Keasden Flower Walk

11 May 2011
Leader − Judith Allinson
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

(A joint outing with Craven Conservation Group)

After the long hot dry spell in April and May the weather had got colder. I had come up to Keasden the late afternoon before when it was sunny but windy, to check the route and had enjoyed listening to the birds singing in the overgrown gorse with its golden yellow flowers, and realised there would be plenty of interest to keep us busy - the wet heath, dry heath, gorse, the hedged track, the ditch, the wooded riverside, with the chance to look at lichens on the trees and do the Opal Lichen Survey, the bluebell slope, and the woodland. I remembered visiting Keasden Church, situated on the side of Keasden Moor, at this time many years ago when doing a survey of when the hawthorn came into flower at different heights and of seeing a cuckoo in a tree at the church. I’ve not seen or heard a cuckoo for two years.

Wednesday evening was rather cold and not sunny, but with clear views and a slightly bracing wind. However, with only two hours to cover a potential eight habitats and activities I knew we would have to keep moving! I handed out lists of the 114 plants I thought we had a chance of seeing. It was arranged in groups according to colour of flower and then within that, alphabetically by English name, but with Latin names also included.

We had some experts with us. Mike Canaway came with a BSBI record card and our record has been sent to the local BSBI recorder and also to Phil Abbott the YNU recorder for this area. He noticed that the following which we found, had not been recorded in this tetrad (2x2 km square):
             Adoxa moschatellina
             Bromus hordaceus ssp hordaceus
             Equisetum palustre
             Hyacinthoides non-scripta
             Ranunculus bulbosus

Brian Shorrock was able to tell people about the birds. Elizabeth Shorrock knows much about the flowers of the area. We were able to give an intriguing orange gall on a nettle stalk to Robert Starling and hope he will come up with a name for it. We looked at the blue (and some white) milkworts on the wet heath and ascertained that many were small and had opposite leaves so must be Heath Milkwort (rather than Common Milkwort). We looked at Bog-mosses (Sphagna) and Hair Cap (Polytrichum commune).

After first finding Common/Field Horsetail by the track, we found a horsetail with a cone on it next to the ditch and established it was thus Marsh Horsetail - so Mike was then able to show us the difference in the stems of the two species. Beside the bridge I saw a big pile of discarded branches. They had lots of lichens growing on them. I passed the hand lenses round, and also the Opal National Lichen survey colour charts.. Each person could thus see Xanthoria (yellow) and a Physcia (grey, tiny lobes, but with black eyelash type projections underneath). I explained how both these species were on the bottom row of the Opal chart meaning that they were indicators of nitrogenous pollution - nitrogen dioxide and/or ammonia in the air, which encourages these two species to grow. Nitrogenous pollution could come from fertilizers and from car emissions, or from cow muck or bird droppings. On one twig we found some Parmelia (indicating a middle level of pollution) and on another some Evernia (indicating low levels). I said I had been surprised already to find Physcia and Xanthoria in so much of the Settle area

We continued towards Hawksheath Farm and the promised cup of tea through a field (with buttercups - meadow and creeping) then beside a delightful wood - blue with sheets of bluebells and white with greater stitchwort. Then up to the house and tea and cake and warmth and chat.
            *Cuckoos are still present each year in Keasden. M.E.