15 posts tagged with

Langsett

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Up the Little Don to Mickleden Beck (with a dusting of snow)

Upstream of Brook House Bridge, the Porter or Little Don meanders beneath a landslip of its own making.

On Saturday I went for a walk with a couple of friends, fellow natives of the area who were both back for the weekend. We received a light fall of snow on Friday evening, and there was still a dusting up on the moors in the morning. I drove us to Langsett, and we set off walking anti-clockwise around the reservoir until we reached Brook House Bridge. From there we followed the Little Don upstream, keeping on the left, squelching through bogs and making scrambley diversions around little landslips. At the confluence with Mickleden Beck – where I spied several yews and what looked like three or four ancient alders on the opposite bank, which I’ll be back to take account of soon - we followed this tributary of the Little Don for a bit before clambering up the heathery valley side to meet with the Cut Gate path. At sign No. 50 we took the “path to the right” and walked back to Langsett via North America and the dam wall, arriving in time to eat a little dinner at the Wagon and Horses.

A look back after descending to the flood plain from negotiating one of the landslips.

Downy birch laden with witches’ brooms.

Looking down on Mickleden Beck and another wee landslip. This is only a young stream, not so very far from its source.

By the time we reached the Cut Gate path the sun was out and warming us nicely.

Looking across Mickleden. Just below the centre of the picture are the ancient holly and alder I discovered in October, which was the last time I was here.

One half of a pair of MTBers out for a razz.

Mickleden Beck flows away to meet the Little Don where the first trees are… There are actually sixteen wind turbines in this photo, but you’ll need to view it full-size to find them all. They were clearly visible from where I was standing – me just within the Peak District, they just outside – but were they ruining the view? In my opinion, not a bit. They aren’t really much more unnatural than the rest of the landscape

Langsett Reservoir – filled right up, despite having really quite a low amount of water as recently as my last visit in October. The other local reservoirs I pass regularly (Broomhead and Moor Hall) have also filled surprisingly rapidly over the last month – I thought they’d remain low for a long time. At Langsett this means my ‘beach’ where I sat and read a couple of times in late summer is now completely submerged.

A familiar peaceful pool - recorded by the Ordnance Survey but not given a name. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it was created by the Luftwaffe during WWII. There are a few craters in the area from the bombing of Sheffield, but that’s another story.

A happily brimmed Langsett Reservoir, serene and tranquil, peaceful and calm. But is that plantation living on borrowed time...?


Posted in Gone for a walk





Woodland restructuring at Langsett Reservoir

Four weeks ago I went for a walk to Mickleden Beck to see what kind of trees grew there; I’d heard a rumour of aspen. My route took me past Langsett Reservoir, where some pretty big changes have been taking place over the last year or two. Much of the conifer plantation on the south-west side of the reservoir has been clearfelled and subsequently replanted with native species.

According to an information board erected by the owners, Yorkshire Water, the woods are being restructured as part of the East Midlands Woodland Bird Project:

Planted in 1962, comprising approximately 25 hectares of coniferous woodland, the North America plantation including Delf Edge and Mauk Royd is being managed to help native woodland birds… We’re felling most of the coniferous trees whilst saving and protecting key native trees. The area will be re planted with oak and birch trees to develop new upland oak woodland, with woody shrubs like hazel, blackthorn, alder, willow and rowan.

I wrote a post here about the same time last year, while the conifers were still being felled.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the new woodland develops!

Larch. Whether European, Japanese or Dunkeld (hybrid), I wouldn’t like to say. I am not confident telling the three apart.

I failed to find any aspen at Mickleden Beck, but I didn’t search for long. What I did find was this incredible veteran alder (Alnus glutinosa) growing beside the stream. It is truly ancient, and is perhaps an old pollard. And keeping it company through the years is an ancient holly (Ilex aquifolium)! Both trees were in shade by the time I got to them, so I didn’t get any great photos – but I’ll be back!

On the return leg, Langsett Reservoir and the surrounding moors were lit by the late afternoon autumn sunlight.

That’s Hartcliff Hill in the distance there.

A peaceful pool on Midhope Moors. I hope those clouds lend some symmetry!

The reservoir was still illuminated as the day slid into twilight.

A lonely, half-dead birch that had once grown amongst the conifers has been left standing after all the felling. It’s in a bad way, but it is possible that next year it will produce seed and its offspring will be a part of the new wood. The three bracket fungi are Piptoporus betulinus – razor strop or birch polypore.

The birch has managed to outlive the conifers that suppressed it all its life, but for how much longer?

Langsett Reservoir at dusk.


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This month’s Festival of the Trees is hosted by Georgia at local ecologist. There are a ton of great links, as always – something is bound to pique your interest!


Posted in Gone for a walk + Notable trees





Mushrooms of Langsett (Part Two)

…Continued from Part the First.

The black patches on this sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) leaf, known as tar spots, are the fungus Rhytisma acerinum. Those clusters of red spots are galls caused by the mite Aceria macrorhynchus. Neither have any significant impact on the host tree.

A razor strop or birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) juts from a dead downy birch (Betula pubescens).

An immature fungal fruit body begins to emerge from the soil. Maybe an Amanita?

?????

As above.

I’m fairly sure this is a Suillus something - perhaps a dried-out slippery jack (S. luteus)?

Another Leccinum, but which one? There is so much variation within the different species, I just can never say with any certainty. Could this be a blushing bolete (L. roseofractum)?

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and a dry stone wall – a lovely combination. At this time of year the hawthorns are covered in little red fruits called haws. I suppose you could make a jam from these (edit: of course you can!).

Looking up into the rather open crown of the same hawthorn (or one of its neighbours).


Posted in Gone for a walk





Mushrooms of Langsett (Part One)

I paid a visit to the woods around Langsett Reservoir yesterday to have a play with my new toy, a Nikon D5100 SLR. I knew there’d be plenty of fungi around and I wasn’t disappointed!

I’ve never seen one of these before. I’m by no means confident I’ve identified it correctly but Cystolepiota seminuda is my best guess.

Here’s a typical scene in the part of the woods where I first set about hunting for mushrooms. It’s Scots pine and spruce plantation, with the odd broadleaf chucked in, probably planted in the early 1960s. There were mushrooms about but I didn’t see nearly as many as when I later moved into a mainly broadleaved, birch-dominated part of the woods.

A spruce cone on a conifer stump left behind after thinning. Some small mammal has been making a meal out of it - probably a squirrel (a mouse would have made a neater job and chosen a more secluded place to have its dinner). Whoever was eating it was disturbed (by me?) before the cone could be fully stripped.

Leaving the plantation behind, a cluster of poppies made for a nice juxtaposition.

The birch-dominated part of the woods was also a conifer plantation in the not too distant past, judging by the old stumps everywhere. Native broadleaved species such as downy birch (Betula pubescens) and rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) have quickly colonised the area, and mushrooms were in abundance!

A couple of small mushrooms at the mossy feet of a young rowan.

An unfortunate incident has befallen this mushroom, providing the opportunity for a good look at its pore tubes.

This spiky little ball definitely belongs in the genus Lycoperdon. I’m fairly sure it’s a L. echinatum.


Continued in Part the Second...


Posted in Gone for a walk





Four birch boletes in Langsett Woods

A couple of weeks ago I headed over to Langsett to have a read beside the reservoir (Stephen King’s Four Past Midnight, if you’re asking). At one point as I walked along the path that skirts the reservoir, I chanced to catch sight of these four mushrooms in the bit of birch woodland to my right. I was compelled to take a closer look:

My immediate thought was “birch boletes”. Back home later, using ID books and the internet, I couldn’t really do any better than that. Were they Leccinum scabrum (brown birch bolete) or were they maybe Leccinum versipelle (orange birch bolete)? Or perhaps they were Tylopilus felleus (bitter bolete) (the cap in the photo of T. felleus in my Black’s Nature Guides Mushrooms & Toadstools of Britain and Europe looks strikingly similar to the caps of my mushrooms). Nope, mine can’t be T. felleus because mine had scabers on their stalks – see the photo below.

Scabers – definition from MushroomExpert.Com: “Scabers are little scurfy things that stick up, like the scabers on the stems of Leccinum mushrooms…”

According to the same book, L. versipelle caps have an overhanging rim. Mine didn’t, so can I safely say that they’re L. scabrum? Not exactly, because all of the photos I’ve found in books and online of that species show a much darker brown cap. The Black’s guide says that “There are around 5 scaber stalk species and each is associated with particular species of tree: Red-Capped Scaber Stalk [Leccinum aurantiacum] (Aspen): stipe scales white when young; Orange Oak Bolete [Leccinum quercinum]: stipe scales fox-coloured; Foxy bolete [Leccinum vulpinum] (Scots pine): stipe scales smoky grey” - plus the orange birch bolete (L. versipelle) and the [brown] birch bolete (L. scabrum). So are my mushrooms any of the first three of these five instead? Well, after further research only led to me getting more and more bogged down… I gave up. There’s a large amount of confusion about the Leccinum species out there, even amongst the experts, and I think it’s contagious.

My four mushrooms belong to a Leccinum species; that will have to be good enough. Although (as always) if you, dear reader, can enlighten the rest of us, please leave a comment or send an email.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Hallowe’en (Part Three)

An ash (Fraxinus excelsior) with interesting feet. This may be a tree that has been coppiced (by man or by nature) in the past to leave a great, gnarly stool; while the two stems are not that old (half a century or more?), the stool and roots could be many times older. It is growing on a slope just above a steep drop into a river - years of soil creeping down the hill and falling over the edge have probably given rise to the stool’s exposed position.

This larch rose has me bamboozled. It’s either really late or really early (larch roses come out in the springtime). Maybe when all of its friends started to turn into cones, its development was somehow suspended.

This is one bombed-out wreck of a tree. The trunk is extremely rotten and, as you can see, not all there. Yet this ash still lives – see those branches at the top of the photograph!

On larch (Larix).

This little brook in Crookland Wood joins the Porter or Little Don River just above Brook House Bridge. I can’t find this short section named on any map, but the three tributaries that combine to form it are Hagg Brook, Kiln Bank Brook and Badger Lane Brook. It is probably one of those, although much of the water came cascading out of a mysterious stone culvert.



While I can’t recall ever seeing this stream before, I’ve certainly heard it. No wonder it’s so noisy – thing’s full of little waterfalls.


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Hallowe’en (Part One)
Hallowe’en (Part Two)

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Have a look at this new blog written by a British ex-pat living in France and managing his own woodland: My French Forest. There aren’t many posts up yet but it is an interesting read from someone who has obviously got a lot of experience.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Hallowe’en (Part Two)

Continued from Part One

After descending down a steep slope I was pleasantly surprised to come out on the banks of the Little Don River, only a few hundred metres upstream of Brook House Bridge, a place I have been many times before. But I have never been here. The river at the bridge is a lovely stretch, well known to the picnicker and the paddler and always busy with families on a hot summer’s day. The place I discovered on Hallowe’en is just a short walk upriver but it’s a different world; one that I suspect (and hope) doesn’t get so many visitors. This was a world that reminded me of Scotland: a fine river with great stony deposits, meandering through the mist, sharing the valley with heather, bracken and numerous fine Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris).

Scots pines by the Porter or Little Don River.

Looking further upstream…

…and downstream from the same spot.

No flies, but this spider won’t go thirsty.

Scots pine bark.

The tree on the left was a fine specimen of a Scots pine. I’d love to see it in a hundred years’ time.

The same trees, in context. Not Scotland, but the Peak District near Sheffield. I’m very lucky to live here.


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Hallowe'en (Part Three)

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The fifty-third edition of the Festival of the Trees is online at Trees, Plants & More. Go read!


Posted in Gone for a walk





Hallowe'en (Part One)

After a night in town dressed as a zombie steel-pirate, I required a dose of fresh air to purify my brain. There’s an old barn I found photographs of on Flickr that I’ve been wanting to visit for a couple of weeks now, so that’s where I headed: Swinden Barn. It was a very foggy day.

My eyes were drawn by a young field maple (Acer campestre) standing out from the misty gloom with an impressive display of yellow autumn leaves.

This auld track goes by the name of Badger Lane. It is home to a rather haphazard avenue of oak trees.

Each cobweb drooped under the weight of a thousand tiny jewels.

Part of Badger Lane is lined with some really strange trees that look as though, at some point in the dim and distant past, they were trained to become a hedgerow. But these trees aren’t the species to make a hedgerow: downy birch (Betula pubescens), horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus). What is the story here?

This sycamore grows immediately to the right of the one in the previous photo. They might well be the same tree. Viewed as a whole, it is one long tree.

Swinden Barn. It is the only remaining building of Swinden Farm, which was apparently occupied until the 1930s or 1950s and demolished in 1991. The barn is in good condition. It’s hard to see from my photograph, but the end wall on the left shows that a smaller building was once attached to it. The end wall on the right, which cannot be seen at all in my photograph was very interesting in that it is covered with another wall built of uncut stone in the style of a dry stone wall. It didn’t look as though this was once the end wall of another building, so what was it built for? Another wall close by the barn has stone shelves built into it. A very interesting place indeed – how I wish I could see how the place looked when the whole farm was there (working time machine required). From the Peak District National Park Education Website:

Farms in the water catchment area of the reservoirs were seen as a danger to the purity of the water… The water catchment area was ‘sterilised’ by eliminating any cattle from the land around. Sheffield Corporation Waterworks therefore allowed a policy of depopulation of the farmed land around the reservoirs to control pollution of the water catchment area.

In the Swinden area, (whose name Swine Dean meant the wooded area where pigs foraged for acorns) there were five farms which all fell into decay. Swinden Farm was the last to be abandoned and was lived in until the 1930s.

[To put all this into context, the nearby Langsett Reservoir is the one that necessitated the depopulation of these farms. Work on the reservoir started in 1889 and it was completed in 1904. Another of the five depopulated farms is North America Farm, which I have been to loads of times; I don’t know anything of the other three.]


In this part of the woods fallen larch needles had coloured the floor a strange butterscotch hue. This photo doesn’t do it justice.

After descending down a steep slope I was pleasantly surprised to come out on the banks of the Little Don River, only a few hundred metres upstream of… (To be continued).


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Hallowe’en (Part Two)
Hallowe’en (Part Three)


Posted in Gone for a walk





An early autumn evening walk around Langsett (Part Three)

The Sunday before last, I returned from the wedding of two friends to one of those perfect autumn afternoons. I couldn’t a waste a beauty like that so, spurred on by the best display of mushrooms on our lawn that I can remember, I set off around Langsett Reservoir anticipating a real smörgåsbord of fungi. I wasn’t disappointed!

So Yorkshire Water are clearfelling a lot of conifers from the North America Plantation on the south-west side of Langsett Reservoir.


[From one of Yorkshire Water’s information boards at Langsett, under the title ‘Reversing Woodland Bird Decline – East Midlands Woodland Bird Project’:]

Planted in 1962, comprising approximately 25 hectares of coniferous woodland, the North America plantation including Delf Edge and Mauk Royd is being managed to help native woodland birds.

With the help of the Forestry Commission and the RSPB we’re restructuring the woodland to create habitats ideal for nightjar, tree pipit, willow warbler, lesser redpoll, redstart, pied flycatcher, wood warbler, and lesser spotted woodpecker.

We’re felling most of the coniferous trees whilst saving and protecting key native trees. The area will be re planted with oak and birch trees to develop new upland oak woodland, with woody shrubs like hazel, blackthorn, alder, willow and rowan. We’ll also be identifying key micro habitats, wet areas and flushes to protect the birds and enable them to thrive.

… The work at North America will complement our management in Langsett woods where veteran trees have been identified, native trees have been planted and wetland habitats have been created.


There was a monster sleeping in the plantation, hidden amongst the trees. See it?

’Twas a big, bad forestry forwarder (a John Deere 1410D Eco III, in fact). This beast transports all the logs cut from the felled trees to a stacking area where they can be loaded onto a lorry and taken away for processing.

A whole load of razor stop or birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) brackets jutting from a dead downy birch (Betula pubescens) stem.

Here a living downy birch grows beneath a canopy of larch. Are they for the chop too?

Just upstream of where the Porter or Little Don River enters Langsett Reservoir at its most westerly point, I took this photo looking over the tree-tops from Brookhouse Bridge. Golden light and creeping shadows.

As I neared the end of my walk the Sun had almost set, but with its last golden rays it illuminated the lower stems of a group of Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) in a resplendent display of aesthetic magnificence. Two days after I took this photo – another perfect autumn evening - I rode around Langsett on my bike and just so happened to be passing by these same trees at near enough the exact same time (almost as if I’d planned it or sommat). I was lucky enough to be granted an encore.

Twilight over Langsett.


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An early autumn evening walk around Langsett (Part One)
An early autumn evening walk around Langsett (Part Two)


Posted in Gone for a walk





An early autumn evening walk around Langsett (Part Two)

Last Sunday I returned from the wedding of two friends to one of those perfect autumn afternoons. I couldn’t a waste a beauty like that so, spurred on by the best display of mushrooms on our lawn that I can remember, I set off around Langsett Reservoir anticipating a real smörgåsbord of fungi. I wasn’t disappointed!

This is definitely some kind of Leccinum fungus, identifiable by the scabers (‘scabs’ or ‘small, rigid projections’) on the stem, but to which species it belongs I could not say for sure. My guess is that it’s a foxy bolete (Leccinum vulpinus), a species that forms mycorrhizal associations with conifers. I found this mushroom growing on the edge of one of the pine plantations by Langsett Reservoir.

This mushroom was nearby and probably belongs to the same species; either way it is a definite Leccinum. It is at an immature stage, with the cap not yet having attained full size.

More Leccinum, with one particularly large example (pine cone for scale!)

Only a couple of days after I went on this walk and took these photos, fungi were the subject of The Times’s Weather Eye column, written by Paul Simons:

It has come as a huge relief to be dry again after weeks of rain, but those downpours left a remarkable legacy – a bumper crop of wild mushrooms.

“This is an amazingly good year for fungi,” said Professor Alan Gange, of Royal Holloway, University of London. “The very wet weather has brought on the mushrooms and many of them are also large – I’ve seen some gigantic ones, three times the size of normal.”

The mushroom bonanza has burst out across the entire country, spurred on by mild autumnal temperatures as well as the rain. “We have had a very good year for boletes, milkcaps, russulas, and even morelles are appearing, which normally fruit in springtime,” said Brian Spooner, the head mycologist at Kew Gardens. “If the mild, damp weather continues, the fruiting will continue until the first frosts.”



The wet autumn has been an enormous boost for fungi because they are 99 per cent water. And they also need water to inflate their mushrooms, rather like filling a balloon from a tap – the more water is pumped into the mushrooms, the larger they tend to grow.

Fungi also thrive in mild weather, and are some of the best natural indicators of the warming climate. Professor Gange made a study of mushrooms around Salisbury using 64,000 records dating to 1950, begun by his father. This revealed that the growing season for many fungi has greatly increased as temperatures have risen – in only 50 years, many fungi have more than doubled the length of their breeding season from 33 days on average to 74 days. And some fungi are producing mushrooms twice a year instead of just once. “The changes in growing season we’ve recorded in fungi are the greatest for any living group of organisms on Earth,” Professor Gange said.

- The Times, 12th October 2010

I definitely know what this fella is: an immature fly agaric (Amanita muscaria).

Classic fly agaric. According to Jordan’s Fungi 1, they are “Dangerously poisonous, hallucinogenic, but generally non-fatal.”

The white bits on top of the cap are “velar remnants, readily washed off by rain”. Velar refers to the veil, the “Protective layer of tissue enclosing the emerging fruit body, which ruptures and disperses (sometimes leaving various remnants).” [Definition from Wild About Britain.]

Here you can see the ring on the stem, “white or tinged yellow, membraneous and pendant with double margin”. The ring is another remnant of the veil.

Again I’m not sure, but I think this clavaroid fungus may be a golden clavaria or golden coral fungus (Ramaria aurea). It was like a tiny bonfire in the leaf litter.


1 Jordan, M. (2004). The Encyclopedia of Fungi of Britain and Europe. Frances Lincoln.


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An early autumn evening walk around Langsett (Part One)
An early autumn evening walk around Langsett (Part Three)


Posted in Gone for a walk





An early autumn evening walk around Langsett (Part One)

On Sunday (101010) I returned from the wedding of two friends to one of those perfect autumn afternoons. I couldn’t a waste a beauty like that so, spurred on by the best display of mushrooms on our lawn that I can remember, I set off around Langsett Reservoir anticipating a real smörgåsbord of fungi. I wasn’t disappointed!

This is the overflow for the reservoir. The water level is really low at the moment so it’s bone dry.

See how much of the dam wall is exposed!

Some years ago I came to the top of this cliff a few times with my father to try and photograph the perfect sunset. We might have got a few good ones.

Score! A fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) in a pine plantation on the edge of the reservoir.

Quite a big mushroom – some flavour of Lactarius, I think.

Canada geese (Branta Canadensis). Gearing up for migration?

After climbing away from the water’s edge, I joined a path that headed down through the pines to a sparkling reflection of the evening sunlight…

Walking out of the trees I was met with this sight: the receded waters have revealed a stony beach!


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An early autumn evening walk around Langsett (Part Two)
An early autumn evening walk around Langsett (Part Three)


Posted in Gone for a walk





Out on the bike: around Langsett and back (Part 4 of 4)

Fig. 1.a. Male pine (Pinus) flowers. Species unknown.

Fig. 1.b. Close-up.

Fig. 2. New spruce (Picea - probably P. sitchensis, Sitka spruce) growth.

Fig. 3. New larch (Larix) growth.

Fig. 4. Flowering pine, probably Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris).

Fig. 5.a. Unknown flowering pine.

Fig. 5.b. Male flowers.

Fig. 5.c. Three female flowers (red); male flowers in background.


Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3


Posted in Gone for a walk





Out on the bike: around Langsett and back (Part 3 of 4)

Continuing on from Part 1 and Part 2… my bike ride from the Sunday before last (24th May 2009).

A dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) seedhead in a forest clearing. An old English name for the species is blowball; I like that better than the current prevalent common name, a corruption of dent de lion, which is French for ‘lion’s tooth’ – a reference to the jagged leaves.

The leaves of a wild cherry (Prunus avium). The green balls on long stalks are the developing fruits.

Wild cherries have an obvious pair of red glands on their petioles: these are extrafloral nectaries. Whereas floral nectaries evolved to attract insects (and other creatures) to assist in the pollination process, certain plants have evolved extrafloral nectaries to attract predatory insects; these mercenaries keep down the populations of plant-eating insects.

Langsett Reservoir. It is surrounded by coniferous forestry plantations on all sides except the dam wall; further back, behind the trees, the moors stretch for miles to the west and south: Thurlstone Moors, Langsett Moors, Harden Moor and Midhope Moors. The reservoir is fed mainly by the Porter or Little Don, which enters from the west and runs out to the east; a couple of miles downstream that river flows into Underbank Reservoir.

These two photos were taken from the dam wall. When I first arrived at the spot, the reservoir surface was perfectly calm. After I’d stood there awhile, mesmerised by the water, the wind picked up and the surface became slightly disturbed. This caused the phenomenon seen in this photograph: yellow swirls along the water’s edge where it lapped against the stones of the dam wall. My guess is that the yellow swirls are pollen.

A sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) inflorescence.

A closer look. Sycamore inflorescences are complex, but I believe I can tell the male parts from the female at this range – I think the the wood-coloured ‘heads’ on stalks are stamens (♂), while the bright greenish-yellow, plumper, stalk-less ‘heads’ are stigmas (♀).

Common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) flowers. They have only one style, whereas the flowers of our other native species, the Midland hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata), have two or three.

I was made aware of the sad loss of two familiar trees on this bike ride. The first was the rowan near Upper Midhope; the second was a sycamore growing next to a farm building in Upper Midhope, shown here on the 26th of March 2007. It has been cut down. Perhaps the owner of the farm building is planning to do it up and sell it as a house, and while it was fine to have a tree growing next to an uninhabited barn, it wouldn’t do to leave one so close to a home. That’s just pure guesswork on my part, but come on Upper Midhope! What are you doing to your trees?


Posted in Gone for a walk





Out on the bike: around Langsett and back (Part 2 of 4)

The Porter or Little Don river just above Brookhouse (or Brook House) Bridge. This little section looks nice in the photo but I tell you it’s ten times better when you see it in the flesh on a sunny day. Every time I’ve been there on such a day, as last Sunday was, there’ve been people sunbathing on the flat grassy area and kids playing in the river. I sat myself down on a large, flat stone poking above the water and let the river cool my feet. The babbling of the burn and the beautiful surrounds were highly relaxing and I reposed for almost an hour. The presence of all the people playing and chilling out (there were more than in the photo when I arrived, and there were many more behind me) added to the carefree, summery atmosphere, whereas normally I’d rather be away from the general public while enjoying the countryside.

A lovely, pebbly bit of riverbed next to my rock.

A large sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) – just right of centre in the first picture – and Brookhouse Bridge. All the stones in the lower right have built up behind a large weir, built to prevent such sediment from entering Langsett Reservoir, which isn’t much farther downstream. The bridge takes its name from Brook House farm, which had to be abandoned to prevent its livestock polluting the reservoir – Langsett was built to supply the rapidly-growing population of Sheffield with drinking water. There are old books and magazines describing the farm’s unusual rent, payable to the lord of the manor (a modern book has it being paid in 1588, but the older books imply it was a annual arrangement over several years):

BROOK HOUSE, Yorkshire.--A farm at Langsett, in the parish of Peniston and county of York, pays yearly to Godfrey Bosville, Esqre., a snowball at Midsummer, and a red rose at Christmas.

[ - from A righte Merrie Christmasse!!! The Story of Christ-tide by John Ashton (1894).]

Estates have often been held by the tenure of a rose – a red one – at times being stipulated for, and these floral tributes generally had to be paid on St. John the Baptist’s Day… For Brook House, Langsett, Yorkshire, it is said that a rose had to be provided at Christmas, and a snowball at Midsummer, and as evidently there would often thus be much difficulty in paying the rent, we are probably correct in surmising that in this case a money fine was the alternative.

[ - from Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip: An Illustrated Medium Of Interchange And Gossip For Students And Lovers Of Nature, Volume XVII, edited by John Eller Taylor (1881).]

The weir and the sycamore.

A wych elm (Ulmus glabra) leaf backlit by the sun. Wych elm is the only elm that is undisputedly native to Britain.

A cluster of unripe wych elm samaras (a type of winged fruit). Each samara has a seed centred between two symmetrical wings.

These leaves belong to a field maple (Acer campestre), another tree native to Britain. They always make me think of extra-large hawthorn leaves.

Bluebells are a classic British wildflower, the kind of plant that almost everyone can recognise. But there isn’t just one species in Britain anymore; there are two species and a hybrid. Our native bluebell is the common or English bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), but there is an alien species about too: the Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica), popular with gardeners and introduced around 1680. Both species hybridise to give the hybrid bluebell (Hyacinthoides x massartiana a.k.a. Hyacinthoides hispanica x non-scripta) which was first noticed growing wild in 1963. The genetics of our native bluebell are therefore threatened by dilution, and a lot of ecologists aren’t happy about that at all. According to Plantlife International, a recent study conducted by their volunteers found one in six British broadleaved woodlands surveyed contained hybrid or Spanish bluebells.

I think that these are hybrid bluebells. Why? Our native species have their bells all on one side of the stem, which droops over with the concentrated weight. Spanish bluebells have a thicker, straight stem with bells all around. The hybrid has bells around a slightly drooping stem - which is an accurate description of the bluebells in this photo.

In case you missed it, here is a link to Part 1 of this four-part series of posts. And here is a link to Bluebells for Britain: A report on the 2003 Bluebells for Britain survey, a leaflet in .pdf format by Plantlife that sheds more light on the subject and gives some simple advice to gardeners.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Out on the bike: around Langsett and back (Part 1 of 4)

Sunday was a real stunner, and after the dire weather of May so far it was even nicer than usual to get out into the countryside. I took the pushbike for a ride over to Langsett, going clockwise around the reservoir via North America before coming through Upper Midhope and heading for home.

The spring to summer transition is virtually complete, with the ashes (Fraxinus excelsior) being the last of the trees coming into leaf. With it being so long since we’ve had such a nice day, and with summer now practically fully upon us, I was almost overwhelmed by the slightly surreal vividity of the ubiquitous greenery. The moors in particular, brown and desolate for so long, are now punctuated with patches of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) bright green with new growth. The heather is not yet in flower, and so there was no sea of purple surrounding these verdant isles, but myriad other plants and trees were in bloom: rowans (Sorbus aucuparia), pines (Pinus spp.), bluebells (Hyacinthoides sp.), cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris), oaks (Quercus robur), hawthorns (Crataegus sp.), sycamores (Acer pseudoplatanus), buttercups (Ranunculus spp.), and white dead-nettles (Lamium album) to name but a few.

To say my camera was mostly in my pocket or rucksack as I was on the bike, I landed quite the catch of photos. Here be the first batch:

Clusters of male catkins dangling from an English oak. The English or pedunculate oak is a monoecious species so individuals produce flowers of both sexes.

This particular oak had pea-sized galls attached to some of the catkins. I’m fairly sure that they are the sexual galls, known as currant galls, of the currant gall wasp (Neuroterus quercusbaccarum). Common spangle galls found on the underside of oak leaves are the agamic galls of the same wasp.

An old friend: the rowan on Whitwell Moor from under which I collected half of my berries for Set C (replanted as Set C(r) a fortnight ago). Rowans are in full bloom at the moment, and this one was no exception. It was absolutely covered with infloresences!

A bit of lovely lichen growing on the rowan.

Get a close-up look at one of the inflorescences.

This young ash grows on the aptly named Long Lane and I’ve developed a habit of taking its picture every time I pass by, which allows for some interesting seasonal juxtapositions. Here it can be seen in the thick of a blizzard on the 2nd of February and also just coming into leaf in happier weather on Sunday. (See the same ash with and without leaves last October and November respectively in this post!)

The other rowan whose seeds comprise Set C(r). This unique and arresting rowan unfortunately blew over last year. It was still lying where it had fallen on the wall the last time I visited on the 14th of February, but since then it has been cleared away.

The only extant trace is this stump. The fallen tree was still alive too – I noticed live buds during my February visit. It must still have been connected to the root system. I hope that the roots continue to live and send up new sprouts, but given the stump’s situation in a field oft home to a herd of cattle it may never be able to re-establish anyway. I really hope that the seeds I took from it last year germinate to allow me the pleasure of raising the offspring of a remarkable ex-tree.

I took this photo looking south up-valley while standing on the bridge over Thickwoods Brook where that stream enters Langsett Reservoir. The brook gathers in the wee pond you can see in the bottom right of the photograph before rushing down a little weir into the reservoir.

Still on the bridge, but looking east towards Thickwoods, a coniferous plantation owned (as is the reservoir and much of the surrounding land) by Yorkshire Water. See what I mean about the bilberry being vivid? It’s almost glowing!


Posted in Gone for a walk





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