Bradford Botany Group


April 25th 2015



With our first ‘summer’ trip on April 12 th blighted by heavy rain, the forecast for Brockadale was more encouraging and 22 members of BBG and the Doncaster Naturalists gathered in the small car park off Leys Lane, to the surprise and slight inconvenience of the regular dog walkers. I was surprised myself to learn that, having driven east and then south from Halifax, I was now in North Yorkshire, albeit its southernmost extremity. Here we were on the narrow strip of Magnesian Limestone, which runs from County Durham down to the East Midlands and supports so many sites of botanical diversity.


The first surprise, as we made our way south from the car park, was mistletoe. Was this our native plant, common in the south, or a foreign variant? Further along the path was sweet-briar, this rose’s leaflets crowded with glands, which give it a faint smell of apple. Turning east along the edge of the Went valley, we passed several patches of black horehound. Unfortunately, white horehound eluded us, although it was a target species for Geoffrey’s Rare and Scarce Plants Project for VC63. Three-nerved sandwort was a welcome find and we paused at a field edge to boost the species total with a few arable weeds. Parsley-piert was found growing here, as well as within the reserve.

Spring Cinquefoil

Next we passed through a gate onto short grassland overlooking the valley. The dry spring had been particularly harsh to the tiny plants growing here. A few examples of rue-leaved saxifrage with 2mm flowers were found and observed through magnifying lenses. Also present were spring cinquefoil, purple milk-vetch, wild clary and wild liquorice. A comprehensive record of the rare target species was taken. A few stems of white bryony were also in evidence here.


With a cold breeze blowing and threatening showers, we retraced our steps and then descended into the valley to the west, where we paused to see hound’s-tongue and long-stalked crane’s-bill. The leaves of pale St. John’s-wort were just showing above ground. At this point, some of us were fortunate indeed to spot a barn owl in flight. Continuing across the Went, we paused in a patch of wood anemone for lunch. On the slopes to the west, masses of adder’s-tongue were just beginning to appear and we also saw moonwort here.


After lunch we went back into the wood, where a colony of goldilocks buttercup had become well established. The main wooded area of the reserve, at the northwest corner, was our next destination. Several plants of stinking hellebore had gone over here and a few examples of common gromwell had strayed into the wood from the open grassy area by the Went below. The springtime woodland flowers were by no means early this year, with the bluebells only just beginning to bloom and several different violets on show.

Rare Spring Sedge

Fly honeysuckle was found growing here, along with buckthorn, red currant and a significant quantity of wild privet. On the eastern edge of the wood, English elm was suckering, its ‘herringbone’ branching pattern and corky-winged branches unmistakeable. Emerging from the wood, we proceeded to a rocky outcrop where, along with spring sedge, rare spring sedge was found, allowing a comparison to be made. There was no sign, this early in the season, of squinancywort, which is known to grow here. Back in the wood, we passed a large area of lily-of-the-valley and then finally found green hellebore.
  On the way back along Leys Lane, Venus’s-looking-glass was growing on the left and a garden escape, a barberry was found on the right just before reaching the car park. With such a large number, splinter groups formed at points during the day but when we all finally came together in the car park, there was time to thank Paul and Joyce for another fascinating day at this little gem of a nature reserve.