Ox Close Wood, East Keswick
Bolton Abbey Estate Survey : Nelly Park Plantation
Leighton Moss RSPB
Blacktoft Sands RSPB & Hatfield Moor
Full Summer programme
|Friends of Ilkley
Moor choose new chairman
for land near Gargrave ‘will turn landscape industrial’,
|Nell Bank tree house
all set to open
green fields under threat’ in Wharfedale and Aireborough
|Million pound bid
to protect upper Dale
last winter meeting was the AGM, competently and speedily
dispatched by chairman, Peter Riley. In summary, the society
is in excellent health.
Next we had Nine
weeks in wet sheets, a rivetting talk given by Mike Dixon,
Emeritus Professor of Gastrointestinal Pathology, based on
Darwin in Ilkley, a book written in collaboration with Greg
Charles Darwin came to Ilkley in October 1859, just prior
to the publication of On the Origin of Species by Means
of Natural Selection, to undergo the hydropathic or water
cure therapy. Mike described this therapy in chilling and
hilarious detail accompanied by many cartoon illustrations
from contemporary publications and read out wry extracts from
But what was his mysterious illness?
When his wife and family were with him they rented accommodation
and Emma supervised the menus. In their absence, Darwin stayed
in Wells House. A chart shows clearly that Darwin’s
health improved during the latter and deteriorated during
the former. Was Emma poisoning the man she loved? Not at all,
claims Mike Dixon. Darwin showed all the symptoms of lactose
This talk was enthusiastically enjoyed by all present.
- a local landmark
Brightening up the roadside ditch at Denton, this is a good-sized
garden escape. It's been around for some time, though - in
the 'Flora of Craven' the first record is 'H. F. Parsons,
As sometimes happens, though, Nats know
better, or at least more accurately - Mike Atkinson reports
that the YNU met here in 1946 and one member remembered that
the Doronicum had been seen on the Denton Road in
Its distribution in West Yorkshire is
rather scattered, mostly in the north, on neutral soils and
often in woodland. It has large heart-shaped leaves and was
already a valued garden flower in the seventeenth century.
Maybe, as an introduced plant, it had some extra glamour as
a medicinal herb. Culpepper said it strengthened the heart
and was 'admirable against the bitings of venomous beasts'
- not something to rely on nowadays!
In the wonderful
wilds of the Langstrothdale fells, Nethergill Farm is hosting
a series of Wild Workshops in conjunction with Yorkshire Wildlife
Trust that promises an ‘up close and personal’
experience of the dramatic landscape and Yorkshire Dales wildlife.
Four Wild Workshops have been scheduled
so far, taking place on Saturdays from April to July, between
10am to 4pm, starting at Nethergill Farm’s panoramic
and high-tech Field Centre.:
8th June: Peat
Workshop, with Astrid Hanlon from Yorkshire Peat Partnership.
13th July: Wild Flower Workshop, with Nicky
Vernon, plant recorder for The Wharfedale Naturalist Society.
More information here.
Settled weather (?) - so much to see!
- Swifts swooping
- Dotterel on Ilkley Moor
- Blue butterflies - Holly Blue first, Common if early
- Green hairstreaks on Otley Chevin
- Dragonflies! Large Red Damselflies, Four-spotted Chasers
- Leopard's-bane at Denton
If you were to be very lucky, you might see Dotterel on Ilkley
Moor in early May. These are birds of the high tops, breeding
very irregularly in England, and difficult to see. They are
delightful little grey-brown plovers, the male with a bright
red-brown front. They pass through on passage and the Moor
is a traditional stopover for small groups.
For a slightly easier quest, take a walk through woodland
and see you can find Spotted Flycatcher. Strid Wood and the
Washburn are likely, and upper Wharfedale and Littondale have
been most productive in recent years. Last year, though, even
mid-Wharfedale did better than it had for a long time. Even
if you don't see the bird, you'll see lots of other breeders
- Pied Flycatcher, for instance. They are found in just a
few breeding sites - Strid Wood, Grass Wood and Dob Park are
This month we see Swifts, back from South Africa for the
summer. The earliest record for return is April 21st, and
they mostly stay only until late August. Their noisy swooping
after insects on their sickle-shaped wings, often with groups
of Swallows or House-martins, is an icon of English summer.
It nests mostly in urban areas.
There are so many plants to enjoy at this time
but it is the May blossom which defines the month.
Hawthorn is found almost everywhere in Britain. It spreads
quickly, helped by its juicy fruits which are food for birds.
It is of course often planted as hedging and was very popular
during the Enclosure Act period.
It was just one plant of many which in the past made up 'the
May'. The whitethorn was a protector against the evil waiting
at the turning of the season. Yet as a powerful plant it could
be dangerous - it should not be brought indoors. Lone hawthorns
could be fairy places and should never be interfered-with.
Hawthorn wood burns hotter than any, and the bush can live
to a great age.
by Society members
featured in Wharfedale Newspapers
Who needs sunshine anyway?
My hunt for floral signs of Spring continues, and, about ten
days ago, I found one of my 'specials'. In the dim light beneath
some hazel bushes on the edge of Strid Woods - three ghostly
white spikes of common toothwort. The tightly closed flower
buds that cluster on these spikes will later open and flush
to a rather dirty-looking pinky-mauve, but at present their
waxy colour suits their alternative name of corpse flower!
These spikes are the only indication we shall have that this
plant is present. The main body of the plant exists below
ground - a number of thick off-white stems covered in curled
flesh-coloured leaves: it completely lacks chlorophyll so
is unable to photosynthesise. It steals all the nutrients
it needs to grow and reproduce by means of pad-like suckers
attached to the roots of, in this case, a hazel bush. It is
a parasite. It doesn’t seriously damage the hazel: after
all, it wouldn’t do for a parasite to kill its host,
so I can find it in this spot year after year.
I remember learning about photosynthesis, the process by
which plants form sugars from carbon dioxide and sunlight,
in Biology lessons at school. The ability to photosynthesise
seemed to be a prerequisite of being a plant. But, of course,
nature is much cleverer than that. Later I learned to look
out for yellow rattle. This pretty flower, common in the hay
meadows of my childhood, is easy to identify. The bright yellow
flower is backed by a bladder-shaped calyx that dries out
and contains the seeds. It has other names - cockscomb and
the very descriptive rattle-basket. Yellow rattle can live
independently but, since it tends to grow in rather dry and
competitive circumstances, it’s evolved as a hemi-parasite,
taking extra nourishment from the roots of neighbouring grasses.
Farmers used to dislike it as it weakened the grass-growth,
but nowadays it is valued by conservationists in their efforts
to develop species-rich hay meadows. Rattle holds back grass
growth and thus encourages biodiversity. It’s been successfully
used at the Otley Wetlands Reserve creating space for a rich
display of, among others, wild orchids.
Thinking admiringly of all the clever ways plants have evolved
in order to survive, I enter Strid Wood and am immediately
surrounded by trees covered in lichen. A happy collaboration
between fungi and algae, lichens are examples of symbiosis,
an equally beneficial - and highly successful - partnership.
More Nature Notes articles here