It was a cold day when the Botany group went for a winter walk at Bolam. The Lake is artificial, designed by John Dobson and constructed in 1816 for the Rev John Beresford, who became Lord Decies in 1819. Beresford wanted to help local people through the agricultural depression and upheaval after the Napoleonic Wars by providing employment. It was, however, a fashionable enterprise since his neighbours were busy making improvements to their estates. Sir Charles Monck was undertaking building and landscaping work on Belsay Hall and grounds, while Sir John Trevelyan created a grand estate at Wallington landscaped by Capability Brown.
In spite of the cold some fungi were flourishing, Velvet Shank (Flamulina velutipes) had colonised this tree trunk.
St Andrew’s Church has a square late Saxon Tower but the interior is largely Norman with the arcading dated to 1180-1200. The quatrefoil piers with their broad moulded capitals are unique to St Andrew’s.
These mysterious Saltire crosses inscribed on a pillar inside are presumably in honour of the martyrdom of St Andrew.
Medieval gravestones bearing skulls and crossbones were common. The name is obscured by lichen but the message of ‘memento mori’ is still visible. Lichens are long lived and thrive on old gravestones. The lichen with the black apothecia looks like Tephromela atra while its neighbour with the red/brown discs is Trapelia coarctata.
Ramalina farinacea, the bushy lichen and the bluish leafy Parmelia saxatilis are pictured on another stone below.
From the churchyard the view shows the stretched ovoid form of a drumlin and craters in the foreground, formed in 1942 when bombs fell from a German Dornier airplane.
Two roe deer can be seen running across the fields adding to a memorable winter scene.
Although hardly discernable to the eye, a large flock of Brambling were feeding in this Beech tree. Members of the group observed Coal and Marsh tits, Redwing, Tree creeper, and Buzzard.
In spite of the frost some plants were flowering, like this Daisy (Bellis perennis) growing among Parsley piert (Aphanes arvensis) on the bank of this ha-ha. A ha-ha is a recessed landscape design element that creates a vertical barrier while preserving an uninterrupted view of the landscape beyond.
Peltigera lichen was thriving on the mossy bank. Most Peltigera species have the cyanobacterium Nostoc as the dominant algal partner but some contain small gall-like growths of the chlorophyte Coccomyxa containing Nostoc. Because of their ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, such lichens are influential in soil composition and generation.
An ornamental ivy, probably Canarian Ivy (Hedera canariensis) naturalised on a roadside verge added a seasonal interest.