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Trip to Sleightholmedale June 19th 2010

notes by Gill Smith [Species lists below]

stone bramble Rubus saxatilis A dozen members attended this very interesting meeting in Sleightholmedale which was led by Mrs Rosanna James from Sleightholmedale Lodge. Unfortunately the weather was not kind – it was cool and windy with showers, much more like April than mid-June! We met at the end of the Avenue, walked down through the woods and then back through the meadows. Rosanna set the scene for us by explaining that when she lived here as a child she and her sister used to go exploring in the woods and fields, and became fascinated by the wealth of wildflowers growing there. This is an area of ancient woodland on steep slopes cutting through bands of limestone and some sandstone, giving a great variety of soils and therefore niches for different plants. There are several unusual plants in these woods, such as columbine and stone bramble (see detail of flower left). In the flat valley bottom is an area of old meadows that are lightly grazed by cattle, a form of management that has not changed in several hundred years. In 1986 some 80 acres of this valuable habitat was made into an SSSI, including the meadows and some of the woodland. On the west bank of the river is a heronry.

Downy rose Rosa mollisAlong the track there are numerous wild roses, including this – one of the Rosa mollis group, with deep pink flowers, bluish foliage, thin straight prickles and numerous glandular hairs on the sepals. Just by the gate from the meadow back into the woods there is a run of fine old lime trees (the native species Tilia cordata with relatively delicate foliage and the flower clusters held above the leaves). Along this stretch of path Rosanna remembers there used to be a few plants of wintergreen Pyrola minor. Several of us searched the woods quite thoroughly but sadly failed to find it. Pauline is familiar with this species and reckons it would be easier to spot in late autumn or winter when other plants have died down – as its name suggests Pyrola remains green and therefore stands out against the brown of dead leaves – so it is probably worth another search later in the year. It would certainly be great to find this unusual plant still growing here on one of its known old sites. We did find both columbine and lily of the valley (leaves only, the flowers had finished), but the highlight for many of us was a good colony of stone bramble. This is a small relative of blackberries and raspberries that grows on steep rocky slopes, in or near old woods, at least here in Ryedale. It is difficult to identify unless it is in flower or fruit: here you can see the characteristic flowers with small, narrow, pure white petals standing upright from the five sepals that open out into a 5-pointed star as the flowers fade. The fruits, which don’t form very often, are red and shiny, with fewer segments than a bramble.

stone bramble Rubus saxatilis stone bramble Rubus saxatilis
stone bramble Rubus saxatilis Three views of the stone bramble Rubus saxatilis, showing the slightly shiny, rather thin, grass-green leaves, on a plant with thin stems lacking spines and growing no more than a foot tall; the few-flowered inflorescence; and a detail of the characterstic flowers with upright, narrow petals that never open right back.

The party stopped for lunch in the meadow, surrounded by buttercups and other flowers. Across the river we could see the heronry with at least one bird perched in the trees, probably on a nest. There are apparently fewer nests this year, perhaps down to three. After lunch most of the party took the sensible route along the bottom of the woods to Sleightholmedale Lodge, but the more adventurous took the “ Four Bridges Trail” This involved crossing the river four times on bridges made from large tree-trunks by a local craftsman; the first of them is like something out of an adventure playgound, with several separate sections suspended from chains and swinging as you walk across them – pleasantly scary! (This part of the walk is private, not on the public footpath; thanks to Rosanna for allowing us to use it.)

Janet on chain bridge

We spotted nest boxes on some of the riverside trees and were delighted to hear that one pair of pied flycatchers have successfully nested this year. The meadows along the river contain an interesting variety of plants including pignut, speedwells and perhaps more surprisingly great burnet, as well as this magnificent oak tree which must be many hundreds of years old – spot the person for scale!

Ancient oak Quercus sp.

The group met up again in Rosanna’s fantastic garden. Sadly at this point the weather broke and we had to shelter from a cold shower in a summerhouse. We had an interesting discussion on gardening, including such questions as why you couldn’t re-plant the same species in the same place once the first generation had died: this is well known as a problem with roses, but it also applies to e.g. cherries or apples. Rosanna discovered this the hard way when some of the older trees in what had been a cherry avenue began to die. When the rain more or less stopped we were shown some of the new experimental areas where garden plants are encouraged to grow in native grassland (which is thus low maintenance as it only needs chopping down once a year). This seems to be very successful, especially in the area where beautiful yellow Pyrenean lilies are thriving, and another area which has species gladioli and various large-flowered cranesbills. Finally we saw the damage caused by the two or three severe May frosts we had this year, although many plants are already bouncing back.

Pyrenean lilies Lilium pyrenaicum in grass

The gardens at Sleightholmedale Lodge are sometimes open to the public, and if you get the chance I would strongly recommend a visit. Even the best kept gardens sometimes suffer from pests, and we spotted one mullein plant with a serious caterpillar problem! These (see below right) are the larvae of the mullein moth Cucullia verbasci. Tom thanked Rosanna (and Poppy the dog) on our behalf for showing us round this very special corner of Ryedale, both “in the wild” and in her beautiful garden.

Species lists

I recorded 130 plants on the day, and added a few species later (thanks to Bill Thompson for identifying the Hawkweeds). Birds and other species are listed below.

Latin nameEnglish name
Acer campestreField maple
Acer pseudoplatanusSycamore
Aegopodium podagrariaGround elder
Ajuga reptansBugle
Alchemilla xanthochloraLady's mantle
Alliaria petiolataHedge garlic or Garlic mustard
Allium ursinumRamsons
Alnus glutinosaAlder
Anemone nemorosaWood anemone
Anthoxanthum odoratumSweet vernal grass
Aquilegia vulgarisColumbine
Arctium minusBurdock
Arrhenatherum elatiusFalse oat
Athyrium filix-feminaLady fern
Bellis perennisDaisy
Betula sp.Birch
Carex flaccaGlaucous sedge
Carex paniceaCarnation sedge
Carex sylvaticaWood sedge
Circaea lutetianaEnchanterís nightshade
Cirsium arvenseCreeping thistle
Cirsium palustreMarsh thistle
Cirsium vulgareSpear thistle
Claytonia sibiricaPink purslane
Conopodium majusPignut
Convallaria majalisLily of the valley
Cornus sanguineaDogwood
Crepis paludosaMarsh hawksbeard
Cruciata laevipesCrosswort
Cynosurus cristatusCrested dogstail
Cytisus scopariusBroom
Dactylis glomerataCocksfoot
Deschampsia caespitosaTufted hair grass
Dryopteris dilatataCommon buckler fern
Dryopteris filix-masMale fern
Epilobium montanumBroad-leaved willowherb
Fagus sylvaticaBeech
Festuca rubraRed fescue
Fragaria vescaWild strawberry
Fraxinus excelsiorAsh
Galium aparineCleavers
Galium odoratumWoodruff
Geranium robertianumHerb Robert
Geum rivaleWater avens
Geum urbanumWood avens
Hedera helixIvy
Hieracium speciesHawkweed**
Holcus lanatusYorkshire fog
Hyacinthoides non-scriptaBluebell
Hypericum hirsutumHairy St Johnswort
Hypericum pulchrumBeautiful St Johnswort
Hypochaeris radicataCatsear
Ilex aquifoliumHolly
Lapsana communisNipplewort
Lathrea squamariaToothwort
Lathyrus linifoliusVetch
Leucanthemum vulgareDog daisy or Ox-eye daisy
Listera ovata = Neottia ovataTwayblade
Lolium perennePerennial rye grass
Lonicera periclymenumHoneysuckle
Lotus corniculatusCommon birdsfoot trefoil
Luzula campestrisField woodrush
Luzula pilosaHairy woodrush
Luzula sylvaticaGreater woodrush
Lysimachia nemorumYellow pimpernel
Matricaria discoideaPineapple weed
Melica unifloraWood melick
Mercurialis perennisDog's mercury
Mycelis muralisWall lettuce
Myrrhis odorataSweet cicely
Ophrys insectiferaFly orchid
Oxalis acetosellaWood sorrel
Paris quadrifoliaHerb Paris
Pilosella officinarumMouse-ear hawkweed
Pinus sylvestrisScots pine
Plantago lanceolataRibwort plantain
Plantago majorRatstail plantain
Poa trivialisRough meadow grass
Polystichum aculeatumHard shield fern
Potentilla anserinaSilverweed
Potentilla erectaTormentil
Potentilla reptansCreeping cinquefoil
Primula verisCowslip
Primula vulgarisPrimrose
Primula × polyanthaFalse oxlip
Prunus spinosaBlackthorn
Pteridium aquilinumBracken
Quercus sp.Oak
Ranunculus acrisMeadow buttercup
Ranunculus repensCreeping buttercup
Rhinanthus minorYellow rattle
Ribes uva-crispaGooseberry
Rosa caninaDog rose
Rosa mollisDowny rose
Rubus caesiusDewberry
Rubus fruticosusBramble
Rubus idaeusRaspberry
Rubus saxatilisStone bramble
Rumex acetosaCommon sorrel
Rumex obtusifoliusBroad-leaved dock
Sagina procumbensMossy or procumbent pearlwort
Sanguisorba officinalisGreater burnet
Sanicula europaeaSanicle
Silene dioicaRed campion
Sinapis arvensisCharlock
Sorbus aucupariaRowan
Stachys officinalis = Betonica officinalisBetony
Stachys sylvaticaHedge woundwort
Stellaria gramineaLesser stitchwort
Stellaria holosteaGreater stitchwort
Succisa pratensisDevilsbit scabious
Tamus communisBlack bryony
Taraxacum sp.Dandelion
Tilia cordataSmall-leaved lime
Trifolium dubiumLesser trefoil
Trifolium mediumZigzag clover
Trifolium pratenseRed clover
Trifolium repensWhite clover
Tussilago farfaraColtsfoot
Ulex europaeusGorse
Ulmus glabraWych elm
Urtica dioicaNettle
Vaccinium myrtillusBilberry
Veronica beccabungaBrooklime
Veronica chamaedrysGermander speedwell
Veronica montanaWood speedwell
Veronica officinalisHeath speedwell
Viburnum opulusGuelder rose
Vicia sepiumBush vetch
Viola rivinianaDog violet

List created with “PlantFinder”.

mullein moth larvae Cucullia verbasci

Poppy the dog

** Bill Thompson identified Hieracium pellucidum (good colony), H. argillaceum (few), H. sabaudum (few), H. consociatum (singleton) and

H. vulgatum (singleton) all along the same short stretch of wooded track.

On an earlier visit in May we also saw Yellow archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon, Early purple orchid Orchis mascula and spindle Euonymus europaeus (and the bluebells were fully out). This is an impressive list with almost 140 species, and I’m sure I will have missed some. There was also one plant of the alien American skunk cabbage Lysichiton americanus on the west bank of the river which has presumably washed down from the old ornamental gardens at the top of Bransdale. This is a potentially invasive plant and should be monitored carefully.

Probably because of the time of year we didn’t see or hear many birds (they would be busy feeding young, and hidden in the thick foliage of the woods). Tom Denney recorded songthrush, blackbird, wren, robin, bullfinch, goldfinch, chaffinch, heron, kestrel, jackdaw and rook. Rosanna tells us that “the heronry is still there but only a few nests this year (3?). At least one pair of pied flycatcher nested down by the Hodge south of the Lodge, and a pair of spotted flycatcher nesting in the Lodge gardens.”

Other species
clouded magpie moth Abraxas sylvata We saw one hare in the meadow, a clouded magpie (see left) and a couple of chimney sweeper moths and one or two white butterflies, but the insect count was disappointingly low.

Text © Ryedale Natural History Society 2010; photos © Gill Smith, Nan Sykes and Ryenats 2010 Back to the Home page