Tuesday 7 March 2017

Up North. Part 2: Cumbria and County Durham

Some highlights of a couple of visits to the lakes and County Durham, one in mid July and one in mid August. This post includes a few butterflies too, so scroll past the flowers if you must. Though I don't know why anyone would want to!

In July we stopped off in the Yorkshire Dales on the way to Cumbria. We were looking for the rare endemic wildflower English Sandwort, which we failed to find last summer. Well, we failed again, perhaps it will be third time lucky this year. We did see a beautiful roadside display of the white form of Meadow Cranesbill, well worth stopping to get some photos.

Meadow Cranesbill - Geranium pratense

The weather was exceptionally hot and it made for some beautiful scenic views in the Lake District. In some places the tarmac was melting which I wager isn't a very regular occurrence in that part of the country! 

Looking east from the Wrynose Pass 

And looking west towards the Hardknott Pass


It was nice to get into the shade to look for the not very exciting, but rare, Alpine Enchanter's Nightshade. This was to be found on a steep rocky bank near to a place with the really great name of  Seldom Seen. The heat meant that the shady woods were absolutely teeming with midges and although it was a treat to find this rare plant it was also a little it bit of an ordeal too! 

Alpine Enchanter's Nightshade - Circaea alpina 

Upland Enchanter's Nightshade - Circaea × intermedia
 This is the hybrid of alpine and common enchanter's nightshades 

On this trip we also visited Bishop Middleham Quarry in County Durham to look for Dark Red Helleborine and Northern Brown Argus (Durham Argus).

The information board for Bishop Middleham Quarry.
 We were a bit late to see the Bee-Eaters which nested here in 2002! 

There were plenty of Sand Martin nests though, these ones decorated with Harebells and Greater Knapweed. There were many, many of spikes of Dark Red Helleborine.

Dark Red Helleborine - Epipactis atrorubens

The very hot weather meant that the Northern Brown Argus butterflies were just too active to get any nice photos and they always landed with closed wings, but I'm glad I managed to get a 'record shot' of this individual showing the white spot on the fore-wing rarely seen in populations outside of Scotland.

Northern Brown Argus - Aricia artaxerxes

Our second trip to Cumbria was in mid August and our first stop was at Walney Island where we were a bit late in the season but were still hoping to see the 'Walney Pink' variety of Bloody Cranesbill, reputed to only grow on Walney Island and nowhere else in the world (although we subsequently found this not to be true as we found some growing at Smardale Gill the following day).

Bloody Cranesbill 'Walney Pink' - Geranium sanguineum var. striatum


Touch-me-not Balsam - Impatiens noli-tangere 
The rare native relative of the almost ubiquitous Himalayan Balsam which can be seen in the background here.

As mentioned previously we spent our next day at Smardale Gill. When we arrived there was a large cloud localised over the immediate area while all around were clear blue skies. It took what seemed like an age for the cloud to eventually move on. It was worth the wait though as we were then treated to some fine views of Scotch Argus.

The obligatory Smardale viaduct views. 

Wood Cranesbill Geranium sylvaticum  

Scotch Argus - Erebia aethiops

This Scotch Argus was particularly attracted to shoes!


1 comment:

Gibster said...

I've never ever felt the urge to visit The Lakes, but seeing your pics...well, I have to say that I'm finally wavering!