WFS Meeting in Upper Teesdale 2005

Chenopodium bonus-henricus(Good-King-Henry)

Potentilla fruticosa(Shrubby Cinquefoil)

Salix phylicifolia (Tea-leaved Willow)

Cirsium heterophyllum (Melancholoy Thistle)

Gymnadenia conopsea ssp borealis (Fragrant Orchid)

Antennaria dioica (Mountain Everlasting)

Asplenium trichomanes ssp pachyrachis var subequale (Maidenhair Spleenwort)

Melica nutans (Mountain Melick)

Sorbus rupicola(Rock Whitebeam)

Betula pubescens ssp tortuosa(Downy Birch)

June 21st pm: Banks of the Tees

By lunchtime on the first day of our two day tour of Teesdale specialties, the sun was shining again and we retired to our Bowlees Car Park for lunch with the midge battalions in retreat. The next part of our expedition started as a walk from the Bowlees Car Park towards the River Tees a short distance away. Very soon we passed the locus classicus for Chenopodium bonus-henricus (Good King Henry) growing at the base of a stone wall with many healthy plants to be seen.

Our first stop when we arrived near the Tees was to an island separated from the Teesdale massif by a dribble of a stream a few feet wide. On this island we caught a first glimpse of another of the Teesdale specialities: Potentilla fruticosa (Shrubby Cinquefoil). This one only had one full flower as this was the beginning of the season for this plant. Other plants such as the rare Sesleria caerulea (Blue moor grass) could be seen although this, being very early flowerer (February sometimes), it consisted mostly of brownish dead flowerheads so none of the bluish colouration could be seen. On a nearby ledge was a small clump of Antennaria dioica (Mountain everlasting) with several flowers in full bloom. Mr Jones then pointed out the glaucous leaves of Helictotrichon pubescens (Downy Oat Grass) which were much more obvious than when buried in dense grassy meadows.

From here we took a further walk on the Durham side of the Tees to see Sorbus rupicola (The Rock Whitebeam) growing in a perfect pose out of a limestone rock above the river. Just nearby was a splendid example of an unusual fern. The commonest Asplenium trichomanes (Maidenhair Spleenwort) is ssp trichomanes but the one growing here had been determined as ssp pachyrachis var subequale. Just below a fine example of the uncommon willow Salix phylicifolia (Tea-leaved Willow) in the last stages of flowering was growing almost in the river itself. On the way back there were excellent examples of Melica nutans (Mountain Melick) a very attractive grass with a single stem of drooping glumes suspended from fine threads in an arc.

June 21st pm : Into God's own County

Our final walk of the day was to be on the far bank of the Tees so we all took out our passports, passed through immigration control and walked singly across a swaying bridge designed for crossing an Amazon tributary into hallowed lands of the County of Yorkshire.

The first thing which attracted our attention as we crossed the river was the sight of Low Force, the smaller of the two waterfalls on this part of the Tees. Just nearby a group of younger people dressed in wet suit and helmets were jumping from the rocks into the cold deep pools at the base of the falls. Members of the group professed to liking these sorts of risky outdoor sports but the preponderance in our numbers of greying temples and bungled stile crossings suggested that wishful thinking as well as experience increases with age.

As we walked along the bank the spineless Cirsium heterophyllum (Melancholy Thistle) was beginning to flower with it spectacular purple flowerheads. We then passed what looked like a gnarled common Birch tree but Mr Jone pointed out that this Betula pubescens ssp tortuosa (Downy Birch) is normally a mountain plant with the strange characteristic of having resinous glands which give a distinct smell to the tree at certain times of year.

In keeping with the flora not being quite what they seemed we found a few Gymnadenia conopsea (Fragrant orchid) flowers in the grass at the side of the path. Mr Jones then pointed out the features that made this one ssp borealis.