Yeavering Bell – Botany

This photograph of the hill shows the rounded topography of the Cheviots and the progression from agricultural fields through tree and bush cover through moorland vegetation to scree slopes and rocky outcrops.

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Yeavering Bell at 360m is one of the smaller hills in the Cheviot range. At its foot lies Ad Gefrin, the 7th Century, the palace of King Edwin of Northumbria and his successors.  Bede mentions it as the spot where Bishop Paulinus baptised Christian converts in the River Glen in 627 AD. No one knew its exact location until 1949, when an archaeology professor taking aerial photos spotted crop marks. Excavations in the 1950s and 1960s revealed a huge complex of great timber halls of more than 26 metres in length. There were kitchens, a timber grandstand, a weaving shed and a ‘Great Enclosure’. The site is now a grassy field and lies next to a Nature Reserve in a fenced off quarry.

By the path crossing a stream, Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus), a frequently seen plant by freshwater streams in the Cheviots. Gorse is also common on sandy lower slopes with accompanying Yellowhammers singing.

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By the Farmstead, Good King Henry (Blitum bonus-henricus). An Archaeophyte and the only perennial Goosefoot, the mealy leaves are longer-than-wide and vaguely triangular but the dense panicles of small flowers are usually without leaves within the flower-spike itself. Once used as a farmyard vegetable, I have also seen it growing in coastal locations.

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Typical sward from the lowest slopes sprinkled with Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) known as the bluebell in Scotland. Delicate looking but tough enough to compete with the grasses.

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Lesser Hawkbit (Leontodon saxitilis) shown in closer view below.

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Tormentil (Potentilla erecta) also ubiquitous, growing  with Climbing Corydalis (Ceratocapnos claviculata) seedlings.

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Musk thistle (Carduus nutans) on the lower rough pasture, pleasantly scented, it prefers calcareous soils.

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Ling heather (Calluna vulgaris) occurred in extensive patches surrounded by Bracken. The regular areas appeared to be managed for game birds although they made a glorious purple displays.

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Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) another carpeting shrub had finishing flowering and its dark blue berries were beginning to form.

 

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Apart from a wonderful vista the top is rough and grassy. This fort was the largest of its kind in Northumberland, and had dry stone walls constructed around both of the Bell’s peaks. On the hill, over a hundred Iron Age roundhouses were constructed, supporting a large local population. The tribal group in the area was, according to later written sources, a group known as the Votadini. The remains of the perimeter wall can be seen to the right in the picture below.

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The path down from the Hillfort on a north- west facing slope, had a different suite of plants growing and little Bracken. The hairy leaves below had no flower stalks on show but I think it must be Bog Cotton (Eriophorum angustifolium) a member of the Cyperaceae family.

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Not common here, I found only one example Bell Heather (Erica cinerea) growing amid Heath Bedstraw.  An excellent plant for pollinators, it prefers drier acid condition,

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whereas Wild thyme (Thymus polytrichus) although growing not far away thrives on limy soils.

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White Stonecrop (Sedum album) also a lime lover grows on or near rocks.

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Wood Sage (Teucrium scorodonia) surprised me. Some sources say it grows in acid soils others that it grown on Limestone pavements.

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A final view of the Cheviot summit showing extensive heather management and the dark green encroaching Bracken on the lower slopes.

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Yeavering Bell means ‘the hill of goats’ and we were lucky to see many feral goats (Capra aegagrus) thought to be descended from Neolithic or Iron age stock.

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Reference:

https://www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk/places-to-visit/the-cheviots/ad-gefrin/

http://www.wildflowerfinder.org.uk/

Collins Wild Flowers Guide (2nd edition)

Tyne Watersmeet

 

Tyne Watersmeet is an SSSI, noted for its invertebrate life, Flora, Bryophyte and Lichen communities, at the confluence of the North and South Tyne rivers. On a sunny morning in early March the River Tyne sparkled silver and peaty bronze in the sunshine. The carboniferous rock strata provides a range of siliceous, limestone and river bank (riparian) environments. From this viewpoint on Warden rocks a male Goosander flew past heading upstream.

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Wild daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) were already in flower, distinguishable from the cultivated varieties by the strongly coloured trumpets glowing between six translucent tepals and long papery bract. It is the only native British daffodil.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAViolets are commonly seen on the riverbank. Sweet violet (Viola odorata) was in flower. The petals can be rich violet or white and the spur lilac, the leaves have rounder tips than other violets.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wood anemone (Anemone nemoralis) is an indicator species of ancient woodland, this one, on the brink of flowering.

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Early in the year plants may be recognized by their leaves. The hairy looking leaves in the picture below are of Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) and the leafy liverwort growing beside it Greater Featherwort (Plagiochila asplenoides).

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Alternate leaved Golden Saxifrage (Chrysoplenium alternifolium) has attractive leaves appearing amid the Ivy.

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Ivy seems to be spreading rapidly even smothering this Lesser celandine (Ficaria verna) in flower. The longer leaves sprouting nearby are hooded at the tip suggesting it is Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem (Gagia lutea), a locally rare plant.

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Snowdrops were abundant, their grey-green leaves, by way of contrast, are not fused at the tip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWoodland mosses frequently covered riverside rocks such as this Common mouse-tail (Isothecium  mysuroides),

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and Swan’s neck thyme moss (Mnium hornum).

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A Beech twig played host to a fungi that looks like Beech Barkspot (Diatrype disciformis), found on the woodland floor of a mixed plantation. Common Crossbills were calling from the Scots Pines, though difficult to spot, while Coal, Great and Blue tits, Chaffinch and Yellowhammers fluttering from tree to tree. Judging by the eaten pine cones, squirrels had been dining there and Badger feeding holes provided evidence of a nearby sett. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Other plants noticed:Greater Woodrush (Luzula sylvatica), Arum Lily (Arum maculatum), Dogs’ Mercury (Mercurialis perennis), Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum), Sanicle (Sanicula europaea), Primrose (Primula vulgaris), Pignut (Conopodium majus), Leopard’s Bane (Doronicum pardalianches).

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Reference:

SSSI

Derwent Reservoir

Derwent reservoir was built in the 1960s to provide a water supply for North East England. It is one of the largest inland waters in england; 3.5 miles (5.6 km) long), maximum depth of 100 ft (30m),  and when full holds 11,000 million gallons (50,000,000m³). In the picture below some yachts were racing on the lake. The sailing club is active in mid January, in spite of the cold.

view

The bricks that make up the dam were dug from the floor of the Derwent valley prior to flooding, the dam makes a spectacular curve in the landscape. There is also a small hydro-electric plant. The lake sediments contain high concentrations of zinc, cadmium and lead from polluted old mine waters around Blanchland. The lake water has been affected and is surprisingly empty of algae.  The lake is a fishing resource in the summer, being stocked with trout and roach.dam

The area is managed for wildlife, Millshield pasture has a good selection of sedges and flora, Cronkley Heath has insect and reptile interest and there is a managed mire at Pow Hill.  The Violet Oil Beetle has been recorded here. It would make a good summer botany outing. Insects are featured in the decorated stone below, including the Violet Oil Beetle (middle left).

decorated rock

Belted Galloway are a beef breed used for conservation grazing on rough pasture. Of a hardy nature, naturally hornless, the white banded body is easily spotted in the moorlands.

belted galloway

Not so recognizable, these small white faced sheep were busy eating hay. Could they be Shetland Sheep? Soay sheep and Exmoor ponies are also used as grazing animals.

sheep

The bins were wooden and looked interesting, perhaps an upside down acorn?

bin

Although the valley had been flooded when the lake was constructed some of the trees looked well grown, gnarled, like this Ash,

ash

or this Oak below. The name Derwent is thought to be derived from an Old Welsh word for Oak.

Oak tree,

We had been puzzling over this scatter of Seagull feathers shown below,

seagullfeather

when we witnessed a Red Kite attack, on the birds near the lake. Spectacular in flight as in the picture below,  I did not think they made such effective predators. They are wise to choose the Reservoir area because on Grouse Moors their presence would probably not be tolerated.

redkite

Walls are usually interesting; this one was a dry stone wall with a row of tie stones. The capstones had been mortared and at one point there was a hole through which sheep had used.

corner

Mortared wall tops provide an environment for many organisms like this Orange Mosscap (Rickenella fibula), growing among the Grimmia and Wall Screw Moss (Tortula muralis).

Orange Mosscap

 

References:

http://www.explorenorthpennines.org.uk/sites/default/files/activity/downloads/derwentaccesswildlifeleafletweb.pdf

http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/8222/

Allotment – Hedgehog and Insects

There is a hedgehog in the allotment. So far I have not visited early enough in the morning to chance a sighting but the evidence is a scat.  The scat looks as if the Hedgehog had been eating worms and possibly a nestling.

hedgehog

I put out cat food in two dishes, spaced apart, so that if it left another scat it would provide evidence of the consumer. Next day all the food had been eaten but no scat left.

The Nettles have enticed Small tortoiseshell butterflies to lay eggs. The larvae are shown below. They build tent like structures on the top of  nettles. The black dots are caterpillar droppings.

smalltortoiseshell

This slug was removed from the Greenhouse. It is the black slug ( Arion ater).

black slug

Compare this to a Netted slug (Deroceras reticulatum). The netting on the back is visible.  Both are common on allotments. I think it has left its poop behind.

slug anf poo

The Strawberry snail (Trochulus striolatus) is also commonly seen.

snali

By the path this beautiful flowering grass caught my attention, Meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis).

meadow foxtail

On the way to the Allotment I pass a church with towers. This Blackbird frequently sits atop singing its delightful song.

blackbird

Allotment Insects etc

The recent warm, dry weather has brought out some of the insects though, butterflies are uncommon.  This two-spot ladybird (Adalia bipunctata) was sheltering on the White Comfrey.

Two spot ladybird

Green alkanet (Pentaglossis sempervivens) was favoured by a worker Red tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius). They nest underground or under slabs of concrete.

Red tailed Bumblebee (worker Bombus lapidarius)

I think the bee below is a worker Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum)  again feeding on the White Comfrey. They feed on many types of flowering plants including Nettles and Himalayan Balsam.

Common carder bee Bombus pascuorum)

This one could be a Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris). Bees rapidly fly from flower to flower because they can smell that another bee has recently been gathering nectar and so not worth a visit.

bufftailed

Below  is a worker Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum). they are good pollinators of white clover, thistles, sage, lavender and cotoneaster. Here they are busy with White Comfrey.

Bombus pratorum?

While watching them I heard the characteristic excitable hum of buzz pollination or Sonication.  Some species of Bee such as Buff tailed (Bombus terrestris)  move their flight muscles rapidly to dislodge pollen then store it in their pollen baskets. This makes pollination more efficient. Honey bees do not use buzz pollination.

Greenbottles ( Lucilia sericata ) are common  in  both allotment and Garden. They seem to enjoy sunbathing. Their larvae feed on carrion and are used in medicine to clean wounds and in forensics. The adults take nectar and pollinate onions and brassicaceae.

Green Bottle

Going home I saw this large spider on a pavement slab. It was headed in the direction of the house. Could be a male House Spider (Tegenaria domestica) on the lookout for a mate. They weave funnel webs;  it is also known as the Barn funnel weaver.

house spider

The last picture is not a spider but a Fox scat. Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) den in the Allotments somewhere. Their diet is omnivorous: mice, voles, rabbits, birds, earthworms depending on the season. This scat was deposited just outside my allotment. There were Wood Pigeon feathers scattered by the bird feeders.  Unfortunately, bird feeders also attract predators.

foxpoop

Tracks

At Gosforth Reserve we came across pawprints in the mud by the new pond. This one has 5 claws at the front, pad behind. It is probably a badger paw-print.

badgerprint

The print below could be from an otter. It has 5 toes unlike a fox, dog or cat and a semicircular shape.

otter track

The Roe deer’s print shows its cloven hoof.

roe deerprint

Further along we found this Badger latrine so we know Badgers are active nearby.

badgerlatrine

Armstrong Park

Cool autumnal morning. Robins more evident  in upright breast displays. Rabbits have been frequently seen in the mornings. Then a flash of rusty red streaking along the path from the warren. Red fox. The mornings are darker now and the fox out longer perhaps.

Kingfisher yesterday, but did not spot it today. Grey wagtails and a flying heron, sound of Hawks again. Grey squirrels are common. This one by the bird feeders in the Nature area.

Devils coach horse (Staphlinidae olens) on the path. I touched it and it arched its back in defence. Not seen so often now.