time looking over the Wolds and into the Vale of Pickering on the A170.
Twenty-one participants took the walk from Green Lane, Fadmoor. The others went by coach direct to St. Gregory’s Minster – the subject of a separate story in itself. In warm sunshine with a light breeze we entered the wooded banks of Sleightholmedale, with Hodge Beck in full spate below. We were told of a heronry on the high opposite bank where six pairs breed, but we saw none. We were not disappointed as our prime search was for lily of the valley. We were rewarded by seeing many other flowers: patches of Aquilegia vulgaris (uncommon), yellow archangel, sweet woodruff, and three sedges – flacca, wood and fingered sedge – the latter being rare. We were saddened by the felling of trees which had been dragged through the tender vegetation. The activities of a tree wasp provided special interest as the sound, of its rasping efforts to extract the substance of a dry stem for nest building, invaded the air. (The wasp taught man to make paper pulp!).
We reached the bridge at Hold Coldron Mill, where the best lower limestone is seen. It was a sheer delight to watch Hodge Beck flowing swiftly and to realise that within a few yards it completely disappears down a swallow hole, appearing again at Kirkdale Ford. The path divides here – we took a short woodland path which opened onto a low wide meadow where we heard, and then saw, a cuckoo, before reaching St. Gregory’s Minster.
The drive to Helmsley and over Bilsdale was beautiful and a happy party reached Darlington right on schedule. All told we recorded 86 plants and seventeen birds. Thanks to Cliff Evans.
Causey Arch – Belsay Castle
28th June 1986 – Sally Hoddy
Thirty members set off in glorious sunshine for Causey Arch, near Stanley, a Durham County Council wardened picnic area. After coffee we followed the route of waggonways more than 250 years old. Originally horses had drawn coal in heavy wooden carts along wooden railways from small local pits to staithes on the Tyne.
This Tanfield waggonway was over hilly country, so high embankments and deep cuttings were built. In 1725 Causey Arch itself , the world’s oldest surviving railway bridge, was built, more than 100 years before steam railways. It was disused after an explosion at Tanfield Colliery in the 1780’s but the waggonway continued in use until the 1960’s, with iron rails and steam engines replacing the wood and horses. Durham County Council restored the arch in the 1970’s and provided information boards, viewing points and a replica coal wagon.
Many people photographed the arch from the viewpoint and we continued our walk passing bushes of broom and hawthorn in full flower. At the end of the gorge an open sunny bank was carpeted with bird’s-foot trefoil and red clover, enjoyed by many small butterflies. White and lilac sweet rocket grew along the side of the stream emerging from Stanley sewage works, just out of sight.
We returned on the other steeper side of the gorge, looking into the valley below, but at the arch we climbed down to see it from below, then walked along the streamside. A superb hawthorn tree by the rock-climbing face was smothered in blossom, just going over. Climbing the steep sides of the man-made embankment we took the coach to Belsay Castle.
After lunch in the sunshine, we visited the exhibition on the history of the estate, now run by English Heritage. Starting our walk we passed through a beautiful herbaceous garden to the side of the hall, then onto a heather winter garden around a sunken lawn. We continued to the exotic Quarry Gardens created when Sir Charles Monck built the hall in the early 19th century. Bursting with flowering rhododendrons and many varieties of shrubs and trees, the highlight was a handkerchief tree, Davidii involucrate. This large specimen was draped with handkerchief sized white bracts, as well as bearing the previous year’s plum-like fruit.
The walk eventually took us to the ruins of the mediaeval castle, a border tower house, to which later mansions had been added, now also ruined. After exploring these and the dog kennels and stables behind, we followed a different route through the Quarry Gardens back to the hall. This very severe neo-classical building is being restored after the ravages of dry-rot and neglect following military occupation during the Second World War.
We had another picnic and returned home in sunshine.
15th – 17th May 1987 – Pauline A Hannon
Thirty-one members of the Field Club, and a weekend visitor from Chester-le-Street, left Darlington by coach at 4:50 p.m. on Friday afternoon, after a rush from work for several people.
The journey to Cockermouth, via the A66, was enhanced by good distant views, and the bonus for many car travellers of being able to see over the walls! Much of the Tees valley and the lower Greta valley was chequered with great areas of acid yellow rape fields and the new green and bronze of woodland, young cornfields and plough. There were still plenty of lambs about, which became noticeably smaller as we crossed the Pennines. Also there was no rape visible on the western, Lake District, side.
Arrival at the Globe Hotel in the centre of Cockermouth, unpacking and supper, still left dusk and early darkness in which to explore something of the town. The confluence of the Cocker and Derwent rivers, with various footbridges and footpaths along the banks, gave fascinating clues of some of the past industries of the town. There were reputed to be over forty such industries in the early nineteenth century. We saw a ruined windmill, tannery buildings, the brewery, and remains of Stoddart’s Cotton Mill huddled below the castle wall and towers. There were several narrow ‘Yards’, mostly still inhabited, and reminiscent of Barnard Castle, and in complete contrast to the wide main street with its evidence of late twentieth century Friday night activities.
Before breakfast on Saturday the explorers were out again, and the bird count already thirteen species, including a nesting dipper along the riverbank. The main morning activity was in Clints Quarry near Egremont, which was a disused Limestone Quarry with a kiln ruin at the south end. It is all now a Cumbrian Nature Reserve whose Manager, Mr. Stokes, met us and took us to the quarry floor for a forage. We were greeted by a heron, obviously disturbed by our descent, which flapped off, calling, over the edge of the bank. The flowers were a little disappointing as we were too early for most of the orchids, but we saw early purple orchid in flower, and twayblade and spotted orchid leaves. In and around two manmade water tanks (original function unknown) we found frogs, newts whirling beetles and pond skaters. The entomologists were pleased to find that the sheltered suntrap on the quarry floor and lower spoil heaps had brought out several species, including Cinnebar moths and orange-tip butterflies. There were also crinoid and productus fossils on the far walls of the quarry.
After a picnic lunch on the front at St. Bees, the party split into two. One group went by coach to see St Bees Priory Church with its history and legends not unlike some of those connected with St. Cuthbert.
The main party met Mrs. Sheila Richardson and the local RSPB warden, Mr. Roy Atkin, who led us along the coastal path from South Head to North Head and Sandwith via Fleshwick Bay. The afternoon was a rare one of brilliant sunshine and gentle breeze. The Isle of Man looked clear and near enough to row to. At the beginning of the walk we saw a kestrel being mobbed by gulls (or terns?); few of us will forget the warm coconut smell of the gorse, and the pink, blue and white of the large drifts of thrift, bluebells and scurvy-grass along the cliff-top and down every gully. Some of the group went down to the beach at Fleshwick Bay to see more closely the strange weathering patterns of the New Red Sandstone vertical cliffs, and wave-swept platform of the beach. Most of us were content to scramble up the far side of a rock fissure and rest in the sun at the top, watching the energetic few far below! At the various guards and safety rails there were good views of rows of nesting guillemots, kittiwakes and herring gulls, with fewer shags and razorbills, and just the odd one or two black guillemots on the sea. Never a puffin in sight – alas! As we left the coast, reluctantly, we saw meadow pipits and yellowhammers along the lane to Sandwith. For the sharp-eyed there was a weasel which ran across the lane in front of us.
After supper on Saturday evening, Mrs. Sheila Richardson and her husband gave us an excellent slide show of Cumbria through the Year, almost all of the slides being taken within a fifteen-mile radius of Cockernouth.
Sunday dawned with characteristic Lakeland rain, and it lasted all day, quite warm, but very wet! In the morning we drove to Ennerdale and attempted a botany walk by the lakeside with Mrs. Pennington, also from the Cumbria Naturalists’ Trust. Most of us walked to Bowness Knott where, with the indefatigable Sheila Richardson and her telescope, we had marvellous sightings of nesting and feeding ravens and peregrine falcons.
Picnic lunches were eaten in the coach before we left for the last scheduled stop at the Whinlatter Forestry Centre. There were a few wet walks – with jays, and a short film-show in the centre, then the coach journey back to Darlington.
This account can’t conclude without many thank-yous and a public word to friends and colleagues in the Cumbria Naturalists’ Trust, whose local knowledge and most generous gifts of time and patience in leading some of the walks made the weekend memorable, as well as their help and guidance beforehand. Thank you also our own members who helped with the many arrangements, and especially to Hilary and Joyce Jackson for their company on the recce trips and jollying the event along. Thank you to all those of you who came in such good spirits.
A Lunedale Ramble
11th July 1987 – Elizabeth Dckinson
The weather was normal for this summer – unsettled! Everybody found the starting point, near Grassholme Reservoir, and dressed appropriately for wet weather.
We set off up the farm track and through Cote House Farm towards the badger sett. All was well until the downpour caught us, in the middle of the field with little shelter. Dripping slightly, we had our meal in the disused Carboniferous limestone quarry – some brave bugs discovered us and also fed well!
The sun came out and we had a pleasant walk along the disused Teesdale railway line, now the Mickleton Nature Walkway, discussing its past, present and future. Unfortunately we saw very few animals. Birds, which had been calling at us a week or so before, had disappeared. However, there were many plants to be seen, ranging from orchids to horsetails and dandelions.
Arriving back at the cars a seat and a cup of tea were welcome. Thank you to all who came on the walk. I hope was as enjoyable for you as it was for the Dickinson family.
7th June 1987 – Winifred E. Dunning
The first stop for the 42 members and friends was Corbridge on Tyne, a village proud of its Roman history, with a fine church and elegant properties. The dispersing congregation welcomed the interest of a small group into their well-cared fore church. By happy chance we were conversing with an ex-Polam Hall School pupil who eagerly explained the special features of the church with dates back to Saxon (west end), Norman (east end), and early English (central nave). The stop was a pleasant interlude in every way, and we vowed to make a future, longer, visit to Corbridge.
Proceeding over the river Tyne on the A69 road through Hexham, passing the imposing abbey, to Haydon Bridge and Bardon Mill, we turned off for Vindolanda. It is a well-established centre now, with good parking facilities, excavation site, superb museum (one-time home of the Birley family), a coffee/gift shop, including a good selection of books, reconstructed sections of Hadrian’s Wall and picnic area. The site operates under its owner – the Vindolanda Trust, which is a registered archaeological charity.
Before us stretched the Civilian Settlement and Fort, formerly a bustling base for 500 Roman Auxiliary Soldiers and even more civilians. Listening posts gave two-minute commentaries about the area. Strolling through the town we saw a fine military bath-house, a popular meeting place with an extensive hypocaust system, hot and cold plunges, and an eight-seater toilet. Along the busy main street are many other buildings – workshops, butcher’s shop, married quarters and family homes.
The routine of Roman life is well reconstructed in the museum – including the country house of Chesterholm, standing in pleasant gardens. Displays include shoes, textiles, wood, pottery, jewellery, herb culture and animals. “Materna’s kitchen” is a full-sized reconstruction of a Roman frontier kitchen, complete with taped commentary of life style 200AD. Video programmes are shown in the museum lecture room at regular intervals, making living history on ancient ground.
A warm drink and comfortable browse of gifts and books whets the appetite for more viewing. We did not miss the Stanegate Milestone just outside the fort. Vindolanda was originally part of the Stanegate frontier and it pre-dates Hadrian’s Wall by 40 years. The present excavation, which was first opened in the 1970’s, is pre-Hadrianic and is revealing many unique and exciting finds from the early timber forts, four of which were constructed between 80AD and 125AD. The finds give detailed information about earlier frontier life. Special environmental conditions have helped to preserve this Roman material, beautifully displayed in the museum. Perhaps the most exciting discoveries are the personal messages inscribed on writing tablets from Vindolanda by wives of army officers. The exploration was a rewarding experience for all of us, the more so if we had seen it in its early gays of development.
We continued our travels, for five or so miles, to the Army Museum at Carvoran, next to the Walltown Crags (plans are afoot for this area to be developed into a major archaeological park). Here the old farm has been converted into a wonderful interpretive centre, including a Video Programme which we greatly enjoyed in the lecture hall. There is also a superb model of the Roman fort, with a spoken commentary. There are impressive reconstructions of armour, life-sized figures with accurately reproduced uniforms and weapons, and designs of military equipment, all of which made fascinating viewing. Coffee and book shop facilities are excellent.
A walk on the wall was a must for some of the party but, regrettably, this had to be in torrential rain. Glorious weather conditions prevailed for the homeward drive via the Military Road, passing Housesteads, and the lovely unspoiled countryside seen from the long stretches of new road back to Darlington.
Cow Green – High Cup Nick – Dufton
16th August 1987 – Raymond and Phyllis Garrod
The weather forecast at 7 a.m. had given high temperatures as far as the Scottish border – a good day ahead! As the coach took us up the moor road past Eggleston the mist was swirling round Holwick Scars, but the sky was blue above the mist. Although the sun was shining at Langdon Beck the fog was thick up Peghorn Lane, the reservoir could not be seen when we reached Cow Green car park, and it was damp, windy and chilly.
The coach took the ‘B’ party off to Alston and Acorn Bank and the 34 in the ‘A’ party, with a number of unfamiliar faces, set off for Cauldron Snout. After one or two short stops to look at flowers and the sugar limestone, the Whin Sill was crossed by the bridge above Cauldron Snout. We met the Fell Rescue Team, just starting an exercise, and with them was Ian Findlay, the Upper Teesdale Nature Reserve warden – he expected the mist to clear.
Before reaching Birkdale Farm it was raining and blowing, with a head wind. Those at the back were unable to see the front of the party! Soon we were in single file and concentrating on the rough path. Wainwright writes of this section of the Pennine Way – “After leaving the old mine there follows the worst section of the crossing; a featureless moor with only a few cairns and posts and no natural landmarks. This covers a distance of 5 miles to the Bridge across the Maize Beck”.
It was decided to stop for lunch at a point where the path had petered out – in driving rain, amid the peat bogs – a very subdued party indeed! Raymond went off into the mist to scout around and it seemed an age before he returned. Using a compass, the party stumbled across the rough moor and, with relief, reached a large cairn and the limestone grassland leading to Maize Beck. The beck was too swollen to cross so a detour was made upstream to the bridge, this lengthening the walk considerably. It proved to be the wettest section with many of the party going into bogs over their boots, to their knees or falling flat! At last the bridge was reached, the spectacular gorge crossed and, still in the mist, we plodded on and attained one of our goals, High Cup Nick! Those who walked to the top were rewarded with fleeting glimpses of the valley below and the Vale of Eden in the distance.
After stopping for a short and well-earned rest, we straggled down to Dufton negotiating raging torrents and wet rocks. No-one was interested that we were dropping down the Pennine Escarpment with its textbook succession of the Carboniferous Limestone Series of rocks. There were good views across the valley and to the Lake District – the sun was sparkling on Haweswater!
It will be remembered as an ordeal rather than the usual enjoyable outing. We had walked over twelve miles and were five hours in the mist, rain and bog. Raymond’s 40 years’ experience of fell-walking was used and proved, and the Field Club members showed their confidence and stamina. Special thanks must be given to Peter and Hugh, sons of Hilary and Joyce Jackson, who were so supportive at the back of the party.
Ironically the sun shone on the way home, but the cloud was still there on the Pennines as we drove along the A66.
Pond Dipping, Brinkburn Ponds
17th October 1987 – David Green
With permission from the Durham County Conservation Trust fourteen members visited the ponds where we collected and identified the following species.
Brinkburn Pond (NZ 282161, milk white flatworm Dendrocoelum lacteum, flatworm Polycelistenuis, great pond snail’s eggs and immatures Limnaea, white ramshorn snail Planorbis alba, common ramshorn snail P. planorbis, water louse Ascellus aquaticus, water shrimp Crangonyx pseudogracilis, Cyclops species, daphnia Simocephalus vetulus, mayfly Cloeon dipterum, azure damselfly Coenagrion puella, lesser water boatman Corixa punctata, backswimmer Notonecta glauca, water boatman Sigara dorsalis, and caddisfly eggs Limnephilus.
Brinkburn small pond, mayfly Cloeon dipterum, azure damselfly Coenagrion puella, lesser water boatman Corixa punctata, backswimmer Notonecta glauca, caddisfly eggs Limnephilus, water beetles Agabus bipustulatus, and A. nebulosus, helophorus spp., bloodworm midge Chironomus spp., and the midge Dixella aestivalis.
The pond fish, not seen on this visit, are roach, carp, tench, 3-spined stickleback, minnow and perch. Rudd are found in the Black Path pond.
Kendal – Levens Park
5th July 1987 – Ken and Vera Chapman
The “Auld Grey Town” of Kendal claimed those who wished to see its castle and vast parish church (“a forest of pillars”) and Stricklandgate’s fine old shop-fronts and alleyways. Most members, however, walked the crests of Cunswick Scar and Scout Scar, gently-tilted escarpments with limestone pavements, sheer drops westward and panoramic views of the Pennines, Morecambe Bay and the Lakeland Fells.
Odd patches of ling, presumably on relict pockets of boulder clay, contrasted with a rich limestone flora, in which varieties not found east of the Pennines especially excited our botanists. We saw common rockrose (Helianthemum nummularium), squinancywort (Asperula cynanchica), dropwort (Filipendula vulgaris), spring sandwort (Minuartia verna), and lesser meadow rue (Thalictrum minus). We were lucky to find the quite rare hoary rockrose (Helianthemum canum), and the limestone fern or limestone polypody (Thelypteris robertiana).
From Sizergh Castle members were “coached” to Levens Hall pele tower, Elizabethan hall and the uniquely surviving topiary garden laid out in 1692. In the park beside the river Leven a herd of fallow deer was sighted.
Birds seen during the day were kestrel, swift, ring dove, blackbird, starling, mallard, song thrush, magpie, dunnock, a pair of sedge warblers, linnet, greenfinch chaffinch and, at dusk, house martins. Many common blue butterflies were seen. Insects were sparse but damselflies were noticed.
Lake District – Rydal
20th – 22nd May 1988 – Raymond and Phyllis Garrod
On a fine spring afternoon 32 members left by coach via the A66 passing yellow rape fields, first cuts of silage, and cowslips in profusion on the verges. Long beams of sunlight highlighted the ridges of Blencathra. Then through the impressive gorge of St. John’s in the Vale, past Thirlmere, Grasmere and to Rydal and Rydal Hall.
Rydal Hall is a beautiful classical style mansion originally of the sixteenth century but altered and enlarged in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is set in superb wooded grounds sloping down to Rydal Water with Fairfield behind. After supper most of us walked along the old (coffin) road between Ambleside and Grasmere on the fell above the Hall. The rhododendrons and azaleas were magnificent. The evening sun was reflected in the Lake below; there was the fresh green of beech and oak, bluebells, and the scent of May blossom. The varied chimneys of Rydal Mount (home of William Wordsworth from 1833 to 1850) are typical of the Lake District in that they are round, square and rectangular, many having two sloping capping slates.
Saturday dawned glorious. With not a minute to be wasted, everyone was out recording, exploring the grounds, Dora’s Field, the church, and along the lakeside – some before 7 a.m.! After breakfast we all set off along Rydal Water and climbed to the massive quarries and cave on Loughrigg, comprising Bprrowdale Volcanic Rocks which form the high mountains in central Lakeland. Further south, from Ambleside, are the less craggy Silurian rocks, while in the north are the high rounded mountains of Skiddaw Slates. These are the three distinct rock and scenery types into which the area is divided.
And so along Loughrigg Terrace, famous for its superb views, noting the great U-shaped glacial valley of Dunmail Raise across Grasmere, with Helm Crag and the Langdales to the west, and Seat Sandal to the east. It is an extensive fault from north/south through Lakeland, over-deepened by the ice and taking the Keswick/Ambleside road. In the rills above the path the first yellow mountain saxifrage and butterwort were flowering.
Raymond took the “A” party off for the seven mile, very scenic, walk round Loughrigg, via Red Bank, the Tarn and Ambleside. The rest of us dropped down, via Deerbolt Wood, with its many ferns, to Gresmere, visiting the church and the Wordsworth graves. Later we all visited Holehird Gardens, a superb site of 200 acres of which 2 acres are leased by the Lakeland Horticultural Society. They were a mass of colour, being at their best in spring, with many spectacular trees, including handkerchief and eucalyptus trees. In the evening we went up Great Langdale, another U-shaped glacial valley in the heart of the Lake District, stopping below the Langdale Pikes with the hanging valley of Mill Gill towering above us. On a short walk across the valley bluebells were seen on the treeless slopes near Side Pike.
On Sunday, after photographs on the terrace, we left for Tarn Hows. We saw Yewdale farm with its Spinning Gallery, one of the few left in the district, when spinning and weaving were cottage industries. After a steep climb up to the Tarn we split up, with many different habitats to explore. A highlight for some was the sight of a red squirrel. After lunch we returned down a steep gorge to the coach.
And so to Castlerigg Stone Circle (possibly dating from 2000BC) – an impressive setting near Keswick on a plateau surrounded by mountains. To the north are the smooth-sided mountains of Skiddaw and Blencathra, composed of the oldest rock types in the district (Skiddaw Slate). One stone forming part of the circle, a conglomerate, may have come in the ice from nearby Mell Fell (Devonian Conglomerate). After tea in Penrith, Salkeld was our next stop with rocks of another era (Permian) and the great stone circle of Long Meg and her Daughters – Long meg has cup and ring marks.
We returned in glorious weather up Hartside Pass, via Alston and Harwood, with white farmhouses, marsh marigold meadows, verges with cowslips and early purple orchids and, down the dale, pastures full of dandelions.
Thanks to the experts in the party for a generous sharing of their knowledge. Lack of space prevents mention of all that was seen, but Don recorded 57 birds (including buzzards, woodpeckers and pied flycatcher), roe deer, beetles trout mayfly and butterflies. Hazel recorded 93 species of plants, including four grasses, thirteen ferns and nine sedges (lists are available). Thanks to our excellent driver, Matt Davison, and to all who shared this weekend. The glorious weather, superb scenery, and Field Club companions really made this a “pastime with good company”.
Washington – Tunstall
23rd July 1988 – Cliff Evans
We left the Arts Centre in cars on a dull morning, arriving at Washington Wildlife Park at 10 a.m., just as it was opening.
As we walked around the pools and enclosures we saw many young birds, especially moorhen, ranging from very small spiky-looking ones to almost full-grown. The main problems were with adult male birds because, as it was well into the breeding season, the males had completed their part and were going into eclipse. It is difficult enough working out native drakes in eclipse, but when they are unfamiliar ones from around the world the problems certainly increase. From the hides overlooking the pools where native birds occur, mallard, tufted duck, redshank and green sandpiper were seen. Swifts were also about.
The five pied geese, which were on loan from Slimbridge, were seen – they are going back for the winter because it is rather warmer down there.
We had lunch at Washington, the hardy ones sitting outside at picnic tables – the sensible ones sitting inside, and it saved having to chase ones lettuce when it blew away!
Sunderland was the next venue and here we met Janetta Scurfield who was to lead the afternoon outing. She took us to Tunstall Hills, an SSSI, not far from her home in the south of Sunderland. It was classified because of its geological interest – it is on Magnesian Limestone, and because of the limestone it is also of botanical interest.
The sun was shining and although the wind was rather strong there were several butterflies about – small tortoiseshell, common blue, meadow brown, and a rather tatty painted lady.
After making our way back down we were all asked to Janetta’s house for a cup of tea. The cup of tea turned out to be a tea party with all sorts of homemade cakes and biscuits; a very pleasant end to an interesting outing.
30th July 1988 – Cliff Evans
Nine members met John Senior, out leader, in the car park about two miles out of Great Broughton. Unfortunately six members had to be left behind in Darlington owing to lack of transport. The car park is a very good viewpoint and while there John told us something about the geology of the area, particularly the Jurassic sandstone which capped some of the hills and which was used extensively in the construction of Rievaulx.
We drove down Bilsdale to Laskill Farm, which was on the monk’s land – in the 1140’s most of Bilsdale belonged to them. On the farm were foundations of the wool house where sheep from various farms were collected. Existing farm buildings looked typical of the area until John pointed out decorative friezes, an elegant archway, carved corner stones and a section of shaft used in one wall. None of these are features of a normal Yorkshire farm, and had come from the ruined abbey.
Our next stop was further down the dale at Sheepcote Farm, also on the monk’s land and the site of a quarry. To get there we had to walk down a lane which, after all the rain of the previous week, was like a river bed. The quarry was linear, about nine miles long, and the sandstone a better quality than that of Laskill but, of the 150,000 tons quarried, only about a tenth was used. The area on which we were walking was a spoil heap, now grassed over. We reached a flat area where the stone was worked before being transported to Rievaulx. All around were large blocks of sandstone discarded because of flaws. Walking back through the fields to the farm we passed an area where coal had been extracted from bell pits.
On the way to our lunch stop we paused to try to ascertain how the stones had been transported from the quarry to the abbey. At Rievaulx we first looked around the Exhibition and Interpretive Centre, and were then taken into one of the store huts where the better carvings and other pieces were kept. Here we could see at close quarters the Oolitic limestone, and fine and coarse sandstones which had been used. There were boxes and boxes of floor tiles, all sorted into shapes, like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
At the ruined abbey John told us something of the history of the building and we were able to pick out the various types of rock used in its construction. We decided to call it a day about 4 p.m. but we knew John could have gone on for much longer and that is, perhaps, a good reason for another visit.
Nenthead – Nentdale – Alston
13th August 1988 – Ken and Vera Chapman
On this Saturday 43 members explored Nenthead, the old lead mining, crushing and smelting settlement of the Quaker London Lead Company, 1,400 feet above sea level, at the head of Nentdale in the North Pennines.
The oldest part of the village, at Gillgill Lane, has some of the original houses built in the 1750’s, a Methodist Chapel of 1873 and a cast iron fountain like the one at Middleton in Teesdale, testimonial to R. W. Bainbridge, mine superintendent. Hillersdon Terrace is part of the company’s 1825 model village, consisting of a surgeon’s, schoolmaster’s and mill agent’s houses, twelve smelters’ cottages and six overmen’s houses. All have long gardens. Above are the Parish Church (1845) and school (1864), smaller in style to the company’s school at Middleton in Teesdale.
Beside the Nent were formerly a washhouse and baths, a ready-money shop and warehouse, clock tower, market place, Rampgill crushing mill and wagonways. The company ceased to operate in 1905 but the mill processed zinc and lead until 1921. Spoil heaps are now being reclaimed. Upstream are Dowgill Mine and remnants of a sawmill, storage yard, Rampgill Horse Level (three and a half miles underground), a stamp mill and Nenthead Smelt Mill.
The North Pennines Heritage Trust is keen to preserve and revitalise this old mining settlement in a dale where ruined farmsteads emphasise the exodus. Histories of families and buildings are being compiled and old photographs and documents displayed.
Haggs Mine Bank spoil heaps have 100 recorded plant species. We found eyebright, mountain pansy, scabious, coltsfoot, hawkbit, ragwort, bird’s-foot-trefoil, clover, buttercup, daisy, thyme, ladies bedstraw, yarrow, plantain, heather, sandwort, spear thistle, red nettle, common nettle, chickweed, stitchwort, whitlow grass, herb robert, goosegrass and scurvy-grass.
Most members walked along Daleside lane to Blagill and field paths to Gossipgate and Alston. Pansies (all purple, yellow-centred and yellow lipped), occasional grass of Parnassus and yellow loosestrife were seen; also a curlew chasing a buzzard chasing a crow!, and a heron, chaffinches, oystercatchers and lapwing.
The rest walked one and a half miles beside the Nent from Blagill, past limestone pavements and waterfalls. Riverside meadows were lush with flowers, especially grass of Parnassus. We recorded meadowsweet, giant knapweed, burnet, knapweed, red campion, selfheal, purple vetch, lady’s-mantle, tormentil, feverfew, crosswort and horsetail. Green-veined white butterflies and a meadow pipit were seen.
Strolls about Alston ended a warm, breezy and mainly sunny day with excellent views, followed by a rainy, misty ride back via Yad Moss and Teesdale.
Marske in Swaledale
25th September 1998 – Barry Hetherington
A well-attended Plant Gall meeting was held at Marske, and we were pleased to welcome two members of the British Plant Gall Society, John Pearson, their chairman, and Tom Higginbottom, both of whom had travelled from Doncaster to be with us. For most of out members this was their first plant gall outing and, although they knew of the oak apple and the robin’s pincushion, few of them had any knowledge of the other 1,700 galls on the British list. Soon they were all struggling to come to terms with the Latin names as those galls having English names are few and far between.
Marske itself produced three interesting galls: Puccinea lagenophorae, a fungal gall found on groundsel, Psylla buxi, found on box and caused by a plant louse, and Phytomyza ilicis, an irregular yellow-red blotch found on holly caused by a fly.
Our circular walk took us through Clints Wood to Orgate Bridge and back along Skelton Lane. On oak we found one of the spangle galls, Neuroterus quercusbaccarum, and the artichoke gall, Andricus fecundator, both caused by wasps. Willowherb produced Dasyneura kiefferiana, caused by amidge and forms a tight flattened roll on the edge of the leaf, and on ground ivy Rondaniola bursaria, the lighthouse gall, caused by a midge.
Thirty galls were found during an interesting day and I am sure that, in future, plant galls will find a regular place within our club.
15th October 1988 – Alan W. Legg
This outing, joint with the British Mycological Society, was attended by about 40 people, including 15 Field Club members. Dr. Gordon Beakes of Newcastle University brought along a keen group of students from his extra-mural “Mushrooms and Toadstools” class. There were, in addition, two veterans of the B.M.S. Fungal Dye Workshop held in Edinburgh a few weeks previously, and a sprinkling of local B.M.S. members. Chris Yates, Recorder of the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union Mycological Section, came along with the specific brief of concentrating on the microfungi, much under-recorded in the area. Unfortunately, because of a heavy cold, Brian Walker was unable to accompany us on the foray but he did greet us at the car park, and was at the Visitors Centre later where specimens were displayed and examined. We are grateful to Gordon Simpson and Brian for making this facility available.
The route was planned to take advantage of a variety of habitats and, although the old meadowland proved disappointing, forayers found plenty to interest them elsewhere. The weather was dull and misty but mild, and the even light and lack of wind made collecting conditions ideal.
Particularly interesting to most were the strange-smelling Tricholoma sulphureum with beech, the beautiful pearly Pseudohydnum gelatinosum on conifer stumps, and sinister luxuriant growths of Helvella lacunose in roadside grass. Many new county records were made including a beautiful specimen of Amanita submembranacea, a close relative of the well-known grisette but with a grey volva. Others were the agarics Tricholoma scalpturatum, the gills of which turn bright yellow with the onset of decay, Mycena delicatella on conifer needles, Inocybe longicystis, common enough in this country with pine but yet to be recognised by some continental authorities, and the ascomycete Hypocrea pulvinata on decaying birch bracket. New microfungi included Pucciniastrum guttatum on Galium saxatile, Endophragmium catenulate on beech mast, and Scutoscypha fagi on dead beech leaves. The branching polypore Grifola frondosa on oak was seen apparently for the first time in the county since the days of Winch’s Flora in the early nineteenth century.
Considering that the early season had been very disappointing in the area compared with 1987, the total of over 160 identified species was very gratifying. A copy of the final list from the B.M.S. database will be made available to the Field Club when expert confirmations are complete.
I would like to take this opportunity of thanking those members who attended for their individual contributions to a highly successful foray. The making of fungal records is a difficult but challenging and fascinating area of natural history and all assistance is extremely welcome.
Holgate Moor and Gill – Skelton – Marske Beck – Helwith
9th April 1989 – Raymond and Phyllis Garrod
Twenty-four members met at the crossroads high on Holgate Moor, above Newsham. This is an excellent viewpoint where we could see the managed heather moors of the Barningham Estate, the devastation of the Hurst lead mining field, and the bright green sheep pastures on the limestones of the Yoredale rocks of the Carboniferous series.
After dropping down steeply we crossed the gorge of Holgate Gill with its iron bridge (Goat’s Bridge), then a moorland track led us to a narrow road at Skegdale Beck, where the terrain changed to heather except for the green oasis of Schoolmaster Pasture Farm.
Passing through Washfold village we saw the old school, now a private house, and the recently beautifully renovated house by the Padley Beck. We climbed up through rough pastures with much evidence of leadmining – bell pits, opencast and spoil heaps – above Helwith Gill. Walking through the heather on Skelton Moor we had superb views to Richmond Castle many miles away, and then the surprise view down into the head of the very wide, steep-sided, Marske Beck, formed when the Stainmore Glacier passed this way. It has very impressive “organ-pipe” limestone crags on the east side. Dropping down to the head of the valley, we passed Telfit Farm, then along Marske Beck with its limestone outcrops, and huge numbers of rabbits, across the gill again, and past Manor Farm at Helwith. No-one is living there now; it has IH 1842 on the barn and stables and probably belonging to the Hutton family of Marske Hall. It was a steep climb up to the cars.
Primrose, golden saxifrage, moschatel and spleenwort were some of the plants seen; of fossils we saw productids and crinoids: the moorland birds were all back – curlew, lapwing, redshank, wheatear, meadow pipits, snipe, kestrel, skylarks, and fieldfares. A dipper, tits, chaffinch, greenfinches, partridges, and pheasants were seen in the valleys and pastures, but the highlight for most of us was on the moorland edge – a superb view of a short-eared owl crossing backwards and forwards over the road in front of us. This was a very enjoyable “winter” walk, in perfect spring weather.
19th – 21st May 1989 – Joyce Jackson and Rosemond Dry
Twenty-nine members went by coach via the flat fertile Fylde to Southport where we were met by Mrs. Peg Beverly. We stayed in two good adjacent private hotels and enjoyed superb weather.
On Saturday we visited the Ainsdale coast, the finest example of a sand-dune system on the northwest coast of England. Our expert guides talked about habitat management. The coastal reserve consists of large areas of beach, dunes, marshy slacks and planted pinewoods. We were met at the north end by John Sharp, a ranger on the local nature reserve. We started at the shore with one to two miles of sand stretching down to the sea. Mobile dunes form parallel to the shore stabilised by marram grass. In the hollows formed by the wind and where water lies we could have spent a long time. Some of the wet slacks were fenced as the habitats are very fragile. The rare natterjack toad, with a distinctive yellow line down the middle of its back, breeds here.
The more fertile fixed dunes had complete plant cover but fewer flowers than we expected because of the drought. Sea buckthorn was introduced in the 1880’s to help stabilise the dunes but was invasive and much has been removed. There are few rabbits to graze, so sheep may be brought in as a carefully controlled experiment. John was in radio contact with our next guide, David Wheeler, chief warden for the Nature Conservancy Council’s reserve which has restricted access. Radio links are very useful in patrolling such a large area.
We ate our picnic lunch under the shade of willow trees beside a large toad scrape. The temperature had soared so we stayed in the shade while David explained his management policy. Then came one of our high spots. We waited outside a caged sandy ridge. Then David came tapping a tin of mealworms, went into the caged area, and sand lizards darted out to be fed. What a photographer’s challenge! Sand lizards are up to 20 cms long, greyish-brown with dark brown rings with white centres – if they are still long enough to be seen. However, during the mating season of May/June, the males have bright green flanks and undersides. Each female lays up to twelve eggs in a hole and leaves them. The species is becoming so rare that, when possible, the eggs are dug up with a spoon, incubated, and hand reared to be returned to the reserve. David said that there were four males and twenty females in the cage. From here he led us by a private track through red squirrel territory.
In the evening we had a short coach tour of old Southport and a visit to the Botanic Gardens, finishing with coffee and goodies at Peg’s.
On Sunday we drove ten miles to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre at Martinmere. Here our guide was Pat Wisniewski who took us to an SSSI famous for its rare plants, but the swamp had dried out with the heat and the drought. However, we learned more of the problems of habitat management. The reserve is 250 acres of flat land in the middle of a flat rich farming and market gardening area, so there is some conflict of interests. To encourage the thousands of pink-footed geese, which over-winter, to keep off their fields, the farmers give their carrot misshapes to the reserve. We then made our own way round the open parts of the reserve. It was downy-duckling time so there was pleantry to see with good information boards.
We returned by the Ribble valley over to Skipton and home by Ripon. Our record lists may be short but we saw some of the problems facing conservationists and how they are being approached. We are very grateful to John, our excellent driver, and for generous Lancashire hospitality.
19th August 1989 – Raymond and Phyllis Garrod
Thirty-five members left by coach in glorious sunshine via Wensleydale, Widdale Fell, past Ribblehead, to Selside – the heart of the Three Peaks. It was half a mile to Alum Pot, one of a series of potholes in the area, the entrance being situated at 1,100 feet on the eastern slopes of Ingleborough. Beyond the entrance is a drop of 300 feet and the roar of an underground stream. Nearby were Diccan and Long Churn Caves. The latter can be entered without ropes – some of our intrepid members scrambled into the entrance. Horizontal bedding and vertical joints of the Great Scar Limestone let water percolate through the cracks. Chemical reactions dissolve the rocks allowing the water to flow underground to form caves and potholes.
Twenty-five members went south with Raymond and had superb views of Penyghent and Ingleborough. We crossed Sulber Nick, a Bronze Age path running from Horton to Ingleborough, a depression and fault associated and parallel to the Craven fault, nearer Clapham. Suddenly, below us was an amphitheatre whose floor consisted of extensive and impressive limestone pavement. A steep drop took us through Sulber Gate, across the pavements, over Beggar’s Stile and down to Austwick Beck Head passing Thieves Moss and the remnants of walled enclosures considered to be Iron Age fields, and a good crop of mushrooms, quickly gathered in! Austwick Beck rises below horizontal limestones, on top of diagonally sloping Silurian rocks – an unconformity. The same contact zone was seen in Moughton Scars to the east.
We then came to Nappa Scars and the famous Norber Erratics. During the Ice Age boulders of the dark-coloured, older, Silurian rocks were pushed in the ice on top of the younger white limestones. Here we could look along the Craven Fault where the land was uplifted between Ingleton and Stainforth, leaving younger rocks below us. There are still movements on this fault. After another mile the party reached Clapham.
The ‘B’ party explored a pavement above the potholes, also swallowholes, hollows in the ground formed when water sinks through the boulder clay to the eroding limestone below; and viewed the classic “basket of eggs” drumlins across the valley. We visited Selside which, at the time of the Domesday survey, was a small Norse settlement (Sallow Shieling, Croft by the Willows) and farthest up Ribblesdale to be recorded. It belonged to Furness Abbey, and many local farms were built on sites of the Abbey Manors. In 1877 there were seven farms, eleven cottages, a Town Hall, a school, the Red Lion Inn (closed in 1956), and a small green. There are now two working farms, and the houses have been restored by incomers.
Driving to Clapham, we stopped to view the Hoffman Lime Kiln at Langcliffe, a 300 feet oval, 22 kilns, 700 feet of tunnels, built in 1873 and disused since 1940. Clapham, a pretty village with a National Park Centre, is famous for the Farrers of Ingleborough Hall, with its moraine and water gardens and rockeries (now being restored). We did a circular walk returning by the nature trail with its eight-acre lake with waterfowl, specimen trees and woodland flowers.
Hudeshope, Middleton in Teesdale
9th September 1989 – Ken and Vera Chapman
Twenty-seven members explored Hudeshope, north of Middleton in Teesdale. “Hope” means valley. Hudeshope Beck tumbles in small waterfalls and gorges through thin beds of Carboniferous limestones, sandstones and shales. Farther upstream, old quarrying has enlarged the entrance to Jack Scar, a deep, narrow, winding gorge cut through the Great Limestone, where former underground stream channels are exposed in the quarry walls. A former light railway took limestone to a row of four commercial limekilns, which made agricultural lime. The round kiln is the oldest. The last was built during the Second World War, after which production ceased and Skears Kilns became derelict.
A path led through Snaisgill Plantation to the road round Hudeshope which allows excellent views of the field patterns and walls established at the enclosures of Middleton Moor in 1817 and 1841. No doubt this former woodland was improved by lime from Skears Kilns. Early hushing pre-dates these field walls. Intense lead mining by levels and shafts in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and several ore crushing mills have left a scared landscape, especially at Marl Beck, Lodge Sike and Coldberry Mines. Eight members climbed Coldberry Gutter, an opencast mining gash, and reached the artificial hushing lake on the watershed at 1,730 feet (OD 525m) now frequented by wildfowl.
Our return path led past Aukside cross-passage longhouse and through a field of mushrooms to beck-side woods, Hude and Middleton.
Middleton in Teesdale
14th October 1989 – Alan Legg
This year we were pleased to welcome Gordon Beakes and his extra-mural students from Newcastle University on our excursion to King’s Walk on the outskirts of Middleton Village. After such a parched and arid season from April onwards we did not harbour hopes of a rich harvest of fungi, and the final haul was indeed a modest one when compared with the previous years. Nevertheless, the day was unfailingly bright and full of autumn colour, and the view from the Eggleston road on the outward journey was itself almost worth the trip.
Apart from rich crops of honey fungus and the false chanterelle, which few forayers will fail to recognise in future, the fungi had to be searched for. The dry weather had helped to produce a variety of distortions in size, shape and colour which presented problems even to the most experienced among us.
The final tally for the day was a mere 45 identified species but would have been far fewer without so many eager forayers. Despite the modest total, three new County records were logged, two species of Psilocybe and a Mycena; P. coprophila was collected from old horse droppings, and P. physaloides from well-weathered sawdust. Mycena leptocephola was found amongst moss and pine needles. Thirty one species newly recorded from the site brought the total from four visits at different times of year to a respectable 102. King’s Walk should be well worth another autumn visit in a wetter year.
Reeth – Calver Hill – Arkle Beck
8th April 1990 – Raymond and Phyllis Garrod
Twenty-three of us left Reeth Green on a glorious spring morning and the sun shone in a clear blue sky all day. We walked along Skellgate, an old walled track, climbing steadily to reach the moor at 1,000 feet, passing the flowers of blackthorn, celandine and dog’s mercury along the way. On the open moor superb views opened out up and down the dale. Across the river Swale was Maiden Castle, as well as Intakes on the open fell, and a large area of juniper. In the past the moors had been worked for lead but are now managed for grouse. One patch of heather was burning – part of the sequence in a seven-year cycle to promote new growth both for sheep and grouse.
Along the sides of Fremington Edge was spoil from the once-worked chert mines, the adits of which can still be seen on the hillside. The slopes of the valley sides were stepped showing the repeated sequence of limestones, sandstones and shales of the Yoredale Series of the Carboniferous era.
Most of the party climbed to the top of Calver Hill at 1,600 feet. On the steeper slopes there was much evidence of overgrazing and burrowing by rabbits. Of the many seen one was black. Birds were not plentiful but grouse, meadow pipits, curlew, wheatear and golden plover were seen. A well-preserved limekiln was visited on the slopes of Calver, and the quarry behind revealed fossils of Lithostrotium and Dibunophyllum, both corals.
Dropping down to Arkengarthdale we passed fenced enclosures among the heather, probably made to monitor regeneration of the vegetation without the grazing of sheep and rabbits. There were excellent views across the dale to Booze and Sleigill where, at one time, a very extensive lead mining field was in operation with tremendous Hushes crossing the gill up the hillside. Fell End Mine and Hush reached the very top of Fremington Edge and were particularly important in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Passing through Arkle Town, a pretty village now mostly holiday cottages, then through the old graveyard, we reached the Arkle Beck, with woodland and pasture up the fell-side. Here there were partridges, long-tailed tits and grey wagtails, and small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies. The many flowers included golden saxifrage, strawberry, violet, coltsfoot, speedwell and primroses. We noted a number of dead trees which had probably reached their allotted span, a small enclosed plantation of young deciduous trees, and the pretty red flowers of larch in a wood with Scots pine. We enjoyed a delightful walk back to Reeth along the river, most of it beautifully wooded, and through sheep and cow pastures.
6th May 1990 – Mary Wilson
The car park at the end of Haweswater Reservoir provided the meeting point for sixteen members on a sunny Sunday morning. Binoculars were soon in action when we saw a pair of goosander on the reservoir and then, close by, a male red-breasted merganser, giving us an opportunity to compare the males of the two species. On the walk up to Riggindale we spotted Canada geese with goslings and a cormorant on the water, while wheatears posed for us on rocks and walls.
In Riggindale is the observation post for the nest of a pair of golden eagles, the only nesting pair in England. The site is manned by RSPB volunteer wardens. We had heard beforehand that the eagles had lost their clutch of two eggs and Stephan, the warden on duty, confirmed this on our arrival. Using telescopes we were able to view the abandoned nest, a very sorry sight. The eagles were still in the area and had been collecting nest material in what was described as ‘frustration behaviour’ but there was no hope that they could raise another brood this season. This was a great disappointment for the RSPB warden of the site, John Day, and all the volunteers who had spent long cold uncomfortable nights guarding the nest since the eggs were laid. At least we were rewarded with the view of an eagle. It was perched at a considerable distance and we had to follow carefully the directions of our ornithologists to pick out the dark shape of the bird. Still, a ‘mega-tick’ for most of us.
After lunch we returned to the other end of the reservoir near the dam to meet John Day and Jackie Rimmer for a guided walk in part of the extensive Naddle Woods. The woods are predominantly oak with a hazel understory. The hazel is important for the survival of the red squirrel in the Lake District. So far the grey squirrel has not reached this part of the lakes. John explained to us that upland woodland of this type is under threat. Most woodland is grazed by sheep and deer which prevents the regeneration of trees. In this wood sheep will be excluded until the young trees have matured sufficiently and then controlled grazing will be allowed to keep the turf short for small ground-nesting birds. During this walk we had a splendid view of a pair of pied flycatchers bringing food to a nest in an old tree by the path. A large part of the wood was carpeted with bluebells – a beautiful sight and, John reminded us, a particularly British one as bluebells are rare on the continent.
The last section of our walk took us beside the Naddle Beck, past Thornthwaite Force. Among a list of 56 botanical finds that day, many were from this area and included globeflower on an island in the beck, early purple orchid, lousewort, marsh violet, yellow pimpernel and lemon-scented fern. At the limit of the walk we watched a pair of dippers collecting food, then we turned back as the clouds closed in. John reminded us that the way we had walked was all public footpath, a walk to be recommended to anyone, especially in spring. My thanks to John and Jackie for their help in organising and guiding the walk.
Middlehope Burn, Weardale
13th May 1990 – Cliff Evans and Hazel Peacock
Maurice Holliday led this walk alongside the Middlehope Burn. The walk started from Westgate where the burn enters the river Wear. On our way upstream the Carboniferous rock strata and the flora were examined. We were most surprised to come across London pride flourishing very well indeed among great slabs of sandstone.
Lunch was eaten sitting among remains of old mine buildings. As we continued upstream more evidence of mining was seen in spoil heaps. Although old and weathered, the spoil heaps did not support much vegetation and could easily be examined for mineral specimens. Several good ones were found, particularly of galena, as well as calcite, quartz, fluorspar, sphalerite and iron pyrites. Many rucksacks were much heavier on the way back.
Robin Hood’s Bay
24th June 1990 – Mary Griss
Once again we were fortunate to be accompanied on this trip by Alan and Pat Stainforth. Alan is a Ranger for the North Yorks Moors National Park, with special responsibility for the coastal area, and Pat is a marine biologist.
We met them in the car park at the top of the village and made our way to the beach where we spent some time hearing about the geology of the area. We looked at the rocks and pebbles on the shore, many of which are glacial erratics, including rocks of Shap granite and examples from further afield, e.g. Scandinavia. The beach is also rich in fossils. We also looked at the marine life to be found, even in the uppermost reaches of the shore in the ‘splash zone’.
By lunchtime we had not progressed very far and the weather had begun to deteriorate. Some members of the party decided to make their way back along the beach whilst the others returned along the cliff-top path.
The main party continued along the beach to Ravenscar which eventually necessitated some scrambling over seaweed-strewn rocks interspersed with rock pools. Our enthusiasm became a little stretched by this point! We climbed the very steep cliff path, pausing on the way up to look down onto the bay where the structure of the underlying rocks uncovered by the low tide could clearly be seen.
Finally we reached the former railway line which was to be our return route to the village. Birds seen were herring gull, black-headed gull, cormorant, sandwich tern, gannet, pied wagtail, oystercatcher, redshank, kittiwakes and razorbill. Of the marine life we saw green shore crab, edible crab, hermit crab, starfish, brittle star, butterfish, shanny, plaice (tiny!), beadlet anemone, barnacles, whelks, winkles, flat winkles, rough winkles, top shells, sponge and chiton.
Gateshead Garden Festival
22nd July 1990 – Gladys Evans
Forty members boarded the coach to visit the National Garden Festival at Gateshead. On our arrival one of the festival staff joined us and gave us a few tips on how to get the best out of our day there.
From a naturalists point of view the most notable and interesting garden was the one created by the Northumberland Wildlife Trust in partnership with British Coal. They had made a ‘wetland site’ with a small lake, marshy area and stream. Already there were tufted duck, mallard and moorhen on the lake. Many plants, including ragged robin, yellow flag and purple loosestrife were becoming established in the wetland habitat. This site is one of the few that is to remain after the festival ends.
Durham Wildlife Trust had created a Limestone Garden with the help of the quarry firm Steetley. There was a small kiosk from which a video could be viewed, showing the story of the removal of a threatened habitat at Thrislington Quarry. The area was needed for further extraction of limestone, so the manpower and machinery were provided by the quarry firm to remove the threatened turf to a safe site. In that way the important magnesian limestone flora was preserved. Durham Bat Group had set up a Bat Cave, inside which were larger-than-life models of bats.
Other interesting gardens where the White Garden by Tioxide, and a quite restful garden called The Haven by Newcastle Mental Health Unit.
The Gardens of County Durham took the theme Land of the Prince Bishops for which they won a Gold Award. They consisted of several contrasting gardens – from the formal parterre, the small box hedging one can see at Bowes Museum, to the Pitman’s Allotment with bantams, pigeons and the typical leeks. At the front of this exhibit was a Sculpture and Water Garden, which was backed by statues in metal representing the church and northeast pioneers in business. This part – the Water Garden and Statues – is to be moved to the Botanic Gardens at Durham University.
This site, previously an industrial eyesore, had been very cleverly transformed into a wonderful variety of gardens, exhibits, and even a lake. It has provided much pleasure and entertainment for about three million visitors this summer. All the Field Club members agreed it had been a very enjoyable day, albeit some of us were a little footsore!
Bowes Moor – God’s Bridge – Pennine Way
28th July 1990 – Cliff Evans
Raymond and Phyllis Garrod led this walk from Bowes along the river Greta to God’s Bridge, and then along the Pennine Way. There were limestone exposures near the river, sandstone quarries on the skyline, evidence of glaciation in swallowholes, moraines and boulder clay, and lime kilns at God’s Bridge, the bridge bring a natural limestone table across the river Greta.
Here we joined the Pennine Way and walked south over heather moors to Sleightholme Beck situated in a beautiful limestone gorge. Worm trace fossils were seen in sandstones at Intake Bridge. We then joined the Tan Hill road and returned to Bowes with superb views of the Pennines and Cleveland Hills.
Malham Cove – Gordale Scar
11th August 1990 – Cliff and Gladys Evans, Hazel Peacock
This was the last coach trip of the season. Approaching Malham the road becomes very narrow and difficult to negotiate. Meeting a Volvo with a puncture did not help!
We arrived safely and parked at the Visitor Centre. We took the path through a wooded valley to Janet’s Foss, a waterfall flowing over an apron of tufa about twelve feet wide. Tufa is a pure calcium carbonate precipitated from lime-rich water. We made our way to Gordale Scar, the valley narrowing to a gorge with towering limestone walls.
After lunch we backtracked slightly on to the Malham Cove path, passing an Iron Age settlement and Watlowes Dry Valley, coming out onto the limestone pavement above the cove. The pavement is made up of large blocks of limestone, known as clints, separated by deep fissures, called grykes. Twelve lowering plants and four ferns were recorded from the grykes, but only two (limestone bedstraw and baneberry) were true lime-loving plants. Baneberry, Actaea spicata, was an exciting find, even though we only saw the leaves. It is a very specialised plant found only in woodland over limestone, and in the grykes of limestone pavement. This rare plant is now confined to Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire.
The path leads down to the base of the Cove where the whole natural amphitheatre can be seen. The Cove is over 200 feet high and would have rivalled Niagra Falls when glacial meltwater was flowing over it. A short walk took us back to Malham and cups of tea before the journey home.
8th September 1990 – Alan Legg
Numbers at the Club foray to Barningham Park were augmented by visitors from Teesside, Spennymoor and Chester-le-Street. The weather was lovely and misgivings about dry conditions were soon dispelled when it became clear that a thunderstorm three weeks before had provided enough moisture to tempt a number of species to fruit. The park is small in area and has no streams but there was enough variety of habitat to keep us all busy despite a little unavoidable backtracking.
Some unscheduled mountaineering caused a little discomfort but led to the discovery of one of the two best finds of the day, the scarce brown-toothed boleta, Porphyrellus pseudoscaber, unknown previously from the district. The other interesting collection was of the equally scarce Hebeloma radicosom, a ringed and almond-scented toadstool with a rooting stem usually traceable underground to an ammonia source in animal waste products. The final tally was 66 species; better by nearly 50% than for last year’s foray when more people attended.
Castle Eden Dene
6th October 1990 – Alan Legg
This joint Fungus Foray with the British Mycological Society was not well-attended by Club members but everyone was very keen and, although it was a little chilly, rainfall in the preceding weeks had been sufficient to provide a heart-warming crop of fungus.
From my point of view, the best find of the day was one of the smallest: the tiny agaric, Marasmius epiphylloides, found only on dead ivy leaves. Other memorable collections were the noble yellow Pluteus leoninus on rotting wood, a highly photogenic group of the common but always attractive Stropharia aerugimosa on cleared ground, and – as a fitting climax to the day – two groups of the death-cap, Amanita phalloides under beech trees. We were well satisfied with a grand total of 103 species.
17th – 19th May 1991 – Raymond and Phyllis Garrod, Phyllis Hornsey
On the Friday, 29 members assembled at the Arts Centre at 5 p.m., boarded the coach, and were soon on the way to Otterburn. Nearing Durham we saw large patches of cowslips on both sides of the road, several swallows and four geese flying south. Near Ponteland two snipe rose and zig-zagged away, a heron contemplated a reed-bed and pheasant were seen. The country was now becoming more attractive and the scene was one of Spring with cows and calves, horses and foals, and sheep and lambs in the fields. Well before 7 p.m. we reached Otterburn and drove along the main drive through woodland to Otterburn Hall, a fine imposing building. The public rooms had undergone recent renovation and were pleasant; the bedrooms were no so well decorated but were warm, and there was plenty of hot water. Our first dinner proved disappointing as plates and soup were cold, but the other meals during our stay were served hot and food was plentiful.
The extensive grounds, with two lakes and the Otterburn flowing along a deep gorge, were well explored and produced 24 species of birds, including spotted woodpecker, dipper and crossbills. There were dozens of rabbits and a large number of badger diggings and latrines.
On Saturday morning we drove through scenic valleys following the meander of the river Coquet to Hepple and nearby Caistron Nature Reserve, owned by Ryton Sand & Gravel Company. Mr. Neil Telfer, the manager, greeted us in a rich Northumbrian accent and told us the history of the reserve, then guided us round the one-and-a-half miles of circular path, stopping at hides en-route. The 30 species of birds seen included grey wagtail, oystercatchers, mute swans with cygnets, and greylags with goslings. Some members had a good view of a roe deer, and four species of butterflies were recorded. Our picnic lunch was enjoyed by the river at Rothbury.
Our goal for the afternoon was Simonside, composed of Carboniferous Fell Sandstone and, at an altitude of 1,409 feet, is the highest point of an almost unbroken scar from Berwick to the Cumbrian Hills. From the Forestry Commission car park we walked up forest tracks to reach the open moor with heather, bilberry and cowberry, and the steep and craggy Simonside ahead. The party split into two groups, one of which continued to Raven’s Heugh, a similar rocky outcrop though not as high as Simonside. A steep climb on an eroding rocky path and we were on top!, among a sea of cotton grass and heather, and impressive rock formations and sheer drops. Our path took us along the edge of the plateau – with superb views all around, and we passed the remains of an Iron Age Fort. We then went down, through the forest, to join the rest of the party.
It was now nearly 6 p.m. and the sun was shining after a shower. A short drive took us to Holystone village, and Lady’s Well. A gradual decline in the village population led to the extinction of its common rights in the nineteenth century. This area is very rich in archaeological remains. The Well, a quarter of a mile from the village, was once a watering place by the Roman Road. It is managed by the National Trust and situated in a beautiful woodland enclosure. The Well is about 15 feet square and shallow, with an inscribed cross in the middle which states that 15,000 people were baptised there. Pure clear water wells up from the bottom and provides the village water supply. Nearby there was a statue to St. Ninian.
On Sunday morning, in bright sunshine, we drove to Alwinton, the last village up the Coquet valley. It is encircled by hills which, to the south, are the Harbottle Fells – dark, heather clad, craggy Carboniferous Fell Sandstones, referred to by Northumbrians as ‘Black Country’. To the north is the ‘White Country’ – light green turf, high smooth hills and bare crags, and the pink lavas of the Cheviot Andesites of the Old Red Sandstone period. The latter was our destination. Along the banks of the Alwin were masses of primroses and a grey wagtail, ancient cultivation terraces on the slopes, and yellow pansies in the flat valley bottom. The valley sides steepened as we climbed diagonally up the fellside, and at the top we had superb views to the snow-covered Cheviot Hills.
The short turf made for pleasant walking and over the top we dropped down on to the ancient Clennell Street, a green road previously used by the Drovers from Yetholm to Alwinton. We passed an ancient settlement of circular raised turf banks. Meadow pipits were common. We enjoyed lunch amongst the daffodils by Low Alwinton Church, which was visited by most of the party. In a lovely setting on a hillside, and built on two levels, the ancient chancel is elevated above the nave; the latter being rebuilt in 1851.
In the afternoon we made a visit to Wallington Hall where some of the group looked around the Hall while the others spent the time in the lovely walled gardens and woodlands. Chiffchaffs were the birds most in evidence, and the botanists were pleased to see Cardamine trifolia, trifoliate bittercress. Following a refreshing cuppa and home-made biscuits we climbed on board our coach for the homeward journey. Everyone agreed that it had been a full and interesting weekend.
30th June 1991 – Mary Wilson
Hawthorn Dene is one of a series of wooded denes which cut their way through the magnesian limestone of the Durham coast. The nature reserve at Hawthorn Dene is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), part owned and entirely managed by the Durham Wildlife Trust. It covers an area of around 160 acres and includes cliffs and areas of grassland as well as the extensive wooded dene.
We were fortunate to be joined on our walk by Peter Wilkinson and Barry Simpson of the reserve’s management committee. The afternoon began with a walk through the dene itself, following a winding and undulating track which was muddy after rain.
The enforced slow pace suited the botanists very well. The best of the woodland flowers were over but there was still plenty of interest. Most of the party braved a particularly muddy slope to see a large patch of herb paris with its green flowers and black berries. Such a profuse growth of this plant is an indicator of ancient woodland. Near the end of our woodland walk we found four fern species, male fern, lady fern, broad buckler fern and hard shield fern growing in close proximity, making an ideal opportunity for our botany leader to give us a quick lesson in fern identification.
Signs of a number of mammals were noted in the dene including a ‘satellite’ badger sett and deer footprints on a track, used regularly by roe deer as they cross the woodland. Peter explained to us that ash is the natural dominant tree species of the Durham denes. However, that alien invader, the sycamore, is constantly springing up and much of the management of the reserve involves controlling these interlopers to prevent them taking over entirely.
The day had been rather overcast up to this point then, as we emerged from the woods on to grassland, the sun came through. This limestone grassland was the central goal of our visit. In late June and early July it is full of colour. Flowers which were especially striking were dyers greenweed, and common spotted and fragrant orchids. But the stars of the afternoon were the bee orchids, very handsome specimens which had many members down on their knees to get the best camera shots. Usually this grassland is alive with butterflies but the day was too windy to encourage them to fly.
It needed a persistent effort to drag people away from the meadow and up to the edge of the now-disused quarry. We found frog orchid on the way up and had a splendid view of the coast from the top of the hill. We reached our cars again after three hours having covered only two miles – a tribute to wildlife interest at the Hawthorn Dene Nature Reserve.
Deepdale, Barnard Castle
22nd September 1991 – Alan Legg
The slightly later date of this year’s foray may have contributed to a high species count of 82. It must be noted, though, that the continuing dry weather meant that forayers had to search hard for what they found. Only 38% of finds were mushrooms and toadstools.
Club records show that a foray to the same site on 27th September 1930 produced a list of 105 fungi, of which 58% were agarics – exactly the same percentage as for our Barningham foray last year. Nevertheless, the best find of the day was a toadstool – the rather unprepossessing Psathyrella marcescibilis – confirmed and housed at Kew and new to Yorkshire.
Rosa Shafto Nature Reserve, Spennymoor
27th October 1991 – Alan Legg
At this joint meeting of the Club and the British Mycological Society about 30 people attended. A total of exactly 100 fungi were observed which confirms the belief that, contrary to popular opinion, there is usually a greater variety to be found late in the season. Keen forayers travelled from as far afield as Tynemouth and Knaresborough.
The most commonly found toadstool was the butter-cap, Collybia butyracea, though it’s vary variable appearance was a puzzle to many. The best fungs were a single specimen of the lovely pink Mycena adonis and the fairy club, Clavariadelphus junceus lurking by the hundred amongst wayside leaf litter and in ditches – both new records for County Durham. It was gratifying also to record the rare Lepiota echinacea flourishing at the same spot where it had been discovered four years previously.
1991 – Chris Patterson
As our centenary year draws to a close I think we can look back and truly say we celebrated in style.
The year started with a Centenary Exhibition. This took the form of a display in a showcase at the Arts Centre for a month from the 20th April, its theme being the Field Club’s past and present activities. Early photographs, specimens from our herbarium, entomology and archaeology collections depicted the past whilst copies of Nature Trails, publicity leaflets, the Durham Flora, rock specimens, photographs, insect record cards and recording equipment illustrated the present. The display was again mounted at the November NNU meeting hosted by the Club.
The Centenary Dinner took place on the 30th April at the Kings Head Hotel in Darlington. The 73 present, including 19 Past Presidents and former members and friends from as far afield as Dumfries, Ulverston and South Humberside, enjoyed a memorable evening in the company of the Mayor and Mayoress, Councillor and Mrs. Eric Roberts; Mr. and Mrs. Brian Walker, guest speaker; and Professor and Mrs. David Bellamy.
After a welcome by the President, Mrs. Phyllis Hornsey, several greetings were read from those unable to be present. Following the excellent three-course meal the President proposed the Loyal Toast. Brian Walker, the Chief Ranger at Hamsterley Forest, and a regular lecturer at the Club, then spoke on The Value of Natural History Societies, how he had been influenced by a Natural History Club in his early years, and the importance of societies like ours. His many anecdotes were thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. Mrs. Phyllis Garrod responded for the Club.
The Centenary cake was then cut by the President and Brian Walker. The cake, presented by Mr. and Mrs. Hornsey, was decorated with motifs depicting the Club’s activities. The Mayor then proposed the Toast to the Field Club and this was answered on behalf of the Club by Mrs. Chris Patterson. Mrs. Margaret Port presented baskets of flowers to the lady guests and our President, and this was followed by a draw for the beautiful table decorations. A toastmaster, resplendent in red jacket, guided us smoothly through this memorable evening.
On the 9th June 50 members joined the long-awaited Centenary Outing to Teesdale with David Bellamy. David and his wife Rosemary gave us a warm welcome at their Hamsterley home where we enjoyed coffee and a superb cake decorated with 100 sugar gentians. En route to Cow Green David gave us a commentary on the Backhouse Family who made such a substantial contribution to the natural history of the district in the 18th and 19th centuries. He also described the natural features of Weardale and Teesdale and man’s affects on them.
At Cow Green, Ian Findlay, Teesdale Warden for English Nature, took the botanists to see some of Teesdale’s rarer plants whilst the others, led by David, walked to Cauldron Snout. By now it was raining as only it can in Teesdale – horizontally. Rejoining the coach, we headed down the valley to Holwick Bridge. After visiting the juniper woods and High Force, and with the sun now shining, we returned to High Force Hotel where we had high tea. After the meal, David, much to our surprise, had arranged for us to take part in a short film session about the Northern Pennines, to be shown on ITV in the spring of 1992.
The botanists saw some interesting flowers including dwarf milkwort, Teesdale sandwort, Alpine meadow rue, Scottish asphodel, Alpine bistort, and many frost-damaged ferns. What a marvellous day! It will always be remembered by those lucky enough to be present.
The main event of our year was without doubt the Centenary Lecture The Liddiard Theatre, Polam Hall School, was the venue on the 19th November for two lectures by David Bellamy. In the afternoon, 280 school children in the 10/11 age group attended the illustrated talk entitled Noa’s Ark, in the presence of the Mayor, Councillor Mrs. Rita Fishwick and her escort, Mr. D. Fishwick. The talk was about conservation in South America, the Friendly Islands, New Zealand and North America, and was enjoyed by both the children and the adults present. Long queues of children formed later for David’s autograph, and letters of thanks were received from pupils who attended.
The public evening lecture was A Flight of Fact Around a Troubled World and was again about conservation issues throughout the world. The attendance was 220 and our guests included Tom Kilgour of BBC Looks Natural fame, several of our regular lecturers and their wives, and Mrs. Hamilton, Headmistress of Polam Hall School. The lecture was followed by an informal reception for guests.
A raffle in aid of a charity of David Bellamy’s choosing, which was the Durham Wildlife Trust, raised £100. David Bellamy and Tom Kilgour signed copies of the Centenary Booklet which was on sale. We would like to thank Mrs. Hamilton for allowing us the use of the theatre.
Perhaps the biggest achievement of the year was the publication of our Centenary Booklet, after many months of hard work. Entitled Natural History In and Around Darlington, it includes articles on the wildlife in the area, local geology and climatology. Our grateful thanks go to the editor, Barry Hetherington, and to the contributors who submitted such varied and interesting articles. The booklet costs £3.50 and is available from the Secretary.
The final item on our Centenary agenda is to make a permanent record of all that has been happening during this memorable year. Press cuttings, photographs and other memorabilia are being collected to make up our Centenary Album.
These events could not have taken place without a great deal of effort and generosity by members. Our thanks go to all who have helped with their time, skills, gifts, donations and loans.
Swaledale – Hard Level Gill, Gunnerside
20th April 1992 – Raymond and Phyllis Garrod
After a sunny drive from Darlington, 21 of us met near Hard Level Bridge and immediately donned waterproofs as it was now showery and very windy. The ruins of Surrender Lead Smelt Mill and Peat House could be seen across the beck. We traced up the hillside the 500 yards long ground-level flue which took away the poisonous fumes from the mill which smelted lead ore from Sir Francis level in Gunnerside Gill. The mill closed in 1881.
As we walked up Hard Level Gill there were plenty of grouse on Lord Peel’s managed heather moors, and we saw meadow pipits and a swallow. At the ruins of Old Gang Smelt Mill we looked at the furnaces, the 700 yards long flue ending at Healaugh Crags at a height of 1800 feet, slag heaps by the beck, and the huge spoil heaps. Above the mill was the splendid Peat House, still an impressive sight, 391 feet long and 21 feet wide, with solid gable ends and pillars down each side. It would have had a ling roof. Peat cut in June each year would be burnt in the mill with coal from Tan Hill. Built in 1801, it closed in 1898. The furnaces were dismantled in 1933, the dressed stone being used to build a chapel at Muker.
Nearby were hushes – gashes in the hillside which were used to find ore before the levels were opened. Water was stored in a reservoir on the moor top and periodically released to run down the hillside to remove the surface debris made by the miners, thus leaving a clean exposed hillside for the miners to resume working. We passed two mine entrances, bouse teams for storing the lead ore, and a water wheel housing. Hard Level eventually joined up underground with Bunting Level in Gunnerside Gill – it must have been like building the Channel Tunnel!
In the limestone exposures were crinoid and Dibunophyllum coral fossils. Wheatear were seen. Crossing the gill we turned west, the track now continuing in the middle of trenches of the Old Rake, North Rake and Friarfold Veins, which were very rich sources of lead ore. After lunch in one of these dry valleys, out of the wind and now in sunshine, the party split into two groups. Raymond continued uphill with more than half the party towards Gunnerside Gill with more extensive lead mine remains.
The rest of us continued across the moor, seeing lead mine reservoirs in the distance. With very strong winds and superb views we dropped down the moor. Golden plover, lapwing, gulls and rooks were seen and, now walking on the limestone grassland, our first yellow mountain pansies. There were swallow holes, and streams rising below the limestone. At Barfs Quarry, above Low Row, were many fossils of the huge brachiopod Gigantoproductus, and early purple orchid. Then up through the village of Blades and across the moor, and our first curlews of the day.
Other flowers and insects were recorded. It was a day full of interest but a bit too windy!
10th May 1992 – Ken and Vera Chapman
The coach took us first to the Souter Lighthouse which is out of use but, as a National Trust Property, open to the public. From its upper gallery we got fine views along the coast and also of the site of Whitburn Colliery, now landscaped. Most of the party walked along the coast past Marsden Rock and Frenchman’s Bay, noting the complicated rock formations left by the attack of the sea on the magnesian limestone cliffs, and also the bluebells in an open habitat very different from the shady woods where they usually thrive.
The others rode into South Shields. In the public park we saw three rare flower species including alexanders and triangular-stemmed star of Bethlehem, which are thought to have been imported in the ballast of colliers returning from abroad. Finally, the party inspected the Roman Fort of Arbeia, in which extensive excavations have recently uncovered an Iron Age hut circle. Many of the original Roman buildings have been identified, and a replica of the Roman West Gate has been erected.
20th June 1992 – Cliff Evans
This was a joint outing by the Club and the Northern Naturalists Union – led by Julie Stobbs, the President of the NNU. At the beginning of the walk we were fortunate to find specimens of the Durham Argus butterfly, and also one egg of the species. As well as butterflies the area is particularly good for orchids. Those found included frog, northern marsh, fragrant, common spotted and twayblade.
St. Peter’s Church, Croft
5th July 1992 – Winifred E. Woodhouse
A visit to St. Peter’s Church, Croft, was enjoyed by 20 members and guided by Mrs Sue Chaytor of Croft Hall. Important historical aspects and architectural features were ably presented; the Church enjoying a quality of upkeep perhaps as good as ever in its history. It is built of red and white sandstone, probably quarried from the river bed of the Tees which flows close by under the 15th century bridge, itself an historic monument with pointed and ribbed arches each spanning 9-12 yards.
There are traces of two Anglo Saxon tombstone crosses, one on the side of the North Wall, the other a fragment standing on the East Window of the North Aisle. It was interesting to note that this beautifully tooled fragment was included in a special exhibition at the British Museum recently and is included in a new book (at the Church temporarily) entitled The Making of England – Anglo Saxon Art & Culture AD600-900 by Leo Webster and Janet Backhouse. The Early history of the Church is closely linked with that of the Manor and the earliest clear reference to it was shortly after Domesday Book.
Croft village held high status in the 13th century having a grant for a weekly market and yearly fair. This prosperity is reflected in the extensions and improvements to the church at this time. Previously there was neither Tower, Aisles, nor Clerestory – added to improve light, by Richard Clervaux. His memorial takes the form of a vast table tomb standing in the Clervaux Chapel near the South Door. The Milbank family Chapel, Pew and marble tomb are very prominent features in the North Aisle. This family and Henry Chaytor held the living of Croft by 1753. Two 14th century stained glass windows testify to the use of sulphide silver which made for good designing and lasting quality. The large stained glass West Window was erected in memory of James Henry Wilson Todd, 1891-1919, by his parents.
The unusually fine 14th century Triple Sedilia in the Chancel has stepped seats for the priest, deacon and sub-deacon. Trefoiled arches spring from engaged shafts with foliate capitals and ball flowers in the hollows at the side of each shaft. The theme is non-religious for the richly carved string rests at either end on the fabulous mythological giant found in the forest. Standing on carved corbels both figures wear short knee-length skirted gowns, and girdles with hanging ends like swordbelts. The eastern figure carries his head in his hands, the other raises his arms to support the end of the string course. This has a line of deeply cut heads of men and forest animals with groups of animals fighting or playing. The bosses on the ceiling are richly carved and include St. Peter with keys.
A memorial plaque to Lewis Carrol hangs near the South Door. His father was the Rector, Charles Dodgson, a contemporary of Sir Alan Chaytor. A perfect complement at the end of the day was a visit to Croft Hall and this was followed by a delicious tea at Hurworth by kind invitation of Dr. Eva Robson.
8th August 1992 – Ken and Vera Chapman
This outing consisted of coach travel to Appleby, train over Aisgill Summit and down to Settle, then three grades of walk in the Settle Area. We reached Appleby in time for a half-hour on foot (this turned out to be our only dry walk). From the train we had occasional views across the fells, but clouds thickened and at Settle it was gently raining.
Leaving the ‘C’ party to the amenities of Settle, we walked just beyond Langcliffe village to our lunch point, from which we hoped to get a sight of the steam locomotive ‘Blue Peter’. Unfortunately we had to move on before it came. Then the ‘A’ party took the high walk via Victoria Cave, still impressive even on a second visit. The ‘B’ party set off back via the village and the dam of Langcliffe Mill. It was a refreshing walk and a pleasure to be in limestone country, but a relief to get into the warm shelter of the train. Few other creatures – one hedgehog in fact – were unwise enough to be out in these conditions.
19th September 1992 – Don I Griss
Forty-four of us left the Arts Centre on a warm but misty day. We had an uneventful journey to Lindisfarne, arriving at the causeway at 11:15am ready for some serious birdwatching. Two greenshank were feeding on pools beside the causeway and a pair of mute swan with cygnets feeding where South Low crosses it. Because of traffic we could not stop to admire them and carried on to park in the village. We then proceeded along the Straight Loaning. Recent weather, with winds mainly from the west, had had its inevitable effect and in the full length of the track we saw only three passerine birds – skylark, meadow pipit and an unidentified warbler. A few curlew flew past to enliven the walk with their calls and we were interested to see men out ferreting the field boundaries for rabbits.
As we crossed the sand dunes the botanists, so far managing to keep up with the birdwatchers’ gentle stroll, began to lag behind having found interesting plants including grass of Parnassus, seaside centaury and creeping willow. The birdwatchers had their own excitement – a merlin flashed overhead and gave good views before disappearing in the distance.
At Sandon Bay lunch was eaten while watching common gull, eider, cormorant and red-breasted merganser in the bay, with a steady stream of gannet, young and old, passing along the coast. A grey seal bobbed around in the sea just off the rocks. Feeding in seaweed along the shore was an interesting group of waders, mainly dunlin and redshank, with little stint, ringed plover, purple sandpiper, turnstone and oyster-catcher. At Emmanuel Head were gannet, and smaller numbers of kittiwake, fulmar and sandwich terns flew past with the usual great black-backed gulls, herring gulls and black-headed gulls.
Further along were signs of the island’s industrial past. Bordering the harbour were upturned hulls of 19th century fishing boats, now used as stores and workshops while nearby were limekilns, the railway that fed them and the remains of the jetty where coal ships unloaded – all standing as a monument to a prosperity long gone.
Near the castle were a group of passerines – pied wagtail, wheatear and linnet – feeding along the tideline. In the same area on the mud, six bar-tailed godwits fed among the boats beached by the falling tide. In the village were one or two of the migrants we were looking for: a common whitethroat, skulking in a hedge, and two spotted flycatchers, but of those reported by other birdwatchers we saw nothing.
Before we left the island one more spectacle awaited us. Several hundreds of bar-tailed godwits wheeled over the Slakes in a large flock as we headed to the causeway after a very pleasant day.
26th September 1992 – Alan Legg
About a dozen people attended our fungus foray in Lady Wood, Raby Park, almost exactly 50 years after the last foray there in 1942, led by J. B. Nicholson. The wood is carefully managed but artificial and contains no trees of any great age. There seem to be fewer conifers than there used to be – a good sign.
We noted 106 taxa, exactly twice the number recorded on the war-time foray though this is more a reflection on the quality of the 1992 season than on any other factor. Nothing rare was discovered but interesting finds included Clitocybe cerrusata and the very glutinous Tricholoma ustaloides, both with beech. The quite large, golf-tee shaped, ascomycete Poculum firmum was found on fallen oak branches. This fungus seems to be uncommon locally and its collection in Lady Wood constituted a new county record. The only fungus new to the leader was Psathyrella badio-vestita, a ‘little brown job’ of unknown distribution.
Hudswell Woods, Richmond
10th October 1992 – Alan Legg
A rather large crowd braved a raw morning for the British Mycological Society’s day foray in Hudswell Woods. The unavoidable absence of Gordon Beakes was compensated for by the presence of Alex Weir and the group was accompanied by Alister Clunas, representing the National Trust. The season had already passed its peak but there was no shortage of fungi amongst the beeches and in the adjoining pasture.
We found two species which have this year appeared in the BMS Red Data List – the beautiful ‘Ballet-dancer’, Hygrocybe calyptraeformis, in the pasture and the inconspicuous Camarophyllopsis atropuncta under two different beeches. The former is classified as vulnerable (likely to become endangered) and the latter are rare (likely to become vulnerable). Other exciting finds were Amanita pantherina, new to the leader after 22 years of searching, and Hygrocybe pumicea, a beautiful crimson wax-cap, also uncommon. An impressive total of 134 taxa were recorded, the best since these forays began in 1987.
8th May 1993 – Eva Robson and Dorothy Wood
Twenty members left Darlington on a damp afternoon, which later became warm and dry. We drove to Sutton Bank through countryside resplendent in the beauty of early summer. At the top of Sutton Bank we turned left, passing the one-time famous Hambleton Gallops, and parked around the green in the picturesque village of Cold Kirby. From here we followed the Cleveland Way down the valley, passing massed and aromatic sweet cicely below the village church. We walked through mixed woodland for one and a half miles seeing garlic, primrose and butterbur by the path.
The fir trees showed lovely golden fringes of new growth and there was evidence of intensive forestry. We reached three large private fishing ponds made quite blue by chemical treatment for the control of algae. Here we saw mallard and tufted ducks.
After a short rest we continued our circular walk through Nettle Dale Wood where we saw a good variety of wild flowers, including early purple orchid. We surprised a female roe deer, and pheasants were both seen and heard, and there was an abundance of pheasant egg-shells by the footpath.
After climbing out of the Dale we had wonderful views of the Hambleton Hills. We passed through a farm which had a flock of entirely black sheep and returned to Cold Kirby, seeing pink forget-me-nots on the village green.
The birds seen during the outing included kestrel, chaffinch, black cap, skylark, blue tit, swallows, crows, wood pigeons, robin and pheasants, and we heard willow warblers and chiff chaff.
15th May 1993 – Mavis and John Manson
Despite the very blustery wind, heavy showers and sunshine, nine members of the Club enjoyed our walk. We started from Reeth and took the riverside path to Healaugh. The bank-sides were a delight with spring flowers.
Through Healaugh we took the Kearton road and climbed the hill to a stile in the wall, quickly heading for the nearest barn before we became soaked, and to shelter for lunch. We then made our way through fields, pushing against the gusty wind and rain. Continuing on the road for about 200 yards, where we saw a squashed hedgehog, we took a footpath marked ‘Isles Bridge’. Through this small copse of many flowers and birds, we examined the remains of a skinned mole – not a pleasant site.
The path followed the river bank all the way to Isles Bridge. Along here we disturbed a goosander and six chicks that scurried across the river as we passed. Further on Hazel Peacock and John just made it across boggy pasture as the ground gave way to a deep swamp beneath them. Near Isles Bridge at Low Row the path goes along the top of a wall. At one side is the river and a few trees, at the other is a ten foot drop. Due to the strong side-wind it was tricky to stay on top of the wall! However, once at the bridge we turned, and with our backs to the wind walked back to Reeth along a lovely country lane.
We saw many birds including curlew, thrush, a pair of goldfinch and two oyster catchers. Also seen were common inkcap and yellow brain fungi.
Cromford, Matlock, Derbyshire
21st-23rd May 1993 – Ken Chapman
Our visit was based at Alison House, an early 19th century stately home now used by TocH as a conference centre. We were very comfortable and well fed; the managers, Bill and Dorothy Pepper went out of their way to be helpful.
Mary Yule, a club member who lives at Matlock, arranged for Mrs. Eileen Thorp of the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust to guide us around Rose End Meadow, which is mown and grazed at strictly limited times, to permit unusual plants to flourish. We visited the meadow on the Saturday morning and were delighted at what we saw.
On Saturday afternoon we all first took a guided tour of the National Stone Museum, a set of open-air exhibits in a large now-disused limestone quarry above Cromford. The guide, a retired quarryman, described the limestone industry and the problems of living in limestone country, with stories from his own experiences.
Then some of us visited Cromford Mill on the river Derwent, the world’s first successful water-powered cotton-spinning mill, founded in 1771 by Richard Arkwright, who also developed Cromford as a model industrial village with millworkers’ and weavers’ cottages and a marketplace. The rest of us walked along the trackbed of the old Cromford and High Peak Railway. This passes high up with views of Cromford and Matlock, then down a 1-in-8 incline more than a mile long, bounded by deep man-made cliffs and surrounded by trees that have grown enormously tall and thin from the bottom of the deep gorge. At the bottom we turned along the bank of the Cromford Canal, a secluded place where we saw a water vole.
On Sunday morning the coach took us up to Tissington where we were reminded of water supply problems mentioned at the Stone Museum. Tissington, fortunate in its water supply, was celebrating by ‘dressing’ each of its seven wells with a wonderfully colourful biblical picture intricately composed of local natural materials such as petals and wool,
We spent Sunday afternoon at Chatsworth individually enjoying its many natural and man-made pleasures. Our sincere thanks to those who made this a very enjoyable weekend.
Billingham Reed Beds
25th May 1993 – Ken Chapman
This visit arose from a lecture on the 9th February by ICI’s Bob Rust, who described the pioneering work by a German university and went on to show how the reed species had been chosen and how the effluent water flow was managed. On our visit, led by Mr. Rust’s colleague Graham Cain, we were impressed by the great area of the beds – 7 acres – and by the way in which a rubbish tip had been transformed into a green place. There was no chemical smell from the beds.
Mr. Cain reported that birds and wild plants were increasingly re-colonising the area. These were not much in evidence on the bitterly cold windy evening but we feel encouraged to try for another visit.
Saltburn to Skinningrove
24th July 1993 – Ken Chapman
Winifred Woodhouse arranged for us to join this walk led by John Owen of Redcar, an industrial archaeologist and enthusiast. Three Club members took part, along with John Owen’s party. We walked along the wet slippery foreshore which is mainly an almost level rock table with scattered boulders. The rock table was once a port, with quays such as the ‘Bird Flight Goit’, at which small ships were loaded with ironstone that had been tipped over the cliff and carted. Cart tracks, som of them deeply indented as ‘Rutways’ for guidance in darkness or in water, led across the table.
Just before Skinningrove we joined the Cleveland Way, where it comes down from the cliff top, and returned on it to Saltburn. From the path John pointed out several hundred acres of land that had been dumped with slag from Skinningrove Iron Works but now were green fields. He also showed us inside the mysterious church-like building, which is a Guibal fan-house used to ventilate an ironstone mine; the positions of the fan (60 feet in diameter), steam engine and mine air duct are clearly identifiable. Along the path we saw welded steel ‘sculptures’ made by a graduate apprentice at Skinningrove Works, which is still in profit making specialised steels. On the Cleveland Way we joined up with three lady Club members who had taken the dry way, less hazardous, but who has missed John Owen’s flow of stories and observations.
25th September 1993 – Alan Legg
It was a beautiful autumn day for our joint foray with the British Mycological Society. Twenty people were busily engaged in the exploration of Moorhouse Wood and the attractive Rainton Park reserve which borders a secluded stretch of the river Wear northeast of Durham City.
In the morning Moorhouse Wood provided plenty of interest but nothing really unusual until Mark Andrew came up with a specimen of the furry black earth-tongue, Trichoglossum hirsutum, growing in deep shade under deciduous trees. This species is normally found only in open upland areas in acid conditions. It was satisfying to confirm the text-book assertion that the milk-cap, Lactarius pyrogalus, grows with hornbeam as well as hazel with which it is commonly associated in these parts. The sub-total for this small wood was 87 taxa including nine later incubated on rabbit pellets.
After lunch we looked at Rainton Park Wood whose generally older trees provided more of interest. This reserve produced 80 records with surprisingly little overlap with the morning list. The terricolous ascomycete, Ascobolus viridis, came to light on pathside clay, and the small toadstools Conocybe sienophylla and Psathyrella atomata were found by the river. Other new county records, the best collections of the day, were the small parasol, Lepiota pseudohelveola, with oak and pine, and a magnificent specimen of the uncommon bolete, Leccinum roseotinctum, with birch. The grand total of 140 taxa outstripped last year’s record of 134 from Hudswell Woods.
2nd October 1993 – Alan Legg
This fungus foray with the Northern Naturalists Union was preceded and immediately followed by very heavy rain. Luckily, however, the downpour was reduced to mere drizzle whilst the party of 40 forayers was at work. With such a large group, assistance from Alex Weir and Brian Walker was extremely welcome!
Very wet weather soon disposes of many fleshy fungi and renders even common species difficult to identify. One positive result was that we found plenty of the fungicolous toadstools Asterophora parasitica and Collybia cirrhata on rotting remains of Russula species. These fruit only in wet conditions and are relatively infrequently found in eastern Britain. Other collections of interest from our woodland walk were of the ascomycetes Scutellinia cejpii, found for the first time in Co. Durham earlier this year at Barnard Castle, and the larch canker fungus Lachnellula wilkommii. This attacks the cambium of living European larch branches which it can eventually kill by encirclement.
A short expedition to SSSI meadows near The Grove produced some grassland records and a new county record of Coprinus martini, a small ink-cap which grows on rotting Juncus. The exact total of taxa recorded is not yet known but will probably exceed 100 – better than expected from a rather ordinary site in far from ideal weather conditions.
Gilling – Whashton – Hartforth
30th April 1994 – Raymond & Phyllis Garrod
On a lovely spring day 18 members walked across pastures from Gilling church along Water Lane, past farms and Crabtree Lake – a new, large lake with an island, excavated two years ago, for fishermen, probably as part of farm diversification. Before reaching the farm we noticed a limestone outcrop and lime kiln. This interesting farm still retains its old threshing machinery.
At Jagger Lane we were joined by three more members. Most of us visited Hartforth woods, ablaze with bluebells, primroses, wood anemone, wood sorrel and ramsons. The trees were beautiful with their fresh green leaves. We continued along Lead Mill Lane to the deep ravine of Lead Mill Beck with the ruins of a smelt mill. The sun disappeared behind clouds and we had lunch near the wood above the beck. Passing near Hag Farm we identified a very large erratic of Shap granite in a pile of stones cleared from the fields, and later the one standing by the side of the pub in Whashton village. In the village we had a good view of a red-legged partridge walking along the road in front of us.
7th May 1994 – Dorothy Wood and Eva Robson
We were lucky to have good weather after a not too promising early morning: it was a day without any rain at all. Sixteen of us met at Windy Nook Picnic Site on the banks of the river Wear just west of Wolsingham.
The walk commenced along the river bank where we made rather slow progress until reaching the road bridge over the river. Here there was a lot to interest the bird-watchers. After a short climb up a hill we turned off the road onto a pleasant cart track, gently climbing above Wolsingham in the valley. Reaching higher pasture land we were greeted by several pet lambs who rushed about amongst us hopefully.
Passing two farms, one with the unusual name of Towdy Pots, we reached the highest point on the walk and our lunch stop. There were wonderful clear views across, up and down Weardale. On the descent it was sad to see two tiny dead lambs and also a dead sheep. Back to the river bank we admired masses of cowslips on the railway embankment. The final stretch was through lovely riverside meadows. The spring countryside was looking really beautiful with so many new greens and a lot of wild cherry blossom.
The birds heard during the walk were willow warbler, chaffinch giving an alarm call, and a wren. Others seen were great tit, house martin, swallows, bull finch, pied wagtail, coal tit, dunnock, curlew, lapwing, green finch, song thrush, pheasant, sand piper, two oystercatchers, grey wagtail, and a robin sitting on a stone in the middle of the river.
3rd July 1994 – Raymond & Phyllis Garrod
Fifty-six members and friends joined this coach excursion on a fine and warm but misty day to walk down this beautiful stretch of coastline, owned by the National Trust. Wide sandy bays are backed with extensive sand dunes and rocky headlands. The rocks are Carboniferous limestones with many outcrops of the Whin Sill.
At Beadnell 21 left the coach with Raymond to walk the seven miles down the coast to Craster, first looking at the old lime kilns near the harbour, then along the beach where a colony of terns were fenced off to avoid disturbance. The coastal path had a good display of flowers and, at the rocky headland of Snook Point, they had a lunch stop where there were many birds to see.
After lunch they proceeded to Low Newton where 27 members had started their walk with Phyllis. At Newton Haven limestone forms the harbour walls and the floor of the bay, which is a nature reserve. The attractive village square with its pub was built in the nineteenth century.
It took an hour to cover the 200-300 yards to Newton Pool, there being much of botanical interest, including northern marsh and common spotted orchid and bloddy cranesbill.
Frogs and toads were plentiful in the dune slacks behind the pool, with its black-headed gull colony. We then moved along the beach with impressive Dunstanburgh Castle ruins looming ahead in the mist. This building was built in 1313 and began to fall into disrepair from 1464 after the development of artillery. The castle is now in the care of English Heritage. There were many sea birds on the cliffs of Whin Sill and in the sea below. Nearby, on the foreshore, is the unusual Saddle Rock consisting of folded limestone pushed up by earth movements into the shape of an upturned boat.
We reached Craster after another half mile along the short spring turf overlooking the rocks on the foreshore consisting of Whin Sill. Craster was built in its present form by the Craster family who quarried and exported the whinstone for setts and kerbs for road making. Quarrying ended during the Second World War. The quarry is now the Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s Arnold Nature Reserve – semi-natural woodland and scrub providing cover for migrating passerine birds.
Our coach had parked in the quarry and the remaining eight members of out party had spent the day in the vicinity of the village. A very enjoyable day was had by all.
Kildale, Roseberry Topping, Ayton
20th August 1994 – Ken & Vera Chapman
Following on last year’s walk from Saltburn, we tried this as another that could be based on a rail journey: we also felt it should be done while still possible, since the Whitby line is at risk of closure.
Six of us duly entrained at Bank Top Station and changed to the Whitby train at Middlesbrough. On arrival at Kildale we found a café with open air facilities – rigorously no boots inside, even clean ones. We set out along the minor road which rises steadily to Pale End which we reached after 25 minutes. It was then along a gentle slope to Captain Cook’s Monument on Easby Moor from where we got our first view of Roseberry Topping – a sandstone bluff with its well-known shape, the result of landslip and quarrying. Easby Moor top was clad wall to wall with purple heather.
After a lunch stop we went, via Gribdale, along the edge of Great Ayton Moor from which we finally saw the Topping beneath us. The National Trust has inserted irregular flat boulders into the track leading to the summit to prevent erosion; nevertheless we negotiated them up and down without injury. The final stage of the walk was down a grass track and a brief stretch of road to Great Ayton Station.
The views had been marvellous, the weather dry with sunshine at times, and the way mainly easy. We were all sorry that no other members had enjoyed it with us.
Flatts Wood, Barnard Castle
17th September 1994 – Alan Legg
Despite the low turnout (seven people), attributable in part to a late reorganisation, the annual Club foray proved to be highly successful. We followed the lower path near the river and returned by the upper route, skirting fields. The season was approaching its peak and many interesting fungi were soon in evidence.
The first exciting find was of the death-cap, Amanita phalloides, discovered by oak by Alex Weir just beyond the recently felled area; only a few sites are known for VC66, this being a new one. Alex also found one of the day’s new county records, the glutinous, blackening Gomphidus maculates, associated with mature larch. Another new county record came to light beyond the more acid part of the wood. This, found by John Mason, was the sticky whitish toadstool Hygrophorus hedrychii, which is restricted to birch and recognisable by its very pale yellow gills with a glancing pinkish flush. I have seen this fungus only once before, in upper Swaledale.
The most fruitful part of the foray was at the turning point of our walk where three mature hornbeams grow side by side. This is the only known county site of the magpie toadstool, Coprinus picaccus, seen on this occasion in all stages of growth. Also found with the hornbeams were the large cup-fungus Tarzetta catinus, and the milk-cap Lactarius circellatus, restricted to this species of tree and representing another new record for County Durham.
The return journey was comparatively uneventful but did produce a collection of the curious jelly-fungus Tremella foliacea on an oak log. This is known from Deepdale just across the Tees but has not been collected in VC66 in recent years.
Our small group of forayers may congratulate themselves on a grand total of 104 taxa recorded that day.
Cleasby to Manfield
1st April 1995 – Raymond & Phyllis Garrod
On a glorious warm, sunny spring afternoon fifteen members enjoyed their first field outing of the year – a walk along the river Tees from Cleasby to Manfield. On the way to the starting point the verges at Blackwell were covered with drifts of celandine, speedwell and dasies.
At Cleasby is the extensive flood plain of the Tees and the gravel workings, exploiting alluvium laid down from melting glaciers 10,000 years ago. Debris plastered the riverside trees, fences and hedges as a result of the flooding at the beginning of March. Also noted was the old Ford between Cleasby and Low Coniscliffe. The river was high, probably as a result of the melting snow from the previous week.
Three species of speedwell were recorded – common field, slender and ivy-leaved. Banks of primroses, dog’s mercury, wood anemones, violets and barren strawberry were seen. Moschatel, or town hall clock, was a pleasing find, as was the rare yellow star of Bethlehem. Alder, willow and blackthorn were in their spring glory. Hawthorn hedges were greening and the gooseberry was in flower. Kingfisher, grey and pied wagtails, yellowhammer, wheatear and chiffchaff were seen, as well as peacock butterflies and bumble bees: a total of 25 flowers and 18 birds were recorded.
A steep climb up the river terrace gave superb views down the Tees valley, and a great loop in the Tees was reached at the high cliffs of Manfield Scar. Deep ridge and furrow pastures were crossed near Manfield Gill, and ancient cultivation terraces were seen across the river at High Coniscliffe. We all had a very enjoyable walk over this well-known route.
23rd May 1995 – Alan Legg
An experimental Spring Foray in Baydale was quite well attended but produced little of interest. The weather had been dry and the site was already parched. It might be worthwhile, however, to repeat the experiment another year in a naturally damper site.
Wensleydale – Ballowfield – Askrigg – Hardraw
24th June 1995 – Raymond & Phyllis Garrod
The first stop for 13 members in a mini-coach was Preston-under-Scar to view the glacially formed U-shaped valley, and the stepped hillside of the alternating limestones, sandstones and shales of the Yoredale succession of the Carboniferous limestone series. Many ancient cultivation terraces were seen on the south-facing hillsides near Bolton Castle.
Our next stop was Ballowfield, near Carperby, a floriferous meadow carpeted with thrift, usually a shore plant, spring sandwort and Alpine pennycress – flowers of lead mine workings. Near Askrigg was the castellated Nappa Hall, still lived in by the Metcalfe family, and built in 1450 when smaller houses as well as castles had to be protected.
Starting our walk from Askrigg we noted the Bull Ring, where bulls were tethered to be baited before slaughtering in the belief that this tenderised the meat. Walking through pastures and passing old flax and corn mills, we climbed up Mill Gill to its beautiful waterfall, recording grey wagtail, wrens and willow warblers.
Turning up the dale we crossed hogh pastures and looked across to Addlebrough with its Bronze Age camp on top. We saw the site of a Roman Fort on a large moraine at Bainbridge, the glacial drift blocking the entrance to Raydale and Semerwater, and the Roman Road over Wether Fell. During this part of the walk we had the company of curlews, oyster catchers, redshank, lapwing, swifts and swallows.
We joined a narrow, walled, winding road, once busy with drovers and cattle, and jagger ponies taking lead from mines on the high moors. Lady Anne Clifford, Countess of Dorset and Pembroke, from Skipton Castle, used this road when travelling from Pendragon Castle, near Kirby Stephen, to visit her cousin at Nappa Hall.
Leaving the road we proceeded along a green track and noted, on one side, a line of Sink Holes, depressions in the ground caused when percolating rain water dissolves underground limestone and the earth slumps into the hole. Across the valley were the scars of Burtersett quarries, with many galleries in the hillside where flagstones were quarries for pavements and roofs, and sent all over the country.
Skirting tiny villages on the fellside we dropped down to Hardraw and visited the waterfall via the Green Dragon Inn. This gorge has good acoustic qualities and we saw the bandstand and tiered seating in the bankside where band contests have been held for over a century. On the walk over 100 plants, many rabbits, and 23 birds were recorded.
16th July 1995 – Cliff Evans
Twenty-one members boarded a small coach at the Arts Centre and were driven up to Weardale.
The first stop was in Stanhope where we visited the Dales Centre. Time was taken to have coffee and look around the centre. We also walked the short distance to the churchyard to look at the fossil tree and the Frosterley marble ‘coffin’. Frosterley marble is not a true marble but is a dark grey limestone with many fossils, mainly corals, in it. It takes a very good polish and examples of its use can be seen in Durham Cathedral.
The coach then took the party on to St. John’s Chapel where the walk began. The walk led upstream alongside the river Wear. On the way the Coronation Bridge was passed and also the tree under which Wesley is said to have preached.
On reaching Wearhead the route took the party alongside the Killhope Burn to Cowshill. It is near Cowshill that the effects of the Burtreeford Disturbance can be seen. This disturbance is a major north-south feature and crosses the Alston Block from East Allendale to Howsgill Beck in Lunedale. It is a faulted monocline with an eastward downthrow of up to 50 feet. The limestones dip eastward at up to 50º and the Whin Sill appears above the limestone. After viewing the disturbance the party returned to the coach which was waiting.
We then made our way further up the dale to the Killhope Lead Mining Centre. Some time was spent here looking at the restored wheel and buildings, and looking at the displays in the Centre. Our return journey was over into Teesdale for a pleasant run home.
Bede’s World and South Shields
19th August 1995 – Ken & Vera Chapman
Our party of 27 arrived at Jarrow Hall at 10am and after an interval for coffee were guided in the new ‘Bede’s World’ museum and Anglo-Saxon farm by Dr. Sue Mills, the Director. The museum, opened in July this year, seeks to imitate a Roman villa as might be still standing in Anglo-Saxon times, about 700AD. It has a columned courtyard with raised beds planted with evergreen bushes of species extant in those times, then a circular atrium from which exhibition rooms are to radiate. The one room so far opened shows some less familiar writings by Bede as well as relics from his time. The atrium is in the form of a colonnade around an ornamental pool and waterfall open to the sky.
The farm is on soil dumped in reclamation of an oil storage depot and is thus very different from what Bede could have known. However, humus is being worked in and a flush and a beck flowing from it have been set up (on a pumped recycle basis). Now some contemporary wild flowers are growing and crops of ancient cereals – emmer, spelt, and einkorn – and barley, wheat, flax and hemp have been raised. A pair of resident Dexter cattle are used for ploughing, using a plough obtained from Poland, where this type is still used. Pigs and sheep of breeds believed to be familiar to Bede are kept. The animals are on loan from rare breed specialists.
It is intended to recreate some contemporary buildings. So far the framework of a large multiple-use barn has been assembled from adze-worked oak trunks and a ‘grubenhaus’ (square, partly below ground level) has been started. We were most impressed and grateful to Sue for the enthusiasm and thoroughness of our guided tour.
After lunch we had a brief guided visit to the extant remains of Bede’s time, namely St. Paul’s Church, whose chancel (681AD) was familiar to Bede as the chapel of Jarrow monastery. The rest of the present-day church is built over the foundations of the adjacent Saxon parish church (685AD), but dates from Norman and Victorian times (Gilbert Scott). The monastery buildings known to Bede have gone, but there are extensive remains of the Norman re-build.
We drove to South Shields Beacon, with a fine view of the mouth of the Tyne. All but two of our party then walked through the parks, along the seafront and, via the cliff-edge path, to Marsden Rock, in hot sunshine with a light sea breeze and with the aid of much ice-cream. Botanists found some interest despite hot dry weather, but for all it was a pleasure to be there, in the holiday tradition of the Club’s August outing.
23rd September 1995 – Alan Legg
The Autumn Foray, planned for Gainford Great Wood, had to be hurriedly rethought when permission to collect at this site was unaccountably denied by Raby Estates. Instead, the Club members and guests joined students of Newcastle University’s extra-mural class in Chopwell Wood to find that rainfall in that fairly elevated site had been sufficient to produce a respectable crop of large fungi. The most species collected are common enough in VC66. Of the more interesting toadstools found, one might mention the greenish-yellow Nolanea tortilis – an infrequently collected relative of the well-known deceiver.
Of the four new county records made, the only toadstool was Conocybe brunneola, a ‘little brown job’ easily confused with many similar fungi of this large genus. One of the many so-called ‘white-wash’ fungi which inhabit old logs was subsequently identified by Alick Henrici as Phlebiopsis gigantea which is, apparently, sometimes deliberately introduced in pine plantations where it is thought to inhibit the growth of the destructive parasite Heterobasidion annosum. The best find of the day was probably the minute discomycete Lachnum ciliaris, on old oak leaves in a ditch.
The total species count was 116 – quite satisfying at the end of such a comparatively barren summer.
Forcett – Stanwick – Brigantian Earthworks
8th October 1995 – Raymond & Phyllis Garrod
On a hot sunny afternoon 15 members met at Forcett to walk four miles around the Brigantian earthworks – high banks and ditches – which cover 850 acres and were built between AD50 and AD71. It was the headquarters and assembly area for anti-Roman rulers of Britain under King Venutius after his estrangement from his pro-Roman Queen Cartimandua. The defences were unfinished when taken by the Roman army under Petulus Cerialis in AD71. Near Forcett was seen the 1950/51 excavation undertaken by Sir Mortimer Wheeler, where a partly restored rampart, faced with a drystone wall and deep ditch, were uncovered.
We crossed stubble fields to Kirkbridge with its interesting church built in 1200 on a circular raised site, a former Saxon burial ground. In the church were effigies of a former Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. The Dowager Duchess Eleanor lived 70 years at Stanwick Hall, from 1865 until her death in 1911, and is buried in the churchyard; her husband is buried in Westminster Abbey. In 1921, because of death duties, the estate was sold and the Hall demolished. Some of our party had relatives who had lived locally and were buried in the churchyard, and who had remembered the Dowager Duchess.
We crossed pastures and walked along the Mary Wild Beck, always in view of the high earthworks, sometimes walking alongside or crossing through them towards Stanwick and the farm buildings of the demolished Hall. Moorhens, mallard, pheasants, herons and small tortoiseshells were seen, and huge puffballs provided many meals the following week!
Langdon Beck Blackcock Lek
19th May 1996 – Don Griss
Five hardy members of undoubted courage, but little sanity, started out for Langdon Beck at 6am in a cold wind and drizzle. Watching blackcock on a lek is the classic method of seeing these spectacular grouse. However, as the weather on our arrival at the lek was reminiscent of another classic, Shakespeare’s Tempest, it was not surprising that our first impression was that the moor was completely empty. It took some hard searching with the binoculars to find a single curlew. Then a lonely blackcock was seen crouched among the tussocks to keep out of the weather. Soon, much to the leaders relief, he (the blackcock) was joined by others flying in from across the beck until a total of eight were present.
One or two made half hearted attempts to display but most were satisfied to hide from the wind behind the tussocks of grass, and the wind was so strong that it was impossible to hear their calls and song. This being so, we decided that a change of scenery would help so we drove back to Langdon Beck and turned up the Cow Green road.
Presently we saw another blackcock sitting near the road. When disturbed he flew to join some others on a distant ridge which turned out to be another lek. A total of six birds were present with some displaying. As the weather had started to improve we stayed awhile to watch these before we continued on up to the reservoir. Here we saw golden plover, red grouse and oystercatcher.
On the way back to Langdon Beck we stopped to watch lapwing, redshank, common sandpiper and pheasant. During the morning we also heard snipe chipping over the moor but didn’t see any. The weather, though improving, did not encourage us to stay so we made an early return to civilisation.
1st June 1996 – Ken Chapman
This was a to-be-arranged walk based on a comment that the Club had not visited Osmotherley for some long time. We set off northwards from the village crossroads and turned left into Ruebury Lane. This led us along the edge of Swinstye Hill with clear views across the Vale of York, and then through Arncliffe Wood. Crossing Scarth Wood Moor we turned south onto the road to Scarth Nick, and from there through planted woodland and by Cote Garth to Osmotherley.
The walk was perhaps rather long (five miles on the map, eight miles by pedometer) for an afternoon, but was enjoyable for botanical interest and for the ration of sunshine after a long period of dull weather; and Osmotherley’s café was still open at the end of the walk.
20th July 1996 – Ken Chapman
This visit arose from a suggestion, in a reply to the 1995 Club questionnaire, that we should ask Brian Walker to show us something of his work with the North York Moors Forestry Commission.
Our minibus picked Brian up at the Safeway carpark at Pickering. From thence the driver was under Brian’s orders; these took us up the Whitby road and into Lockton, then down and up two steep hills to Levisham, a village with a long wide sloping green evidently beloved of artists. Yet once more steeply down and we were in Brian’s territory across the North York Moors Railway. Brian set us down first at the foot of Raindale, in which we walked up by forest track and back through an area of undisturbed wetland.
After lunch, with sightings of Blue Peter and Black Five 45428 – now in green plumage, Brian took us up to Needle Eye and a forest track to show forest management activities and traces of early attempts at a tourist industry based on the Newtondale Spring. The spring is still there but difficult to find: the water was pronounced potable by a few members.
For the return journey Brian guided the minibus by gently graded forest tracks, much to the relief (we suspect) of our driver. With beautiful weather, spectacular views and plenty for the Section Leaders to report, this was a good day.
Knaresborough and the Nidd Gorge
10th August 1996 – Ken & Vera Chapman
Knaresborough town lies around a castle on the edge of a cliff forming the northern bank of the river Nidd. The cliff, as well as being interesting for its stratified sandstones, is remarkable for ancient rooms cut into it, for example St. Robert’s cell, the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rock, and ‘The House in the Rock’, recently reprieved from condemnation under building regulations. The undercliff road is now a residential and holiday area.
Upstream of the town the Nidd is in a gorge maintained as a nature reserve under Harrogate Borough Council’s Project. The path starts from the Ripley road, then goes through thick woodland in the gorge bottom and beneath the Nidd viaduct, which carries the track bed of the now closed Harrogate to Northallerton railway. Just before the viaduct a branch path leads up onto the track bed and from thence to Bilton Junction, to be our pickup point.
We arrived at Knaresborough at 10:15am after a journey in torrential rain. However, the rain gave way to bright sunshine, affording sparkling views of the Nidd valley and railway bridge (‘one of the most notable railway crimes in England’, according to Pevsner, but a fine sight in the scrubbed air). Some of us then took a circular walk beneath the cliff, while others visited the Old Court House and the history-rich town. All enjoyed ‘Ye Oldest Chymist Shop’.
After lunch the party divided again, a few staying on the coach and visiting Harlow Carr gardens in Harrogate, the rest taking the gorge option. The walk afforded many unfamiliar observations, especially along the disused railway track bed, as the Section Leaders reported.
As well as interesting terrain and fine weather, the trip benefited from an obliging coach driver who gave some of us unscheduled lifts up the hill at Knaresborough, and went beyond his final pickup point to collect us from the Gardener’s Arms (closed) in the garden of which we had come to rest.
Hudswell Woods, Richmond
5th October 1996 – Alan Legg
A fine sunny morning was spent in beech-woods to the west of Round Howe. After an almost rainless September fungi were in rather short supply, even on this usually damp, north-facing slope. Regular mycorrhizal species such as Hygrophorus eburneus and Inocybe corydalina were found in small numbers and we were glad to see one of the wood’s specialties, the rare Camarophyllopsis atropuncta, under beech trees. The common but colourful Bisporella citrima was present as usual in bright yellow swarms on rotting branches and stumps. Forayers were intrigued by the large numbers of Leotia lubrica, Jelly Babies, present on the woodland floor.
After lunch in the car-park the party set off to explore pasture by the river Swale to the east. Again, fungi were not evident in large numbers or great variety although it was difficult to decide if the weather or poor management was mainly to blame. Only one specimen of the beautiful Ballerina, Hygrocybe calyptraeformis, was found. Like many of its relatives, this species is becoming rare except in ‘unimproved’ pasture, and it seems a pity that the National Trust cannot better look after one of the few such sites in its care. A few fairly common grassland species were seen with the best find being the rather unprepossessing Entoloma undatum (Eccilia sericeonitida) fruiting where it provided the (till then) only Yorkshire record, made by P. D. Orton in September 1956, almost 40 years before.
A bonus came as we made our way back along a dry high-level woodland track. A small group of the red-tipped dog stinkhorn, Mutinus caninus, was found, and then a few fruit-bodies of the death cap, Aminita phalloides, nestling between roots of beech trees and providing a new record for the site.
A grand total of 98 fungi was better than expected for the conditions and the small group of hard-working forayers seemed to enjoy themselves immensely.
Slapworth – Skelton Green
17th May 1997 – Eva Robson and Dorothy Wood
On an overcast misty morning six members of the Club and three visitors left the Arts Centre for Slapworth, two miles east of Guisborough on the Whitby road.
From here we climbed a steep stepped path to the Cleveland Way, passing on our left an alum quarry, and on the right a conifer plantation (Spring Bank Plantation) with profuse re-growth of bracken. We saw plenty of flowering greater stitchwort, bush vetch, common vetch and milkwort, and several froghoppers (Cercopis vulnerata). There were also an abundance of gorse bushes.
We rested briefly at a viewing point, overlooking the surrounding countryside, and then continued past Rawcliffe Banks Wood, consisting mainly of beech trees, to a broad track of the Cleveland Way which became a farm road – Airy Hill Lane. Had the weather been clear, from here we could have looked out to sea past Redcar but, unfortunately, mist obscured the view.
However, we enjoyed finding plenty of flowering plants including bluebells, shepherd’s purse, white clover, hedge mustard, common fumitory, crosswort, wild pansies, annual nettle, and a little area of four-leafed clovers, and passing some fields of shoulder-high rape. On this path we were delighted to hear, and see, at least three skylarks making a tremendous noise as we approached.
We passed Airy Hill Farm and continued to Skelton Green. From here we walked through meadows and field paths overlooking Boosebeck. We found more interesting plants and there was an abundance of flowering hawthorn, filling the air with scent.
Below us we finally saw the ponds of Margrove Nature Reserve, where we could see a heron and Canada geese. We walked down to the reserve where the heron was waiting to be photographed by a young member of the party, and where the Canada geese came across the water in a flotilla to enjoy the remains of Ken Chapman’s picnic lunch, and to show off four very small grey goslings. There was also a mute swan, some coots, mallard and moorhen. Other birds seen during the outing included willow warbler, robin, wren, swallow, lapwing and hedge sparrow. The total number of plants and grasses identified was 67.
We returned to the cars accompanied by rolls of thunder, having completed 5½ miles.
Askham Bog and York Old Cemetery
7th June 1997 – Margaret Port
Fourteen of us boarded Humble’s minibus to visit two very different nature reserves. Everything looked fresh and green as we sped down the Great North Road and, thanks to Elizabeth Elliott’s navigation, reached the insignificant entrance to Askham Bog.
The approach to the bog and the reserve itself afforded a wide variety of habitats. These ranged from hedgerows and fieldside paths to raised bog and swampy areas, from oak and birch woodland and glades, along dykes to drainage ditches. The ditches had probably developed from peat-cutting in the Middle Ages.
Our party spread out quite quickly as groups and individuals stopped to view and verify various finds or to share details and knowledge. Askham Bog is the premier nature reserve of the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Trust and is an SSSI of national significance. It certainly proved to be a veritable treasure trove to our botanists who recorded 66 species, including bog myrtle, greater tussock sedge, climbing corydalis and carpets of ragged robin, to name but a few. We admired fine stands of yellow flag, but these were eclipsed by the wonderful display of water violet, Huttonia palustris, blooming in all its glory nearby. Cameras clicked to record these spectacles, and it is small wonder that several members expressed their intention to make a return visit. Members noted with pleasure that Elizabeth’s mother had been active in the Trust when it set up the reserve.
After lunch we were warmly welcomed at the cemetery by assistant curator Graham Banwell. He gave us a brief history of the cemetery which was opened in 1836, abandoned in the 1960’s and now, since 1984, taken in hand. The 24 acre site is managed for wildlife and educational purposes and has been brought back into use as a burial ground. Voluntary groups have developed the work of restoration and of land management to create or reinstate a diverse range of habitats.
Besides huge old trees there are over 2000 recently planted trees and shrubs. Old headstones covered in mosses and lichens are revealed. Paths are mown, but other areas are strimmed selectively and, to encourage wild flower growth and seeding, no grass is cut between March and July. The butterfly walk, a colourful stretch especially planted along an old boundary wall, attracts a wide variety of butterflies.
Bird boxes and bat boxes, donated by families, have been erected as practical memorials to loved ones. Rotting tree stumps are homes to countless invertebrates; old baths, sunken, heavily disguised and suitably adapted, are inhabited by tadpoles and frogs. The newly-created pond yielded up ramshorns, pondskaters, some tiny fish and water boatmen, when we briefly tried our hands at pond dipping.
Our enthusiastic guide and his wife rounded off our whirlwind tour with welcoming mugs of tea and invitations to revisit this fascinating, developing, wildlife site.
16th August 1997 – Ken Chapman
This late idea for an August outing promised to be popular, but with member’s illness, family crises etc, etc, the number went down eventually to 11 (The excursion account will stand the loss). On the day there was bad news, in that our coach driver had to make an early morning trip covering for a sick colleague. However, our departure was only 50 minutes late, and took the ‘fast’ route via Ripon and Skipton, with enjoyable views of Blubberhouses Moor and Craven country, arriving at Ingleton just before noon.
The Ingleton Glens are two river valleys, Kingsdale Beck to the west and Chapel Beck to the east, joining at Ingleton to form the river Greta. At its head each glen begins with a deep waterfall – Thornton Force and Beezley Falls respectively – over the edge of the northward-extending horizontal bed of Carboniferous limestone. Then follow smaller falls over steps in the highly tilted Pre-Cambrian slates and grits beneath the limestone and 250 million years older. Thornton Force is almost 500 feet, Beezley about 300 feet, above the confluence of the becks.
We set off up the Kingsdale Beck through the woods of Swilla Glen to Pecca Falls, Constitution Hill and Thornton Force. Despite the dry summer there was enough water for Pecca, but Thornton was thin. At the top of Thornton we crossed to the valley of the Chapel Beck, entering just above Beezley Falls. The water flow at Beezley was generous and provided a deep pool into which young folk were daring each other to dive from even higher levels on the rocky side of the gorge.. Owing to our late running, our members were content to watch rather than to participate. We then made our way back down to Ingleton via waterfalls of a fascinating variety of shapes and sizes.
The deep moist valleys provided botanical interest reported elsewhere, but there was not much bird life, no doubt partly because of the large number of people present. Geologists had much to interest them. For all of us it was a beautiful place in beautiful weather.
The return journey, by the ‘slow’ Wensleydale route, was much enjoyed, and was also ten minutes shorter than the outward fast route.
The Otter Trust – North Pennine Reserve
20th September 1997 – Ken Chapman
This Reserve, about three miles west of Bowes, occupies 230 acres of rough pasture south of the A66 road and extending down to the River Greta. It has two large semi-natural enclosures for British otters and one for Asian otters, and also two field-size enclosures for respectively red deer and fallow deer, a pond with a birdwatching hide, and a small model farm with rare breeds. For otters the aim of the Trust is to breed them for release into the wild. So far it has released over 100 otters into lowland England; the Bowes reserve has not been in action long enough to report its degree of local success.
On a fine sunny day 16 of us visited the reserve by cars. We first saw the three Asian otters, who romped playfully in and beside the beck that flowed through their enclosure [these will be for export, not for UK release). Then we moved to the British otters, which are larger and darker than the Asians. In one enclosure two of them romped in and out of their pond and in between came to look at us. In the other enclosure onr of the two spent most of the time asleep, but we were assured that she was pregnant. Although the other otters were very active they stopped occasionally long enough for photography.
The deer enclosures were well stocked, but elsewhere not much was happening. A second visit, say two years ahead, will be worthwhile, after the reserve has been developed further. The reserve has refreshment and toilet facilities and the walking is not arduous.
Members may like to refer to Nicholas Rhea’s Countryman’s Diary in the Darlington & Stockton Times of 1st August 1997 for details of the life of otters in the UK.
Fungus Foray to Elemore Woods
11th October 1997 – Alan Legg
This year’s foray was joint with the Northern Naturalists’ Union to Elemore Woods, set on and below a north-east facing slope between Durham and Easington. The site has recently been acquired by the Woodland Trust after a somewhat chequered history. It is hoped that, with improved management, these woods will eventually develop an interesting mycota typical of their calcareous geology. At any rate, the list of fungi found will provide a base-line for comparison with future surveys.
The morning was chilly but bright and clear with good views from above the woods over Durham Cathedral to the North Pennines and well into Northumberland. Initial fears aroused by the preceding very dry weather were soon dispelled and, although downhill progress was somewhat impeded by recent felling and thinning of conifers, fungi were soon being eagerly sought out by 22 pairs of eyes. The leader was very pleased to have Colin Stephenson from Scarborough and Gordon Simpson to assist with identification and instruction.
Trees were of no great age but there was a good mix, providing a broad range of common fungi. The woods were soon resounding to the excited chatter and ‘oohs’ and ’ahs’ which always follow an interesting find, common or otherwise.
One new county record was made in the shape of the tiny Pezicula carnea on a lopped sycamore branch. Other finds of interest included the red-staining toadstool Inocybe pudica, the branching club-fungus Ramaria stricta, and the lovely pink Mycena adonis. Ninety-four species were recorded altogether which, along with a spring list made in May, gave a site total of over 130.
The Devil’s Arrows – Sermons in Stone
11th July 1998 – Winifred E. Woodhouse
What a day to remember! It all began for sixteen members at 9:30am from Darlington, in perfect weather. We travelled by mini-bus, preferring the route by the ‘old’ A1, passing Dishforth Airfield, siting the White Horse of Kilburn on the Hambleton Hills. Onto the Plane of York, that most fertile of soil for miles around, and into Boroughbridge at the heart of Yorkshire, and exactly halfway between London and Edinburgh.
Boroughbridge is a town with a long and varied history. By the roundabout and bridge, which boasts passage of the river Ure (twixt Swale and Ouse), and the canal which by Act of Parliament, 1767, made the river navigable to Ripon by means of cuts, dams, and six locks, the weir here is thought to have been built between 1867 and 1769, and the canal in 1770.
This navigable waterway serviced many trades, among which were the timber and coal industries, and the linen industry of Knaresborough to which it carried flax (echo’s of Darlington’s history). The coal traffic to Boroughbridge and Ripon was seriously affected when the Great North Eastern Railway from Darlington to York was opened in 1841, and in time Boroughbridge indeed lost its railway links.
Our pre-arranged parking space provided a picnic area and toilet facilities, and after these preliminaries, our exploration began. Hard to believe in the now relative quiet of this market town, there were as many as 22 coaching inns; The Crown Hotel alone providing stabling for 100 horses; not difficult to realise the trading, industry and employment engendered then.
All our sites were within easy walking distance. First down Fishergate and Horsefair – the very names indicate their place in history, and in the pavement in front of a one-time Blacksmith’s Forge a huge cart wheelplate has been skilfully embedded as a permanent relic of a time-honoured trade.
Our steps were leading us to our goal – up Roecliffe Lane (now with new housing development) to the Devil’s Arrows, landmarks from time immemorial. A fleeting glance is seen of them from the A1(M), a huge fast traffic highway, opened in 1963, bypassing the town which lost the Great North Road traffic for the first time in 800 years.
There are three so called Devil’s Arrows to view; two stand in a cultivated field flanked by a lane, and the third by the roadside, sheltered under trees, railed off, with a plaque describing their possible origins. Of all the conjectures, it is likely that the stones date from around 2,000BC (the Bronze Age), and that they are part of an isolated single row of stones, one of a large number of such megalithic monuments scattered throughout western Europe.
Stone rows vary in complexity, starting with a pair of standing stones and going on to short rows and then long rows. The long rows, of which the Arrows would appear to have been an early example, are found in south west England and Northern Ireland, and seem to follow on from the earlier long double rows or avenues, such as at Avebury (remember the revelations of present-day archaeologists shown on TV just weeks ago?) It is almost certain that there were at least four stones in the row, and possibly five or even more. A report of a visit by John Leland in the 1530’s gives a clear and detailed description of four standing stones. The fourth stone was pulled down by some that hoped, though in vain, to find treasure, quoted William Camden 30 years later. The upper section of the fourth stone is claimed to stand in the grounds of Aldborough Manor, and the lower part is believed to form part of the iron bridge over the river Tutt, built in 1754 by the remarkable ‘blind Jack’ of Knaresborough (1717-1810), in St. Helena Road and just a few hundred yards away on route into the town centre. This we investigated with great curiosity though some were intent on finding the eel traps which must have been a good deal further upstream than we had access to.
Back to the stones. The three remaining stand in a NNW/SSE line almost 200 yards long. They are composed of millstone grit, and the likely source is Plumpton Rocks two miles south of Knaresborough where erosion has produced large quantities of individual slabs.
The lightest of the Arrows weighs 25 tons and would have had to be pulled over a distance of some nine miles. It is estimated that the arduous pull from Plompton to Boroughbridge would have taken six months. At the site, the stone could be raised buy dragging it to a prepared hole where it would be slid down a sloping side of the hole and then pulled upright. It is noticeable that each of the stones inclines slightly to the south.
The series of grooves at the top of the stones are now known to be the result of weathering. They show no trace of tool working.
The first recorded excavation at the foot of the stones was in 1709 when a nine foot area around the central one was opened. This revealed that just below the top-soil, cobbles, grit and clay had been packed around the stone to a depth of five feet. The base of the stone had been worked to produce a flat bottom which sat squarely on the hard packed clay beneath.
Their heights above ground are 18 feet, 22 feet and 22 feet 6 inches respectively, the last of these being taller than anything at Stonehenge.
Of their purpose, the more feasible is the theory that the line was built to align with the southern-most summer moonrise. Inevitably, a religious purpose is ascribed to the stones more than any other. What happier thought than that of fertility; the regenerative spirit of spring. We have already claimed the Plain of York as being the most fertile!
A present-day enterprise was not to be missed. The woodyard and warehouse of every conceivable variety of wood under the sun, worthy of more time on a future visit.
The town trail back to the mini-bus (for now some of our number were feeling the need of a rest) took us by St. James’ Square where a fountain was built over an artesian well in 1875, and became the principal source of water for the town (no longer the case). The medieval church of St. James was demolished in 1851 and the present gem of a church was not visited because of preparations for the first of the Fifth Northern Aldborough Festival of Music Concerts that evening, a musical feast, indeed, spread over one week in the villages and including Ripon Cathedral.
Aldborough was our next port of call by the appointed time to visit the Museum of the remains of ‘Aldburgh’. This was Iseur of the Druids and Brittons; the Isurium of the Romans; the Burgh, and afterwards the Aldburgh of the Saxons. It is supposed to have taken its original name from Isis, a deity worshipped here, and ‘Eurus’ or ‘Ure’ the river near which the city stood.
Previous to the Roman conquest it was the seat of the Brigantian kings (the Iron Age people whose economy was based on mixed farming) and was the chief city of this part of Britain.
The conquest of Britain was completed about the year 79AD after which Isurium Brigantium became the northern metropolis of the Romans previous to their removal to Eboracum (York). The detailed history is a long story, but our exploration furnished undisputed evidence from such surveys of 1864 by Archaeological Trust of Great Britain and Ireland, and in the 1920’s and 1930’s when the Roman Antiquity Committee of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society excavated part of the defences. We saw the foundations of the city walls and square towers, two Roman pavements (interior floors of a Roman town house) and antiquities of those bygone times. Present day and future field work make it a subject of continuing fascination and importance.
The beautiful church of St. Andrews occupies the central position over what was probably the Roman forum. From a vertical air photograph of Aldborough the south and west gates of this Roman town have survived as access points to the present village of lovely, mostly Georgian, properties and long well-kept gardens. The village boasts of a Maypole and stocks, behind which is the old Court House. More recently, a plaque commemorating the RAF crew who lost their lives when their aircraft caught fire but who avoided crashing onto the village, has been erected.
The Battle Cross of Boroughbridge (1322) was removed in 1852 to Aldborough. It stands 18 feet high, formed of shafts of freestone banded together, and enriched with foliage. In its place in Market Square, Boroughbridge, stands the War Memorial.
We returned to Boroughbridge hoping to take a boat trip on so lovely a day. Our hopes were rewarded, the Roecliffe Lane lead to the Marina where we were able to charter a handsome longboat whose owner gave a running commentary as we cruised along tranquil waters surrounded by abundant flora and fauna, adding to the gleanings recorded of the day. A whole hour on board of sheer delight. Then an easy journey home.
Romaldkirk – Mickleton – Middleton
29th September 1998 – Ken Chapman
This was a linear walk, outward on the trackbed of the Tees Valley Branch Railway, returning by bus to our starting point. It nearly ran into difficulty because the bus timetable and route numbers had been changed only a few weeks earlier; however, we found out in time.
On a damp misty morning six of us set off from Romaldkirk village green up to the old railway station, which is now a dwelling house. Outside this house the owner has erected a railway signal of the old North-Eastern split post type; unfortunately not a relic of the Teesdale line but said to have come from Battersby. The signal arm was missing, but it had been in need of repair.
The public footpath skirts the old station and soon leads on to the trackbed, rail-less since 1965. It rises steadily and gave us, in clearing weather, views across the dale. Despite lateness in the season, there was a good deal of botanical interest, with a surprising number of plants still (just) in flower. Few birds were active, but for several minutes we enjoyed watching a pride of 30-40 goldfinch flitting into and out of a hawthorn bush. We were puzzled by a thrush-like bird perching on a stone wall, which thrushes rarely do; we concluded that it was a meadow pipit.
Approaching Mickleton Station yard we passed the disused limestone quarry worked by the Cargo Fleet Iron Company until 1900 but now fully grassed over. Mickleton Station yard is now set out as a picnic area. The picnic tables appear at first sight to be made of a stout hardwood, but the material is in fact recycled plastic, manufactured in the midlands but assembled locally. Beyond Mickleton the path passes over the Lunedale Viaduct, high above the river Lune, and a good viewpoint for birds on the river.
At Lonton the footpath is diverted off the trackbed and affords a riverside walk for the last quarter-mile into Middleton. In Middleton the tea and cakes were memorable. Altogether a pleasant walk, to be repeated when nature is more active.
Low Dinsdale Church Circular
11th May 1999 – Raymond and Phyllis Garrod
A sunny evening, after a day of heavy rain showers, brought out 14 members for a walk through woodland above the river Tees, along tracks through and by pastures, crops and a golf course. Low Dinsdale Church, an attractive old church with lych gate, has a Georgian vicarage and nearby are ancient earthworks.
Walking first through sheep pastures we were soon in woodland on a slippery path above the river. Ramsons, bluebells, wood sanicle, red campion and greater stitchwort were some of the flowers recorded, also stinkhorn, tiny puffballs and bracket fungi. Seen or heard were a wren, robin, pheasant, blackbird, chaffinch and pigeons.
The footpath climbed out of the wood and took us along a farm track with fields of winter wheat, flowering oil-seed rape, and flowering and seeding barley. When crossing the golf course it started to rain heavily. Along the edge of the golf course in rough vegetation were cowslips and spathes of cuckoo-pint.
The rain cleared as we walked back to the church through very long and wet grass; the sun came out and there was a beautiful pink and blue sky to end the walk.
Romaldkirk – Mickleton – Middleton
15th May 1999 – Ken Chapman
This was a repeat of last September’s linear walk but with the aim of seeing it at the start of the summer season.
A mere four of us set off from Romaldkirk village green up to the old railway station. We walked along the trackbed which rises steadily giving us clear views across the dale. If anything, we were a bit early for flowers, but a bird cherry tree in full flower was magnificent. Birds were active; we saw a meadow pipit’s nest with eggs in long grass beside the path: was it the property of the meadow pipit we saw last year?
Lunch at Mickleton Station yard was more comfortable than last year, in the absence of drips from trees. Beyond Mickleton the path passes over the Lunedale viaduct, high above the river Lune. With back-lighting sunlight this viewpoint was a special place. After Lonton the riverside walk for the last quarter mile into Middleton offered entertainment by raw canoeists, but other species were consequently scarce. In Middleton the tea and cakes were memorable as before.
Middleton in Teesdale to Bowlees
3rd July 1999 – Raymond and Phyllis Garrod
After heavy rain during the night and on a muggy, damp morning with dark clouds we were pleasantly surprised when seven members joined us for the walk in Upper Teesdale, from Middleton along the south bank of the Tees and Pennine Way. A heavy shower after the first hour’s walking cleared the air and for the rest of the day there was a light breeze and it was warm and sunny.
The special pastures (ESA’s) may be mown from the 1st July but we were delighted to find that they were uncut and still colourful with a great number of grasses, buttercups, pignut, meadow and wood cranesbill. Meadow sweet and melancholy thistle were beginning to flower, and on a sloping bank were purple mountain pansies. Near here we also saw a little owl and frogs. Rabbits were undermining the steep river bank and ingenious rabbit traps had been constructed under the wire fences.
We noted the Bronze Age tumulus of Kirk Carrion, the disused Whin Quarries where setts were made for the roads, the line of the old railway which served these quarries, and the high Whin cliffs at Holwick – all these south of the river. Also seen was the Whin Sill in the river bed and banks, just a solid mass of rock so different in structure to the strata of the limestones and sandstones.
The line of the Teesdale fault is along the river bed with the Whin at river level from Newbiggin upstream but forming high cliffs at Holwick. The Cockle-shell limestone was seen in the river bed near the footbridge over to Newbiggin. Near the bridge and path were old adits and spoil heaps of earlier mining for sphalerite (zinc ore)
Different species of flower appeared as we approached Wynch Bridge where the Whin Sill outcrops and has baked the surrounding rock. Alpine bistort, large common spotted orchids, northern marsh orchids, northern and heath bedstraw, fairy flax and rock rose were flowering and, at Low Force, shrubby cinquefoil.
Crossing Wynch Bridge we made for Bowlees and continued towards Gibson’s Cave, through a carpet of fragrant and common spotted orchids, twayblade and butterwort. Further on, a bank was covered with butterefly orchids. Also seen were chimney sweeper moths and dragon fly. Hardly any butterflies were seen.
Willow warblers, lapwing, curlew, oystercatchers, mallard, sandpipers, swifts, meadow pipits and grey wagtail were some of the birds seen, but no skylarks. Over 70 flowers were recorded. Special thanks to Hazel Peacock who was so patient helping us to identify the flowers. A perfect day in Upper Teesdale.
Kielder Reservoir and Forest
10th July 1999 – Ken and Vera Chapman
Sixteen of us set off at 8:30am in a Humbles minibus and arrived at the Tower Knowe visitor centre beside Kielder Water in time for the 11:00am sailing of M. V. Osprey. The boat trip of just over an hour included a well thought-out commentary on the present and past in the Kielder region.
The coach took us next to the Leaplish Waterside Park, from which we could see where Mounces Farm, reclaimed from the moor by Sir Edward Swinburn in 1770-87, now lies beneath the reservoir. His new turnpike road and enclosure boundaries are still visible on the higher ground. Vera explained this referring to her research in the Swinburne archives¹.
Our third stop was just short of Kielder village, at a woodland car park from which we walked to the shore of ‘Bakethin Reserve’. This is the upper end of Kielder Water, but is separated from it by a weir to keep up its level if the main reservoir level falls. As a result, Bakethin is an effective wildlife reserve. The path passes beneath a high stone viaduct, a reminder of when a railway from Bellingham to Riccarton Junction served a colliery at Plashetts lower down the valley.
We paused at Kielder village, where Vera explained how it had been planned and built. Finally we visited an exhibition on Kielder Forest at Kielder Castle, and took tea and cakes in preparation for the rather long journey home. As we drove back down the lake, we felt it was a bit more like a natural lake than a few years ago.
- North Country Farms of the Moorland Fringe – Won from the Moor by Vera Chapman, Beamish One 1978, p 40-59. (First Report of the North of England Open Air Museum Joint Committee, Spring 1978).
25th July 1999 – Cliff Evans
Smardale Gill is a Cumbria Wildlife Trust nature reserve and lies about three miles from Kirkby Stephen. We were taken there by a small coach which, small as it was, filled the narrow road for the last few miles. Fortunately we met no other vehicle on the way. There is a small parking area near the entrance to the reserve where we left the coach.
We walked along the track which follows the route of a disused railway line, and at one point crosses a recently restored viaduct. At the beginning the track is tree-lined with species such as ash, sessile oak, birch and hazel. There were also plants such as enchanters nightshade, ramsons and greater stitchwort.
It was further along the track before we found the first of the specialities of the area; this was lesser wintergreen, which has colonised the ballast along the edge of the track. It has small white flowers, but when we saw it the flowers had gone and it was in seed.
On one side, where there was an embankment, where lots of fragrant orchid which made a very attractive sight. It was in this area that the first Scotch argus butterflies were seen. I was very pleased to see them because they are another speciality of the reserve. The weather had been dull and rainy on the way, conditions which would keep them grounded, but I had been hoping that they would be about.
Further along, near the viaduct, we saw the second plant which we were looking for. This was the stone bramble, which was also in seed showing red berries. The weather had by now improved and it was very pleasant.
We stopped by an open flowery area where there were many more Scotch argus, as well as dark green fritillaries. Small heath, common blue, large white, meadow brown, and burnet moth were in the same patch.
A leisurely lunch was taken where there are some large rocks for seats. Afterwards we continued our walk, seeing many more butterflies and flowers on the way. A common lizard was seen by myself whilst chasing a butterfly.
We then turned to retrace our steps. It was on the return that the third speciality was found; this was herb Paris. The coach then took the road back to Kirkby Stephen (we did meet other vehicles this time) where we stopped for teas and ice creams, before our drive back to Darlington.
South Shields Planetarium
30th September 1999 – Ken Chapman
The Planetarium is part of South Tyneside College, previously known as South Shields Marine and Technical College. It is set up as a special lecture room with a hemispherical ceiling and seats in a circle and is run by a resident astronomer, a genial Scottish lady. There are regular performances during the winter and also events at the College’s Observatory.
For the performance we attended, a picture of the night sky over South Shields – as it would be without street lights – was projected onto the ceiling. The astronomer pointed out several once-familiar constellations and explained hou their traditional names arose, then moved on to modern discoveries. Finally she showed satellite-delivered pictures of the planets, contrasting the hot planets Mercury and Venus, the life supporting Earth and possibly Mars, the great gas planets Jupiter and Saturn, and the cold outer ones Uranus, Neptune and Pluto believed to be made of ice.
Elementary to some, perhaps, but we shall all appreciate Barry Hetherington’s reports better in future.
2nd May 2000 – Elizabeth Elliott
The season started with a wander along this old highway, off Bishopton Lane, Darlington. It runs through a strip of ancient woodland. An interesting array of common spring flowers was seen and also common elm and bird cherry in blossom. Birds were seen and heard in the wood. Attendance was high.
Whorlton and Eggleston Abbey Circular
13th May 2000 – Elizabeth Elliott
Unfortunately only three members attended this walk. Some early spring flowers were still in evidence, e.g. dog’s mercury and wood anemone. Later spring flowers were showing fine displays with drifts of bluebells, garlic and greater stitchwort, and red campion on the banks. Fifty-five flowering plants and trees were noted.
A rookery was seen close to Whorlton village, and another near the entrance to the private road leading to Dairy Bridge. There was a lot of birdsong heard in the woods, and a few early butterflies were seen.
16th May 2000 – Elizabeth Elliott
Our evening visit was spent on a guided tour of the Saxon church, situated in the village near Bishop Auckland. Members had a most interesting evening but sadly it rained heavily.
6th June 2000 – Elizabeth Elliott
Fifty-seven species of flowering plant were seen in bloom during this evening stroll around Gainford. The common star of Bethlehem was the find of the evening, being a new record for this site. Members also noted the architecture around and near the village green. An enjoyable evening was had by all.
10th June 2000 – Elizabeth Elliott
This was a most interesting half-day outing attended by fourteen members. We started by walking from the village to some ponds, and then on through grassland and woods, and back to our cars. We recorded 63 flowering plants in bloom, and identified four different ferns. The birds included house martin, willow warbler and little grebe, and we found a moorhen’s egg. The insect life included bumblebee, damselfly, orange tip and large white butterflies, and cardinal beetle.
Durham Coast near Easington
17th June 2000 – Elizabeth Elliott
Mr. Dennis Rooney of the National Trust met members at White Leas Farm, near Easington. Work has been progressing to reclaim the coastline and adjoining land following closure of the coalmines and previous unsympathetic farming practises. The members had a most interesting and informative day. We recorded 98 species of flowering plant in bloom.
20th June 2000 – Elizabeth Elliott
During our evening visit to Stillington, north-east of Darlington, 49 flowering plants were seen in bloom, including wild mignonette, ribbed melilot, alsike clover, hairy tare, and northern marsh orchid.
25th June 2000 – Elizabeth Elliott
This half-day excursion revealed the extensive and varied flora of this part of County Durham. A total of 93 species of flowering plant were recorded in bloom, including biting stonecrop, yellow rattle, feverfew and a hybrid common spotted orchid.
27th June 2000 – Elizabeth Elliott
This outing within the Darlington Borough boundary proved popular. We only walked a short distance but nevertheless a total of 73 flowering plants were seen in bloom. Of particular interest were hairy tare, ribbed melilot, hedge bedstraw, common mallow, mimulus, square-stalked St. John’s wort, black bryony and hemlock.
Trimdon Grange Quarry
1st July 2000 – Elizabeth Elliott
This old limestone quarry is reached by a path that goes along a former railway line. There is a strip of dense woodland between the railway and the open area of the quarry. The flora along the track is varied, and once through the wood the quarry is sheltered, rather dry, and has calcareous soil. Here grow bladder campion, fairy flax, hoary plantain, field scabious, common centaury, bee orchid, greater knapweed, vipers bugloss, fragrant orchid, and other plants which can tolerate this environment. We identified 85 flowering plants in bloom.
Thirlby and Gormire
8th July 2000 – Elizabeth Elliott
Nine members made the trip to Thirlby. We started by walking up a lane towards the Whitestone Cliff. In a patch of woodland we saw seeding specimens of stinking hellebore. We continued and walked around Gormire lake. Here we saw coots, great crested grebes and tufted ducks on the water. After a lunch break we walked along field paths and lanes back to Thirlby. En route we saw a roe deer grazing, and a badger-run. We passed Tall Hall farm, close to an old moated village site that was abandoned many centuries ago. A total of 75 species of flowering plant were seen in bloom.
11th July 2000 – Elizabeth Elliott
This walk followed the north bank of the river Tees and lies within Darlington Borough boundary. A large number of common plants were seen in bloom including white bryony, Himalayan balsam, wood vetch, restharrow, zigzag clover, nettle leafed bellflower, greater celandine and common valerian.
15th July 2000 – Raymond & Phyllis Garrod
On a cool grey morning, after a night of heavy rain, twelve of us met at the hamlet of Holwick, west of Middleton, south of the river Tees, just about opposite Bowlees. Kestrels were calling and below the spectacular Whin Sill crags parsley fern was growing in the screes – fairly rare in Teesdale. The Whin crags, extending up the valley from Middleton, were extensively quarried for setts and roadstones until the 1960’s, and the quarries, together with farming, would provide employment for the area.
Holwick stands on a long fertile hummock of well-drained glacial material, a moraine. These moraines were left when the glaciers were slowly retreating, dumping great piles of finer material as they melted.
The Whin Sill, a hard volcanic lava, was intruded laterally as a hot magma into the late Carboniferous limestones, sandstones and shales. In Teesdale it is at its thickest at 240 feet. At that period there was extensive volcanic activity throughout the British Isles. The waterfalls of Cauldron Snout, High Force and Low Force fall over the Whin Sill rocks. Later came 100 million years of mineralisation when lead, zinc, fluorspar and barytes were deposited.
On the horizon to the east was the great ‘V’ shape cut out of the hillside, marking the lead mining hush and workings at Coldberry Gutter above the Hudeshope Beck. The Whin scars at Holwick are at a higher elevation than the Whin seen in the river below us, caused by the Teesdale Fault which resulted in the land to the north dropping over 300 feet between Middleton and Alston.
We followed the ancient track, the Holwick Old Road, which runs from Middleton, via Holwick, over Cronkley Fell and the Maize Beck, to Dufton, and passed the large and austere Strathmore Lodge – a shooting lodge belonging to the Strathmore Estate. Climbing steeply up the fell we had impressive views back down the valley, and over the river to the white farmhouses of the Raby Estate. At the moorland boundary fence we negotiated a stone stile of two large sheep.
Leaving the track we dropped down to the river near High Force, through small fenced plantations, then juniper woodland. Mountain pansies were growing on well-drained slopes below the rough moorland. After a quick look at High Force, the riverside walk, in warm sunshine, gave us a feast of flowers and birds on the way to Winch Bridge. Over a hundred flowers were recorded, including spotted, fragrant, butterfly and northern marsh orchids, rock rose, sea plantain, eyebright, Alpine bistort, northern bedstraw and shrubby cinquefoil. Golden plover, lapwing and chicks, curlew, meadow pipit, dipper and grey wagtail were among the many birds seen; also rabbits; and chimney sweeper and burnished brass moths.
Our return to Holwick was through ancient cultivation terraces of colourful hay meadows with pignut, yellow rattle and cranesbill.
18th July 2000 – Elizabeth Elliott
We took another look at this relatively new development in Darlington. It is most encouraging how the flora and fauna has moved into the area, and also how the human neighbours are using the grassland and walkways. In the short time available we identified 68 flowering plants in bloom. The turnout totalled 29 members and visitors.
22nd July 2000 – Elizabeth Elliott
The entrance to the limestone quarry was the rendezvous for twelve members. Here we were met by three professionals who took us through the former quarry area, and later to some ponds close to the railway line. The flora on the limestone was flowering in profusion. The field scabious and greater knapweed made a great show amongst the ox-eye daisies and yellow rattle. Orchids were abundant and included one white fragrant orchid, and a frog orchid. In one area we saw perennial flax, and later a few dark red helleborines. After some searching we found basil thyme. A total of 83 different species of flowering plant were seen in bloom.
It had been hoped to see many butterflies and moths but, unfortunately, the weather was not favourable. Some insect life was seen around the ponds.
Teesmouth Sand Dunes
30th July 2000 – Elizabeth Elliott
This day-long outing to the Teesmouth Nature Reserve must count as one of the highlights of the year. We were most fortunate to have an expert and enthusiastic guide, namely Angela Cooper, who has known the area for many years. Angela asked us to record the flora at various sites on the slacks and dunes. The lists of our findings have been sent to the Centre and we have also retained copies for our records. We were a little late in the season to see many orchids but we did see some northern marsh orchids. Purple milk vetch was flowering on one site. On the beach we saw lyme grass, sea beet and buck’s-horn plantain.
Butterflies and moths included meadow brown, small heath, common blue, skipper, large white, green-veined white, small tortoiseshell and burnet moth.
The birds included sandwich, Arctic and common terns, fulmar, oystercatcher, sanderling, dunlin and ringed plover.
One heath snail was seen. This species is almost extinct in the country.
2nd September 2000 – Elizabeth Elliott
We left our cars above Kildale and walked along the Cleveland Way through the wood and out on to the open moor near Captain Cook’s Monument. The heather on the moor was just past its best. We had our lunch overlooking the escarpment, and then made our way down the hillside and back through the wood at a lower level. Later we walked at an even lower level beside the river Leven. Altogether we noted 13 different varieties of tree, including beech and oak. We saw 33 species of flowering plant still in bloom, including wild angelica and Gipsywort.
Bird life was little in evidence and the weather was not good for butterflies.
Finally we visited Kildale church. Recently a new stained-glass window was installed which depicts the way of life in the parish, including the wildlife. It is well worth a visit.
West Cemetery Fungus Foray
9th September 2000 – Alan Legg
This was a nice relaxed little foray for me because I’m so familiar with the site and its mycota. I’d been there the day before to check on a rough route which would show off the larger early season species present. These seemed to be much appreciated, especially the earth-balls, clumps of Lyophyllum decastes and the giant polypore.
It is, however, always a bonus to have another, fresher, pair of eyes in the hunt so it was, in a sense, no surprise when our little party discovered other species that I had missed. None was new to the site but seven had not previously been recorded in 2000. They included two attractive species of Melanoleuca, the little corky toadstool-shaped polypore, Geastrum striatum, one of the Cemetery’s specialities.
Just a thought: it has always seemed to me a rather sad weakness of the traditional division of the Club’s year into Summer and Winter Programmes, with the latter’s stress on indoor meetings, that we miss out on so many exciting aspects of the natural year. Obviously I have October fungi in mind – but not only them. For me it is the early spring that is the year’s most uplifting time and I’m sure that I’m not alone in regretting that we so rarely have an April outing. Perhaps, too, J. B. Nicholson failed ever to record an earth-tongue precisely because, even then, the Club didn’t have late-season outings.
12th September 2000 – Elizabeth Elliott
Ian Bond led eight members on an evening outing to watch bats, when a number of different species were seen.