Bradford Botany Group

Foxglove Covert Local Nature Reserve, Catterick Garrison

13th July 2014



Getting into this site involves handing over your passport at an army checkpoint. This is all worth it as this 100 acre site contains a good variety of habitats and excellent facilities for wildlife enthusiasts of all ages.

We were met by Elizabeth, one of the team of volunteers who work with two paid wardens. Very enthusiastic and knowledgeable she introduced us to the site which is about 10-14 days behind in terms of flowering times due to its altitude.

Common Spotted Orchid

In the morning we walked through a piece of land which was purchased in 2003/04. Originally rough moorland and low in plant species numbers, this area according to Elizabeth was “improving beyond belief” in plant species diversity. Here we found quaking grass or “ditheray docks” as Elizabeth, originally from Northumberland called them. Further along, an area of raised fen yealded a different range of species to identify, such as fen bedstraw, flea sedge, tawny sedge and dioecious sedge. Walking further down the path we saw the pale mauve-lilac flowers of field madder amongst the short grassland near to a gate. Then we looked closely at hybrid cinquefoil, which differs from creeping cinquefoil in that it has 3 or 4 leaflets and some flowers with 4 petals and sepals as opposed to creeping cinquefoil which has 5 leaflets. We also were able to compare this to trailing tormentil nearby, which is considered to be less common than hybrid cinquefoil. Walking along a boardwalk through a wetland area on the way back to the field centre for lunch our chairman, Andrew spotted bitter vetch leaves and with further examination saw some flowers. Unfortunately some invasive curley waterweed was spotted and correctly identified. This specimen was taken back to the field centre and placed in a tank of water to show the other rangers and volunteers what it looked like in order to get rid of it.


After lunch, Brian Slater, another volunteer joined us and we set off for a nearby area of heathland to look for orchids. We found the hybrid between northern marsh orchid and common spotted orchid and possibly one of the parents, a common spotted orchid. We also saw the beautiful slender St John’s-wort in flower as well as heath grass, a couple of sneezewort plants plus the only two known saw-wort plants on the site. Near to the assault course we were able to compare smooth tare and hairy tare conveniently growing close together. On the way back to the car park at the end of our trip I spotted another saw-wort plant, which rounded off the day well as both Elizabeth and Brian were delighted with the find.