Bradford Botany Group

Nidd Gorge

April 12th 2014



This season’s opening trip took us to the Nidd Gorge, just west of Knaresborough. Sheltered valley bottoms are a good bet for springtime flora, even after the harshest of winters. After the exceptionally mild and wet winter of 2013/14, the woods held much promise. Our group of 15 was not to be disappointed.


We began by descending the track from the car park near Scotton, immediately seeing a large patch of yellow archangel. This was the garden variety with prominent silver blotches on the leaves. Although attractive, it forms dense spreading colonies, which tend to exclude other vegetation. Luckily, we were to see plenty of the native variety in the woods below. There was evidence of tree felling on the slope, many conifers having been taken out to encourage the regeneration of native species.

Coralroot showing bulbils

Once over the footbridge, we proceeded west along the south bank of the Nidd, soon coming across coralroot. This bittercress was new to me and we were to see much more. Its success in colonising this stretch of river may owe much to the bulbils, which the plant produces in leaf axils. The attractive pinkish purple petals were just appearing. After the very mild winter, the spring flora appeared to be more or less on time, with a few bluebells just flowering, ramsons yet to do so and wood anemone and lesser celandine in full swing. Of particular note was the abundance of moschatel. We always look out for this favourite of the springtime woodland but it seemed to be everywhere we stopped in the Nidd Gorge.


An over-wintering fern caught the eye and, after much discussion, was eventually identified as hard shield-fern. Nearby the delicate flowers of hairy wood-rush made a pleasant change from the more common great wood-rush. The cameras came out in force for toothwort, several large clumps of which had sprouted along a particularly muddy stretch of the path. Geoffrey paused from recording and challenged the party to hazard a guess at how many species we had seen so far. “Eighty-three” someone shouted. In fact we had seen 82 and it wasn’t lunchtime yet! Emerging onto a thin grassy strip beside the river, we searched for a suitable spot to pause. While lunch was taken, several more species were added to the total, many of them arable weeds. At first sight, it appeared that the ground had been dug mechanically but, in fact, a 50-metre stretch of the bank had been reshaped by winter floodwater, leaving several exposed sandbanks, where seed from the surrounding fields had presumably blown in or been washed downstream, explaining the presence of such species as red and white dead-nettles, petty spurge and winter-cress.


Continuing westward, the terrain became notably more acid, with rowan making a somewhat belated appearance. At the next weir, we decided to retrace our steps to the footbridge. Once more, Geoffrey challenged us to guess the species count. “Hundred and thirty-nine” our enthusiast cried; “Hundred and thirty-eight” Geoffrey retorted, only to be corrected by someone calling out another species name, bringing a smug grin to our lucky enumerator’s face.


To round the day off, we made a short trip downstream along the north bank of the river before climbing back to the car park. Amazingly, we had seen over 160 species, an excellent result for such an early date. Thanks go to Nyree for organising the visit and to Geoffrey for wielding his red clipboard to amass such an impressive species count.