Bradford Botany Group

Gait Barrows NNR, Silverdale

May 27th 2014



Everything seemed in our favour when the Group had its outing to Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve. It remained dry, windless and mild all day, with some thin sunshine. Having been warned about ticks, we had our trousers well tucked into our socks, but most of our other protective clothing was simply not required on the day. A good number attended to visit this remarkably rewarding site. We were greeted by Julie Clarke, who pointed out some interesting plants as she guided us towards the limestone pavement. These included a large patch of herb Paris, and some fingered sedge among the trees that cover the first part of the reserve. Also present were spindle, in flower, and alder buckthorn, the food plant of the brimstone butterflies that frequently danced by. Paul had brought a lepidopterist's net, and as the day passed showed us some lovely moths and even a pearl-bordered fritillary.

Lady’s Slipper Orchid

Prominent signs pointed the way to the most exciting plant specimens on the reserve, the clumps of lady's slipper orchids that have been introduced from the only remaining source at Kew. These grew in the open areas of limestone. Most of us were amazed at their size and brilliance, and fascinated by the account given to us by the Warden, Rob Petley - Jones, who gave us a generous chunk of his time to talk and answer questions. He then guided us around other areas of the pavement. We enjoyed photographing and recording the huge variety of flowers and ferns growing out of the grikes, and in shallow scoops in the rock called solution cups. Some of these were like vivid miniature gardens, bright with tiny pink long-stalked crane’s-bill, mauve heath speedwell, and yellow sedums and cinquefoils. Contorted and stunted trees, some as much as two hundred years old, also grew up out of the grikes - yew, ash, birch, willow and more. We found yellow-wort and orpine, not yet in flower, plus common gromwell, rigid buckler fern, and early signs of dark red helleborine. From our vantage point some of us were lucky to spot a marsh harrier wheel and dive over the wetlands in the valley.

Angular Solomon’s Seal

After lunching, seated on the limestone, with angular Solomon's-seal near by, we moved on through the trees again and out into a wild flower meadow with wet areas. Here, as the sun now shone down on us, dragonflies and damselflies darted and hovered as we recorded typical plants of this habitat, including brooklime, ragged-robin, and some northern marsh orchids. Our final destination was to find the lakeside in the valley, and this is where our navigational instincts came unstuck, despite the good map in the reserve leaflet. We tried first one way and then another, with much pause for discussion, until a tall lone hiker confidently led us to retrace our path for a bit and then plunge down through trees to the lakeside boardwalk. Close by, we found the pink bird's-eye primroses that we were questing for, with a common butterwort in flower. It would be good to see this site later in the season, as there was evidence of many more flowering plants to come.


We greatly appreciated the guidance, information and company of Julie and Rob for a most enjoyable field trip. For those who missed it, a visit to this reserve is highly recommended.