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Upper Bransdale, July 9th

led by Tom Denney; photos by Gill Smith

group in lodge gardens 10 members met at the top of Bransdale on a glorious, sunny summer’s day. We met some three weeks after the tremendous thunderstorm that had caused extensive flooding in Helmsley. The centre of this storm was just to the west of Bransdale but its effects could be seen on some of the hillsides where there had been small landslides and gullies were well scoured out. Tom explained that his original plan to walk up West Gill had been changed because the floods had made parts of the path impassable. The revised schedule was to spend the morning investigating the old gardens of Cockayne Lodge and the area of pasture near the cattle grid, have lunch at the church, and then climb up through the plantation to the high moor, visiting the Cammon Stone and then dropping back down into the dale. The refreshments (which were excellent) were provided by members of St. Nicholas’ Church in aid of church funds.

Our trip began in the overgrown woodland gardens of the lodge, which were probably laid out in Victorian times in a sheltered area along the east gill (Bloworth Slack). The area is now a fascinating mixture of native woodland plants and trees, exotic rhododendrons, many of them huge, and some extraordinary water-loving plants with enormous leaves. There is also a spread of pink purslane, which although very pretty is also invasive, and one hopes it does not swamp too much of the native flora. The view up the beck from the northern edge of the gardens is very attractive (left).

We then moved downstream and investigated the pasture land which includes large oaks, and the beckside. It was very obvious at the confluence of the two gills that the west gill carried far more floodwater than the eastern one. The vegetation had been stripped off to a height of ten feet or so (a geologist’s paradise – wonderful fresh sections!), and huge quantities of silt had been dumped wherever the flow had lessened, for example against a fence (below – the fence is about 4' high). Apparently the mill a little further downstream had been badly damaged, and one can see why. The beck was very benign while we were there but the force of water at the height of the storm must have been terrifying.

photo of silt against fence
silt piled up against a wire fence (beck is behind some 8' below!)

beck with flood scour and stones
beck showing flood scouring (and note large stones piled up in the bed)

Up to the Cammon Stone

New Zealand willowhebAfter an excellent lunch the party split, with four stalwarts deciding to climb out of the dale head to the Cammon Stone. This is a curiously shaped boundary stone which bears an inscription in Hebrew (apparently this is true of several of the stones round Bransdale, the carving being done by the then vicar; presumably of Bible texts). The stone also carries an Ordnance Survey benchmark, but curiously the spot height on the map (1314') seems to be a couple of hundred yards further along the track.

The walk up through the conifer plantation was steep, and there was not much of botanical interest, though I did spot a spread of the introduced New Zealand willowherb (Epilobium brunnescens) in one of the many boggy patches – a most un-willowherb like plant (left – a bad photo unfortunately). At the top we came out onto open moorland, with the typical vegetation of the high moor of mixed heathers and bilberry, with mosses and bog cotton in the wet flushes, and occasional pine seedlings near the edge of the planted woodland. Interestingly the track running up from Rudland Rigg to the Cammon Stone must be laid on a limy roadstone, because I found quaking grass, wild thyme and autumn gentian (the last not yet in flower) along its verges. These were all dwarfed by a combination of the exposed conditions and sheep grazing. Finally we dropped down through the high intakes back into the dale (although Tom elected to walk home down the rigg!), returning along the road for the last half mile or so – which meant I could log a series of common verge plants like bush vetch and knapweed.

The Cammon Stone high above Bransdale
The Cammon Stone high above Bransdale

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Species lists

This was not a particularly good day for birds – the time of year and day combined with the hot sun meant that most birds were keeping their heads down. Tom did see a golden plover on his walk back down Rudland Rigg. We recorded: Pied Wagtail, Wren, House Martin, Treecreeper, Blue Tit, Woodpigeon, Chaffinch, Swallow, Greenfinch, Siskin, Swift, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Meadow Pipit. (Thanks to Jim Pewtress for the list.)

There were very few insects about apart from some flies and mosquitoes in the forestry! I only saw a couple of brown butterflies (meadow brown?) all day.

I was surprised when I got home and looked at my log to find we had seen over 100 plant species (and this is probably an under-estimate as I will have missed some and certainly did not identify all the grasses and sedges we saw). This impressive total reflects the fact that we sampled several different habitats (woodland, pasture, beckside, open moor, moorland track and roadside verges).

107 spp.
Acer pseudoplatanus Sycamore
Achillea millefolium Yarrow
Ajuga reptans Bugle
Alnus glutinosa Alder
Anthoxanthum odoratum Sweet Vernal Grass
Anthriscus sylvestris Cow parsley
Arrhenatherum elatius Oat, False
Athyrium filix-femina Lady Fern
Bellis perennis Daisy
Betula pendula Birch, silver
Blechnum spicant Hard Fern
Briza media Quaking Grass
Calluna vulgaris Heather
Cardamine flexuosa Bittercress, wavy
Carex echinata Star sedge
Carex flacca Glaucous sedge
Carex remota Remote sedge
Centaurea nigra Knapweed, common
Cerastium fontanum Mouse ear, common
Chrysosplenium alternifolium Golden saxifrage, alternate leaved
Circaea lutetiana Enchanters nightshade
Cirsium arvense Thistle, creeping
Cirsium palustre Thistle, marsh
Cirsium vulgare Thistle, spear
Claytonia sibirica Pink purslane
Corylus avellana Hazel
Crataegus monogyna Hawthorn
Cruciata laevipes Crosswort
Cynosurus cristatus Crested Dogstail
Dactylis glomerata Cocksfoot
Digitalis purpurea Foxglove
Epilobium brunnescens Willowherb, New Zealand
Epilobium montanum Willowherb, broad leaved
Erica cinerea Bell heather
Erica tetralix Cross leaved heath
Eriophorum angustifolium Cottongrass, common
Eriophorum vaginatum Cottongrass, harestail
Euphrasia officinalis agg. Eyebright
Fagus sylvatica Beech
Filipendula ulmaria Meadowsweet
Fraxinus excelsior Ash
Galium aparine Cleavers
Galium palustre Bedstraw, marsh
Galium saxatile Bedstraw, heath
Gentianella amarella Gentian, autumn
Geranium robertianum Herb robert
Geum urbanum Avens, wood
Glechoma hederacea Ground ivy
Heracleum sphondylium Hogweed
Holcus lanatus Yorkshire Fog
Hyacinthoides non-scripta Bluebell
Juncus articulatus Jointed Rush
Juncus conglomeratus Compact Rush
Juncus effusus Soft Rush
Lapsana communis Nipplewort
Lathyrus pratensis Meadow vetchling
Linum catharticum Flax, fairy
Lotus corniculatus Birdsfoot trefoil, common
Lotus pedunculatus Birdsfoot trefoil, greater
Lysimachia nemorum Yellow pimpernel
Myosotis arvensis Forgetmenot, field
Myosotis scorpioides Forgetmenot, water
Myrrhis odorata Sweet cicely
Nardus stricta Mat Grass
Oxalis acetosella Wood sorrel
Pilosella officinarum Hawkweed, mouse eared
Poa trivialis Meadow Grass, Rough
Polygala serpyllifolia Milkwort, heath
Polypodium vulgare Common Polypody
Potentilla erecta Tormentil
Potentilla reptans Cinquefoil, creeping
Prunella vulgaris Self heal
Prunus avium Wild cherry
Prunus padus Bird cherry
Pteridium aquilinum Bracken
Quercus sp. Oak
Ranunculus flammula Spearwort, lesser
Ranunculus repens Buttercup, creeping
Rosa canina Rose, dog
Rubus fruticosus Bramble
Rubus idaeus Raspberry
Rumex acetosa Sorrel, common
Rumex acetosella Sorrel, sheeps
Rumex obtusifolius Dock, broad leaved
Salix caprea Willow, goat
Salix cinerea Willow, grey
Sambucus nigra Elder
Senecio jacobea Ragwort, common
Sorbus aucuparia Rowan
Stachys sylvatica Woundwort, hedge
Stellaria graminea Stitchwort, lesser
Stellaria holostea Stitchwort, greater
Stellaria media Chickweed, common
Stellaria uliginosa Stitchwort, bog
Thymus polytrichus Thyme
Torilis japonica Hedge parsley, upright
Trifolium dubium Trefoil, lesser
Trifolium repens Clover, white
Urtica dioica Nettle, common
Vaccinium myrtillus Bilberry
Valeriana officinalis Valerian, common
Veronica arvensis Speedwell, wall
Veronica chamaedrys Speedwell, germander
Veronica officinalis Speedwell, heath
Veronica serpyllifolia Speedwell, thyme leaved
Vicia cracca Vetch, tufted
Viola riviniana Violet, common dog
© Ryedale Natural History Society 2005
Photos © Gill Smith 2005
Gill Smith, July 2005

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