Friday, 14 February 2020

Friday 28th April 2017 Monsal Dale

Today was a wonderful day to walk this beautiful day, the sun really brings it out and makes you feel good to be alive.
I dropped from Monsal Head the wooded path in direction of Millers Dale and crossed the Wye by the bridge at the bottom taking in the views either side of the bridge as I walked over it (below).

Turning left over the bridge the path follows the Wye into Monsal Dale.

Lady's Mantle, Alcimilla mollis growing vigourously near the viaduct. Also in picture is Opposite-leaved Golden saxifrage, Chrysoplenium oppositifolium which is abundant in many of the dales particularly the wooded ones.

The plant with the sagey type leaves is thought to be Wood Sage Teucrium scorodonia and the one at the bottom Wild Stawberry Fragaria vesca. They were growing on the stone walls just before the viaduct is reached along with forget-me-nots, St John's Worts, Wild Angelica and a host of others too early in growth for me to identify.

How did this Japanese maple get here? A popular (and quite expensive) garden plant growing on the bank of the Wye near the river under the viaduct. a wind blown seedling from some garden maybe.

Monsal Dale is a good place to see Early Purple Orchids Orchis Mascula at this time of year flowering in the grass accompanied by Cowslips and Meadow Saxifrage, delightful!

Meadow Saxifrage

Cowslips, Primula veris

You will also find in the same grass area:

Bugle Ajuga reptans

 Germander Speedwell, Veronica chamaedrys

 Cuckoo Flower (or Lady's Smock), Cardamine pratensis

In the more wooded parts of the dale the flora changes and  groups of Wood Anemones display their dainty nodding flowers in white and pink:

 Above: Wood Anemones, Anemone nemorosa with Lesser Celandine, Ficaria verna and Bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta. Also...

 Common Dog Violet, Viola riviniana

Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea


 The nodding red and cream flowers of Water Avens Geum rivale rise above the leaves of
Dog's Mercury, Mercurialis perennis

Ramsons Allium ursinum soon take over huge swathes of woodland in the some of the dales have less dominance here.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Thursday 22nd March 2019 Cressbrook Dale

Thursday 22nd March 2019 Cressbrook Dale

The day was forecast dry and mild and the morning started out sunny. Cressbrook Dale is a nature reserve with good biodiversity and was my choice for todays walk. I parked on a layby on the road to Litton near one of the signed entrances for the reserve. Parking is not easy at either end of the dale without a long walk to get to it and this was no exception being at the top of a hill where you have to walk down and then somehow cross the flooded stream below.

Not far from the car I noticed growing in the grassland two types of tiny white cress-like flowers probably related to the weeds that persist through your garden in the winter.
Left: looking south down the dale from the hillside near the car.

Right: The little cresslike flower growing in the grass had typical cresslike pinnate leaves and white 4 petalled flowers...

Left: ...the flowers had four stamens and a cylindrical rod-like stigma again typical of cresses.

Right: The other tiny flower I am inclined to think is Common Whitlow Grass with leafless flower stems arising from a rosette of leaves about 12mm across. It is of course early in the year (and on an exposed hillside) and I suspect the sizes are smaller than typical at full maturity. The leaves were wide-lanceolate with serrated margins.

Left: Sepals were white and hairy flower petals white as yet not fully open.

Both of the above were growing abundantly on the grassy hillside. Lesser Celandine was in flower too but more occassional here.

When I was further down the hill the stream looked to be too much for my walking boots so I made my way North towards the road where finally there was a little bridge and I was able to turn south to proceed down the dale. I decided to take a high path to avoid flooding and climbed to the top of the valley on the East side. I may have avoided the flooding but up here there was a fierce wind with quite a chill factor!

 Above: Looking down from here the flooded lower path I had climbed to avoid. Below looking south down the valley with Peter's Stone at the centre of the horizon. The day was so overcast these pictures would have looked like they had been taken in greyscale I had to increase the saturation to see the green.

There is a clear path along the top here and yet there were barbed post and wire fences going across. I am not sure whether these are to protect young saplings control pests or livestock or whatever there was no sign to say. I ducked below the first one to continue along the path but on reaching a second and by that time having had enough of the wind I decided to follow it down to the bottom of the valley.
As I approach the wooded part of the dale on the bottom path I spot the leaves of cowslip, rockrose and salad burnet growing near rock outcrops.

In  the wood there are isolated large patches of bluebells (not yet in flower or bud), the leaves being more like the native variety than the invader, I hope this is so. However this wood is massively dominated by ramsons (Allium ursinum). They cascade down the wooded valley sides like (later when the flowers appear) an avalanche. Whilst they are a splendid site in bloom its a shame they blanket such a large area and restrict other wild flowers from having room to grow.

I heard ducks in the water and was delighted to see a family of Mandarin Duck. The shots are handheld at 50x zoom in a dark area so are a bit grainy!

Left: the colourful male and grey female

Left: This was the sole specimen of Wood Anemone that I found here in flower. The solid masses of ramsons will I suspect prevent it from getting much of a hold in this dale.

On reaching the Ravensdale cottages at the end of the dale I turned around for the return walk. If possible I was going to keep to the lower paths this time.

Right: The tiny settlement at  Ravensdale at the Southern end of Cressbrook Dale.

Below: in the wood near where I saw the Mandarin Ducks and the masses of ramsons can be seen in the foreground middle ground and going up the hillside on the opposite bank as far as the eye can see!

Left: Little clump of cowslip leaves.

Below 3photos leaf buds and male catkins of an Aspen (??) in the wood

Right: A plant that  was similar to the Common Whitlow grass I saw at the beginning of the walk but had leaves on the flower stem below the buds. Thale cress?

A solitary Dog Violet on the grass bank out in the open having emerged from the wooded area. Note also the Salad Burnet leaves around it.

Right: One of several Early Purple Orchids growing on or very near the path in the open area. Could the proximity to the path be a result of seeds carried on soles of walking boots?

I managed to get back on the lower path which was clear of the flood water and even cross to the other side at a point even though this meant precariously clinging to a wall rock climber fashion to cross it!

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Friday 8th March 2019 Coombes Dale

Friday 8th March Coombes Dale

The morning was quite bright and rain was not forcast to the afternoon so I decided to pay a visit to my regular haunt, Coombes Dale.
On the way it was pleasant to see all the dafodils in flower on the verges and Prunus trees flowering in peoples front gardens (most being the flowering almond and plums I suspect as the cherries are not yet due) and quite a few early rhododendrons.

I had not gone far up the entrance lane to the dale when I had need of my SLR camera only to find the battery was flat, teach me to keep it charged up in future! I went back to the car and dropped it off with the macro lens so I would at least benefit from the lighter load in my backpack. Now I would see just how the Sony (HX400v) bridge coped (which hitherto had not overly impressed me). In order to get the macro shots I fitted the Raynox 250 to the lens via a step up filter (plumbers might think of this as a 43mm male to 55mm female 'iron' in this case plastic). This is much better than the clip on thing that comes with the Raynox. It works by letting you get close up to the subject with the zoom right out the longer the telephoto the more the magnification and unfortuneately the nearer to impossible to get a steady handheld shot! That said I was not overly dissappointed with these shots it produced on a windy day handheld with shaking freezing cold hands! To compensate I put it into shutter priority mode and set it sky high at least 1600th of second or higher if I could afford it but later I found I needed to switch to manual mode to have full control over exposure. I also set the ISO high 1600 some at 3200.

Left: a small specimen of orange jelly fungi was about 10mm x 10mm x 20mm growing on a dead broken off branch.

Right: terminal buds of Ash the dominant tree in the dale. The black buds contrast well against the pale bark.

Left: Another shot of the same Ash showing the girdle scars and the almost circular leaf scars. Buds are opposite each other on Ash.

Right: interesting effect when you have not extended the zoom, you see the rim of the Raynox lens as a porthole effect. This was looking at how far on the Elder was. Well into leaf, its always one of the earliest here.

Left: now zooming out for a closer shot showing the bud scales and leaf scars (and lenticels in the bark).

Below the Hazel pink female stigmas. On this tree the (male) catkins were dry and brown and presumably finished pollen shedding and now the female flowers were in abundance emerging from nearly every bud on some twigs sometimes in groups of two or three. You also see other trees where the catkins are still at their best or small and not yet open. Its likely this helps to prevent self fertilization as I found it hard to spot any female flowers on trees when the catkins were in flower.

Right: dried male catkins and fresh female flowers at the top.

Left: On higher ground the leaf shoots were more advanced on some Hazels.

Right: Spiky fruits remaining on a what I suspect to be Lesser Burdock.

Left: Hawthorn bud. The more numerous blackthorns (not shown) had swelled a little to have bright pale green tips emerged from the brown scales of their leaf buds to give the trees a speckled effect.

Right: Bud of Horse Chestnut with its big leaf scar like the claw of a huge bird of prey! The big waxy bud scales will remain folded back when the leaves emerge later.

Right: male catkin of Goat Willow. The 'pussy willow' catkins all had these blobs of water attached which I initially took to be frozen but when touched it was not. Maybe the hairs prevent the water blobs being more rounded.
Below the water made the tree glisten quite beautifully but this was hard to capture on camera.

Right and below: Some interesting fungi fruiting at this time. I have yet to properly identify them but my guess is one or both of the first two are 'Jews Ear' fungi which I have seen before in Lathkill Dale.

Right: Pretty sure that this is Jews Ear fungus Auricularia auricula-judae

 Left: I think this is too, rather looks more like an ear.

 Right: No idea what this fungi is yet. It was growing vertically on old ash tree bark.

Right: King Alfred Cakes or Cramp Ball fungi growing on fallen tree trunk.
Left: Scarlet Elf Cap fungi were numerous on the woodland floor at high level in Coombes Wood but only occasional along the main dale path.

Plant growing on vertical limestone outcrop that I discovered last year on flowering to be Meadow Saxifrage. It soon dried up and withered in the summer and I thought that was the last of it, a chance bird sown occurance in a very unsual location for it but here it is again, the same plant. Could it be that this is an 'alpine' mutation?

 Left and two photos below are Field Maple showing hairy red buds and some surviving winged fruit (samaras) from last year.

Above: the vulnerable..narrow leaved native Bluebells in the heart of the dale and left the threat  the indestructable invader, the broader-leaved  hybrid bluebells that have secured a foothold near the entrance to the dale. They sadly may eventually displace the natives.