Flora and Archaeology — Langcliffe and Attermire

Leader — Dr Mike Canaway — 18 July 2012
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

Yet another summer morning downpour and a forecast of little improvement was scant encouragement to join Mike Canaway for the exploration of the Langcliffe and Attermire Nature Reserve. At the appointed hour six members were present at the Winskill Cattle Grid start point. When no stragglers appeared during Mike’s safety briefing and brief introduction we set off to explore the area under a brightening sky. The large clumps of Tufted Hair Grass, too rough for the appetite of even hardy Swaledale sheep, obscured most of the archaeological remains though some large ancient field boundaries were still visible. We therefore decided to concentrate on the botany and return in winter when the vegetation dies back to reveal more of the ancient settlements. Sweet Vernal Grass was a more welcome presence, the source of the sweet smell of new mown hay. A Peregrine Falcon soared overhead on the stiff breeze as we headed along the path toward Jubilee Cave.

On entering the reserve proper we soon turned uphill through flower-rich pasture to reach an area of undisturbed limestone pavement. Highlights of the pasture included Yellow Mountain Pansies and Eyebright. The reserve area is now grazed by cattle rather than sheep which has allowed several rare plant species to recover from previous restriction to the deepest grykes where even sheep tongues couldn’t reach! Ferns and Spleenworts were the highlights of this area including black and green Stemmed Spleenwort and the rare Holly Fern. Brittle Bladder Fern, Hart’s Tongue and Male Fern were also prolific along with a collection of flowering plants such as Dog’s Mercury, Common Mouse-ear and Wood Sorrel, more familiar in woodland areas. Some of our party tried tasting the latter which is ‘occasionally used in salads but toxic if consumed in excess’, not to my taste anyway, being slightly vinegary! An isolated patch of Knotted Pearlwort was also identified by Mike, an inspirational leader pointing out rarities and encouraging the rest of us to make our own discoveries.

Descending steeply past Horseshoe Cave we explored the entrance finding small Scabious, Rue Leaved Saxifrage and Wall Lettuce before continuing down to the gate and leaving the reserve past a small herd of Highland cattle and an interesting juxtaposition of Spear, Marsh and Creeping Thistles. A brief exploration of the mire revealed late flowers of Bird’s Eye Primrose and the insectivorous Butterwort amongst other bog land plants. A strenuous climb back up the path to Victoria Cave revealed one or two more rare ferns including, I think, Rigid Buckler Fern. Before completing what had proved a very enjoyable and dry walk with some rare summer sunshine we were entertained to a spectacular flying display by two birds of prey which, in the absence of an expert ornithologist, we concluded were juvenile peregrines practising their new found aerobatic skills.

Many thanks to Mike Canaway for ensuring the six of us enjoyed a splendid afternoon in the beautiful Dales countryside. As well as his botanical expertise Mike ensured we took a safe route through the cliffs and holes which could prove hazardous to the unwary in this environment. The views from the summit over the three peaks and south to Pendle Hill are spectacular and well worth the climb on their own.

Mike Pryal