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)

Marsden Rocks and Cleadon Hills

The cliffs at Marsden Bay are spectacular even in December. Composed of 16-20 metres of cream and buff dolostone of the Concretionary Limestone formation, commonly referred as the Mag limestone formed in the late Permian period. The large sea stack in the picture below is composed of collapse-brecciated Concretionary Limestone.  Stacks like Marsden Rock were once joined to the mainland but weaknesses in the limestone create caves, arches and stacks over time. A spectacular coast is the result.

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The cliffs are made of layers of Magnesian Limestone which formed in the ancient Zechstein Sea. Within the original rock sequence was a thick layer of a soluble salty mineral (Hartlepool Anhydrite), which formed during a period when the Zechstein Sea evaporated and became saltier. After millions of years, the sequence was tilted and uplifted above sea level and the anhydrite dissolved away. The limestone above it collapsed and broke up. These broken up and fractured rocks are known as ‘collapse breccias, they are visible in the deformed cliffs below on the bottom right hand corner.

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Seabirds use these coastal features for nesting. Although the fulmar pairs below won’t be nesting until May, the female has glands that store sperm to allow weeks to pass between copulation and the laying of the egg.

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Sinkholes are a feature of this coastline.

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These impressive limekilns were built in the 1870s. Layers of limestone and coal were dropped in the top and burnt to make lime, which was used to improve acid soils and to make cement and concrete. Lime was also important for the steel and chemical industries. Coal sourced from from Whitburn Colliery fired the kilns. A village was built to house workers for the colliery and limeworks. After the colliery closed in 1968 the village was no longer needed, people moved to new houses nearby and the village was demolished. The cliff-top grassland where the village stood became a grassland of lime loving or calcicole plants.

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Cleadon Hill is a ridge of high ground standing between the village and the coast. Around 260 million years ago the hills were, together with others in the area, a group of small low islands in a tropical lagoon formed by the Zechstein Sea. Is it a conservation area due to its plant-rich magnesian grasslands. Exmoor ponies are helping to maintain the flower rich areas by grazing the rougher grass species.

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Some lichens prefer limestone as a substrate such as bright white Aspicilia calcarea below, growing on a wall.

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and the orange yellow rosettes of Caloplaca flavescens.

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The site is also dominated by the landmark Cleadon Water Tower, in fact a chimney for the former steam-powered pumps, which is visible for miles around, as far south as the Headland in Hartlepool.

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The views to all sides are worth the short climb. To the South, Roker pier is visible,

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while looking to the North, Tynemouth Pier and Priory are prominent.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMarsden Old quarry is a Nature Reserve forming a patchwork site of a variety of habitats which include areas of lowland meadow and pasture, magnesian limestone grassland and some semi-improved neutral grassland. This site of approximately 6.3ha supports an abundance of wildflower species such as Kidney vetch, Hoary plantain and Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil as well as Lady’s Bedstraw and Bee orchids. The geology is also of great interest and worth further exploration.

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Gorse (Ulex europaeus)is always a thorny subject but this one was not in flower.

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With the coming evening the clouds were colouring up over the golf course,

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and The Cheviot hills unmistakeable in the distance.

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Reference:

Durham coast SSSI

A Magnesian Limestone Geotrail

Cleadon geology

Bolam and St Andrews church

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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.

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In spite of the cold some fungi were flourishing, Velvet Shank (Flamulina velutipes) had colonised this tree trunk.

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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.

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These mysterious Saltire crosses inscribed on a pillar inside are presumably in honour of the martyrdom of St Andrew.

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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.

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Ramalina farinacea, the bushy lichen and the bluish leafy Parmelia saxatilis are pictured on another stone below.

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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.

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Two roe deer can be seen running across the fields adding to a memorable winter scene.

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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.

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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.

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An ornamental ivy, probably Canarian Ivy (Hedera canariensis) naturalised on a roadside verge added a seasonal interest.

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Reference: https://www.northumberland.gov.uk/NorthumberlandCountyCouncil/media/Neigbourhood-and-Local-Services/Parks%20and%20open%20spaces/Bolam%20Lake%20200years%20project/17957-Bolam-Interpretation-Booklet-A5-Print2-LR.pdf

Pike Law

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At 530 m elevation in the North Pennines, Pike Law is an upland moorland well known for centuries of lead mining. The photo shows a rushy moorland now used for sheep grazing and grouse shooting, with Cross fell, at 893 m visible on the skyline.

Although the bedrock is of Carboniferous age, it is covered in more recent glacial deposits, such as the drumlins in the picture below. Composed of till, or boulder clay, they form large rolling ovoid features in the landscape.

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We explored the West End and flask hushes in an area widely scarred by these huge extractive fissures. The West End hush shown below is 300m from East to West and 170m from North to South. This hush has a SSSI status for its fine exposure of mineralized Great Limestone in which many features both of the original limestone, and its subsequent alteration are clearly displayed. The supergene mineralisation (processes or enrichment that occur relatively near the surface) can be seen here, both in the exposed rock face and the abundant debris at its foot.

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The dark grey crystalline mineral shown below is Galena. It the natural mineral form of lead(II) sulfide (PbS), the most important ore of lead.

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Fluorite, calcium fluoride, CaF2 was also mined here but regarded as a waste product. It is found in numerous spoil heaps, occurring as purple or yellow crystals.

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Potamogeton polygonifolius or bog pondweed, is an aquatic plant. It is found in shallow, nutrient-poor, usually acid standing or running water, bogs, fens and occasionally ditches. It seems to be thriving in the wet hush bottom.

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The Flask Hushes have limestone outcrops forming their walls. The west end of these hushes show some structure with the top of the limestone visibly dipping at 30 degrees to the SW, weathering to a brown colour, with open joints, probably associated with the fault/ vein running along the hush,

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Leat dams and reservoirs are a feature at the head of the hushes. Probably the dams were formed from boulder clay and the reservoir water used to flush minerals out of the veins and spoil downstream.

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The area has been extensively worked by shaft and Adit over the centuries. In the bottom of the east end of the hush there are traces of an Adit with large boulders tumbled over its entrance.

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The Great Limestone forms the Southern wall of the hush, looking from the North, it appears dip gently to the West. It is being overlain by flaggy sandstones and mudstones.

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One of the mysterious features of the area are these boulder lines found at the head of outwash fans. Composed of limestone and sandstone rocks, they line one side of the ditch in long swathes. There origin is obscure but seem to have been deposited by mining and outwash processes.

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The Great Limestone is noted for its fossils. Dibunophyllum bipartitum is shown in both photographs below. It is a solitary rugose coral of the Carboniferous. The picture below gives a cross-sectional view with the septa visible.

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A longitudinal view reveals coral to be about 10cm long.

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Waxcaps are a sign of old cropped unimproved grassland. A Ballerina waxcap (Porpolomopsis calyptriformis) showing its skirts off. They are thought to have a mutualistic relationship with mosses.

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Lichens like the conditions up on this moorland. This shining brown Cetraria aculeata is one of the many types.

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Reference: https://designatedsites.naturalengland.org.uk/PDFsForWeb/Citation/1003630.pdf

http://northpennines.wp-sites.durham.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2018/11/Pike-Law-geology-report-by-Colin-Fowler.pdf

https://www.bgs.ac.uk/discoveringGeology/time/Fossilfocus/coral.html

Blackhall Rocks

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This beach photo taken from the top of the Magnesian limestone cliff outcrops laid down during the late Permian ( 300-250 mya). Formed by lagoonal deposits left by the rising and falling levels of the Zechstein sea, various formations can be seen including the Hesleden Biostrome from the beach.

A closer view of the rubble on the beach reveals a stony residue of colliery waste dumped on the beach from local mine workings. The colliery closed in the 1990’s but it was left for the tides to disperse the spoil out to sea. There is still a detectable sulphurous smell.

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The cliffs look more imposing from the beach.

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The laminations in the Biostrome are visible from close up as tightly packed thin layers. Finely laminated horizontal layers within the rock, each no more than a millimetre thick were formed from layers of filamentous blue-green algae that gradually accumulated on the shallow bed of the tropical sea. The Biostrome consists almost entirely of dolomite rock and comprises a thick and highly varied boulder conglomerate overlain by a thicker unit of algal laminites. The conglomerate is formed mainly of rolled cobbles and boulders derived by erosion of the underlying (but unexposed) reef-flat rocks of the Ford Formation.

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Stromatolites occur in the form of large domes up to 20m across and 3m high, pictured below. They are intriguingly displayed on the shore. Structures of this size are currently unique to the UK, and rare in marine Permian strata generally.

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They are more difficult to spot in the cliffs, however, this picture shows the convex dome shaped ‘Crinkly Beds’ of this upper (stromatolitic) part of the biostrome.

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Evidence of a fault is shown below in the different strata on either side of the slipped glacial till. This fault between Limekiln Gill and Cross Gill brings the Seaham Formation and Seaham Residue (left) into contact with the Roker Dolomite Formation (right). The base of the Roker dolomite rises to the cliff top beneath the boulder clay.

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A closer view of the Seaham residue, predominantly thin-bedded limestone (calcite mudstone/wackestone with some interbedded coquina , packstone, grainstone, mudstone and concretionary limestone) with some dolostone.

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Towards the south, a block of the Roker formation had fallen on the beach. Not only were mud slides dripping down the cliffs; occasional rock falls littered the beach. The area, in the longer term, is under going progressive erosion.

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The Roker formation is a cream, oolitic dolostone with subordinate thin beds of fine-grained dolomite and breccias. It rests on the Concretionary Limestone Formation (seen above at the bottom) as rounded cannonball-like strata that occurs above the Hartlepool Anhydrite Formation offshore with a dissolution residue that overlies the Ford Formation onshore.

The glacial tills are 24 m deep of southwards-thickening Quaternary (late Devensian)  deposits overlying up to 10 m of Magnesian Limestone. They form a layered sequence of two stony clays separated by a sand and gravel layer from which perennial seepages cause instability and slips.

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The site is noted for cliff top magnesian grassland and plants such as Sea Spleenwort (Asplenium marinum ). It grows in crevices and fissures in rocks, caves and walls near the sea and within the sea-spray zone.

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The beach at Black Hall Rocks contains some of the largest cave formations to be found on the Durham coastline, the magnesian limestone cliffs here measure 15–32m in height. The Gin Cave is an example of a Sea (Littoral) Cave. Colourful red algae, probably Hildenbrandia rubra decorates the walls.

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A  tantalizing view of the beach from within one of the caves. Caves are formed by the action of destructive waves hitting the cliffs with great force. The action concentrates on weak points within the rock, this may be a fault line or the bedding planes of sedimentary rocks, such as limestone.

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Caves in headlands may eventually erode right through to create an Arch in the rock. This will continue to erode and eventually the arch will collapse leaving a free-standing pillar of rock known as a Stack. The coastline here used to feature many stacks. These are no longer present through either natural causes or human intervention.

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A group of ringed plover and a few Redshank were seen patrolling the tideline.

 

 

Reference:

http://archive.jncc.gov.uk/pdf/gcrdb/GCRsiteaccount3016.pdf

https://designatedsites.naturalengland.org.uk/PDFsForWeb/Citation/1000255.pdf

https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC205F8_gin-cave-earthcache-black-hall-rocks

Hindhope Linn

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This secluded waterfall on the edge of Kielder Forest, now mostly conifer plantation, proved an interesting field trip for Ferns, Bryophytes, Fungi and Lichen. Linn is a Northumbrian word for a waterfall or the pool at the base of it. The Blakehope Burn tumbles over a sandstone escarpment in the Carboniferous sequences that make up most of Northumberland’s bedrock to form an impressive cascade. We visited in late October but Pink Purslane (Claytonia sibirica) was abundant and still in flower by the base of the fall.

The picture below is of Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris), a species regarded as one of the three native conifers of the UK, but only the subspecies scotica is a genuine native. These are grown from non-native seed.

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The forest included large stands of Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis) and Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)  both of which were originally introduced from the US by the botanist David Douglas. On the outskirts of the forest near the car park deciduous trees were still in green leaf: Common Alder, Goat, Grey and Eared Willow were thriving. Eared willow (Salix aurita) native to Europe, is a multi-branched woody shrub and a pioneer species, commonly occurring in wet sites in the Caledonian Forest and upland Northumberland. It is identified by its conspicuous stipules.

It was too dull and wet for successful photography but Ferns such as this Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) shrugged off the rain.

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Common Polypody (Polypodium vulgare) often grows as an epiphyte, in this case on a side branch of a Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea).

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Various ferns were noted: Hard fern (Blechnum spicant), Male fern ( Dryopteris filix-mas), Borrer’s scaly male (Dryopteris affinis subsp Borreri), Broad Buckler (Dryopteris dilatata), Lemon scented (Oreoptteris limbosperma) and Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum).

Liverworts like it wetter than ferns and this Greater Featherwort (Plagiochila asplenioides) pictured below was growing near the footpath. White Earwort (Diplophyllum albicans), Bifid Crestwort (Lophocolea bidentata) and Overleaf Pellia (Pellia epiphylla) which prefers acid soils, were recognized.

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A good selection of Moss species were growing well. Common Haircap (Polytrichum commune) with Wood sorrel attempting to grow through it, likes high humidity and rainfall.

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As does this Tamarisk Moss (Thuidium tamariscinum). It often appears transparent especially in the wet.

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Other Bryophyte species: Bank Haircap (Polytrichastrum formosum), Juniper Haircap (Polytrichum juniperinum), Swan’s neck thyme moss (Mnium hornum), Big Shaggy (Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus) and Litttle Shaggy mosses (Rhytidiadelphus loreus). It was wet enough for Sphagnum mosses such as Flat topped bog moss (Sphagnum fallax), Blunt leaved Bog moss (Sphagnum palustre), and even Red Bogmoss (Sphagnum capillifolium) to form cushions on the woodland floor.

Among the rich lichen flora it was a surprise to see Bryoria fuscescens growing well on Scots Pine where sufficient light lit the rough bark. Platismatia glauca is the leafy lichen on the right hand side of the photo.

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There was a confusing collection of Cladonia lichen; C foliacea is the leafy lichen at the bottom of the photo, the cups probably belong to C pyxidata but they are difficult to identfy. Parmelia sulcata is the leafy lichen at the top.

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This one looks like Cladonia glauca.

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Stone also provides a good substrate for crustose lichens; Porpidia cineroatra below has ashy black fruiting bodies and black prothallus. Other lichen noted: Cladonia sulphurina, C squamosa, C polydactyla, C furcata.

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Fungi were much in evidence given the wet mild weather. This coral fungus looks like  a Ramaria of some kind.

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Wrinkled club (Clavicula rugosa).

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Amanita vaginata, the Grisette, though not poisonous has a volva like a Deathcap.

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Ochre Brittlegill (Russula ochroleuca,) one of the most common of all the brittlegills, is  plentiful in pine forests and has mycorrhizal associations with the tree roots.

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The Myxomycetes, or slime moulds, are a group of  protists. They are microscopic, non-pathogenic bacterivores, which help to decompose plant remains. They are found in all terrestrial ecosystems, and about 1000 species are known worldwide. They are particularly abundant in temperate and tropical forest, but many species are also adapted to live in extreme environments. They form part of a group now called Amoebozoa. They are evolutionary significant, since they are considered to be one of the first attempts in the evolution of organisms towards multicellularity. They coalesce, in favourable conditions, into a moving plasmodial stage to meet mating partners and form spores.

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Possibly this is Badhamia folilcola which often coats grasses.

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Rainbows are formed by reflection, refraction and dispersion of light in water droplets. This one appeared to have an end in the woodland but rainbows are not located at a specific distance from the observer. They are an optical illusion caused by any water droplets viewed from a certain angle relative to a light source. Unfortunately, a rainbow is not an object and cannot be physically approached. Indeed, it is impossible for an observer to see a rainbow from water droplets at any angle other than the customary one of 42 degrees from the direction opposite the light source. Even if an observer sees another observer who seems to be at the end of a rainbow, the second observer will see a different rainbow—farther off—at the same angle as seen by the first observer.

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Reference: http://www.myxotropic.org/myxomycetes/

http://www.myxotropic.org/myxomycetes/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow

Lichens – Frank S Dobson

Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools – Paul Sterry and Barry Hughes

 

Roseberry Topping & Cleveland Dyke

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Roseberry topping is an erosional outlier of the Ravenscar Group on the western edge of the Cleveland escarpment. The area was extensively glaciated and the stratigraphy dips towards the South- Southeast.

The photograph above shows Newton Wood- mostly of Sessile Oak , Ash and Hazel of some age and probably planted on ancient woodland soils. It is noted for its springtime native bluebell and Stitchwort woodland floor plants. It occupies the glacial till overlying the Redcar mudstone formation  described by the BGS as grey fossiliferous, fissile mudstones and siltstones with subordinate thin beds of shelly limestone in lower part, and fine-grained carbonate-cemented sandstone in upper part.

On climbing up through a woodland path we came across bedrock of the Staithes formation shown below. Described as silty sandstone, more or less argillaceous (clay), typically intensely bioturbated and/or showing bedding structures of many types. Bioturbation is defined as the reworking of soils and sediments by animals or plants. These include burrowing, ingestion and defecation of sediment grains. These activities have a profound effect on the environment and are thought to be a primary driver of biodiversity.

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Out of the woodland we emerged onto a bench in the landscape formed by the Cleveland Ironstone formation.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This formation of mudstone, silty, argillaceous siltstone and silty sandstone with seams of sideritic and berthierine-ooidal ironstone, occurs typically at the tops of small scale sedimentary cycles. The land here was quite disturbed and hummocky, vegetated with rough pasture and gorse bushes. The rich red colouring  from rabbit burrows shows the presence of red Ochre. Red ochre, Fe2O 3, takes its reddish colour from the mineral hematite, which is an anhydrous iron oxide.

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Although probably mined since prehistoric times Roseberry ironstone mine was commercially founded in the 1870’s and continued until the 1920’s. Underneath Roseberry Topping is a labyrinth of mine workings, some think responsible for the slope collapse visible at the peak. We passed an ancient European Larch tree, a deciduous conifer looked as if it have been growing here for centuries, part of a larger plantation that once flourished here. Larch’s presence in the UK was first mentioned in 1629 and itt soon became a popular plantation tree.

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The track of a mine tramway still exists, stones along the surface showing evidence of many fossils like this one – possibly the bivalve Venericor.

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Lying above the Ironstone formation is the Whitby Mudstone formation of medium and dark grey fossiliferous mudstone and siltstone, laminated and bituminous in part, with thin siltstone or silty mudstone beds and rare fine-grained calcareous sandstone beds; dense, smooth clayey limestone nodules very common at some horizons.  Beds of Grey and Alum shale occur showing up on the grey grey crumbly slopes covered in distinctive brown bracken. Bracken likes dry, slightly acid soils under 450 metres.

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Jet is a type of lignite, a precursor to coal, and is a gemstone. It is derived from wood that has changed under extreme pressure and thin beds occur in the Whitby Formation. Spoil heaps from a Jet mine below the Topping supported different types of plants more typical of Heathland- Heather, bilberry, rich mosses and many lichens such as this cladonia diversa.

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Moorland fungi such as the Moor Club pictured below forms relationships with Heather, thriving amongst the lichen (Cladonia furcata?)

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The Saltwick Formation forms the craggy peak and most of the Cleveland escarpment tops. Consisting of grey mudstone, yellow-grey siltstone and yellow, fine- to coarse-grained sandstone, the sandstones commonly display sharply erosional bases, and channel-fill bedforms. Plant remains and plant rootlets are common in some beds.

The picture below shows thick channel sandstone with some cross-bedding. Although sauropod and stegosaurus footprints have been found in this Middle Jurassic formation, none were visible here.

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The view from the top shows the deltaic beds of the Saltwick formation snaking across the Cleveland hills into the mist.

 

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The Cleveland Dyke is an igneous intrusion which extends from Galloway in southern Scotland through Cumbria and County Durham in northern England to the North York Moors. The dyke is associated with volcanism which took place in the Isle of Mull igneous centre in western Scotland during the early Palaeogene Period. During a time of regional crustal tension associated with the opening of the north Atlantic Ocean,  innumerable dykes were emplaced across the region. It has been extensively quarried along the Langbaugh ridge at Cliff Rigg for roadstone and setts destined for Leeds. Half a mile in length, quarrying began in 1869 and production stopped in 1918 leaving a huge gully in the landscape.

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The treeless gap marks out the course of the dyke as it makes its way to the North Sea.

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This photo shows the elevation of the ridge formed by the Dyke with the dramatic Cleveland hills forming the backdrop.

 

References

Yorkshire Rocks and Landscape: A Field Guide (Rocks & Landscape)  Apr 1994
by Yorkshire Geological Society (Author), Colin Scrutton (Editor)

BGS -Lexicon of named units  BGS

 

Castle Head and Friar’s Crag

 

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The view in the pictures show the difference that 182m elevation make to the range of visibility. The top photo is taken from Friar’s Crag, a popular point made famous by John Ruskin. The lower one, from Castlehead crag, provides a panorama of many peaks: Skiddaw, Grizedale Pike, Robinson, Blencathra among them.

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Both crags are intrusive geological features not part of the Borrowdale volcanic group. Formerly the rock, shown below was thought to be dolerite but now due to its quartz content is defined as Diorite, an intrusive igneous rock strong enough to survive ice age erosion. The pictures shows the dark  colour and fine grained texture.

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Although it was a quick survey there were interesting plants in the woodlands. Common Cow-wheat (Melampyrum pratense) is a semi-parasitic plant growing near Friar’s crag.. Because the seed of the plant has an elaiosome (fleshy structure) which is attractive to wood ants, the ants disperse the seeds when they take them back to their nests to feed their young. Since the ants rarely carry the seeds more than a few yards, the plant is an indicator of ancient woodland.

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European Goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea) in full flower. Bees are attracted to it for its late season nectar.

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Also beloved by bees and insects, Wood Sage (Teucrium scorodonia) looked vibrant.

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Heath Speedwell (Veronica officinalis) had finished flowering but was still recognisable.

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Hawkweeds (Hieracium agg.) were just coming into flower

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Other plants noticed in the woodland: Slender St john’s wort, Harebell, Wood sedge, Common valerian, Great woodrush, Common polypody, Enchanter’s nightshade and Common figwort.

On Castlehead crag there is a deciduous Alantic woodland. Mainly of Sessile oak (Quercus petraea) with Holly, Birch and Hazel understorey. Scots pine had colonized the craggy tops while Stonecrop Sedum album was creeping along the stony cracks and hollows.

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Among the bryophytes Climbing corydalis (Ceratocapnos claviculata) was scrambling.

The site is noted for lichens but need to be covered separately.

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References:

https://designatedsites.naturalengland.org.uk/PDFsForWeb/Citation/1003952.pdf

https://forestplans.co.uk/…/national-trust-woodland-management-plan-borrowdale.doc…

https://www.plantlife.org.uk/uk/discover-wild-plants-nature/plant-fungi-species/common-cow-wheat

Fallowlees Flush Northumberland

Because of its lime rich seeps running down a slope to the Fallowlees burn a rich variety of species can thrive. The calcium rich water of the burn was covered in a large mass of  Chara vulgaris (Common stonewort). This is a green alga species. It is multicellular and superficially resembles land plants because of stem-like and leaf-like structures.

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A close up reveals a lack of flowering parts and delicate floppy structure, like a seaweed.

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This Marsh lousewort (Pedicularis palustris) was growing in acid conditions though it will tolerate alkaline soils. Not far away, Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris) was visible but no longer in flower. Butterwort been considered a magical plant in the Scottish islands. On the Hebridean island of Colonsay, it was thought, to protect you from witches  while cows were safe from elf-arrows if they ate it. Eriophorum of some kind is seen in the background. Commonly known as Cotton-grass it is a sedge.

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Long-stalked yellow sedge (Carex lepiocarpa) grows here, I wonder if it is pictured below

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Fir club moss (Huperzia selago) also liked the conditions. Clubmosses are very primitive plants that are found in rocky habitats, and on moorland, bogs and mountains. They reproduce by spores at the base of their leaves.

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It is always interesting to snap a moth but not always easy to identify it. This could be a Common lutestring. Chimney sweeper moth and various butterfly species were seen: Ringlet, Meadow brown and Painted lady.

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The flushes were rich in orchids like this Twayblade (Neottia ovata) pictured below and there were a collection of Common spotted (Dactylorhiza fuschii) with evidence of hybridization with other species.

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The orchid below smelled of cloves but had spotted leaves. Probably a Marsh fragrant (Gymnadenia conopsea ssp. densiflora hybrid with Common spotted orchid.

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Early marsh orchid Dactylorhiza incarnata subsp. coccinea is a striking red colour.

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A fine example of Heath spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata) another plant that tolerates both acid and alkaline conditions.

spotted heatth.JPG

There was a large number of plant species, especially sedges, too many to document, but I took a few samples shown below. The clover is Zigzag (Trifolium medium).

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Reference: SSSI citation:https://designatedsites.naturalengland.org.uk/PDFsForWeb/Citation/1005880.pdf

Wildlife trusts

 

Smardale Gill

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Smardale Gill viaduct pictured above near Kirkby Stephen forms part of the walk along the valley.  Smardale is an SSSI site and a National nature Reserve offering a range of  limestone, woodland and marsh habitats. A few highlights are described below.

The Geums were interesting, both urbanum, rivale and their crosses present, including this attractive double flowered variety.

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Greater butterfly orchid (Platanthera chlorantha) was growing by the footpath, distinquished from the lesser Butterfly orchid by its divergent pollinia (pollen masses).

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Appearing on the opposite side of the walkway was Common wintergreen (Pyrola minor), pale pink flowers held in a spike. Bitter vetch (Lathyrus linifolius) was growing behind while Fragrant orchid was coming into flower nearby.

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I mistook this Common twayblade (Neotttia ovata) for a Frog orchid. Frog orchid does grow here but is much smaller without the basal paired leaves.

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Bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanquineum) was frequent in its red form but this pink flowered Cumbrian form was unfamiliar.

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For comparison the red form is pictured below amid Birdsfoot trefoil, Rock rose (Helianthemum nummularium) and Heath wood rush (Luzula multiflora).

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Some plants are difficult to identify to species level, such as this Hieracium below. I thought it might be H anglicum agg.

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Fortunately, someone spotted this Horseshoe vetch (Hippocrepis comosa). Although superficially similar to Bird’s-foot trefoil the colour is stronger, leaf form different, and it is never suffused with red.

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The site is noted for butterflies, the Northern Brown Argus was flying; the Scotch Argus flies later in the year.

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Other butterflies seen: Painted lady, Common blue, Small heath but none in large numbers. Speckled wood was more numerous. This Large Skipper posed long enoughfor a photo.

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A common lizard basking on a tree stump among the dried heads of Blue moor grass. Small but fascinating, the common lizard is unusual among reptiles as it incubates its eggs inside its body and ‘gives birth’ to live young rather than laying eggs. Adults emerge from hibernation in spring, mating in April and May, and producing three to eleven young in July.

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Birds noticed: Buzzard, Ravens, Red Start, Curlew.

Other plants noted:  Limestone bedstraw, Common milkwort,  Sharp- flowered rush, Common valerian, Enchanter’s nightshade, Dog’s Mercury, Brachipodium sylvaticum, Stone bramble, Common figwort, Plantago media (Hoary plantain), Cirsium Heterophylum (Melancholy thistle), Salad burnet, Rough Chervil, Hairy St John’s wort, Wood sedge, Guelder rose, Wild Thyme, Oregano, Pale ladies mantle (Alchemilla xanthochrora), Betony, Tormentil, Sweet woodruff, Wood sorrel, Lady Fern (Athyrium
filix-femina).

Reference: https://designatedsites.naturalengland.org.uk/PDFsForWeb/Citation/1002478.pdf