Bradford Botany Group

Scout Scar & Helsington Barrows

8th June 2013

 

 

It was a gloriously sunny and warm Saturday morning and therefore a surprise that no more than 12 members had assembled in the car park on the north side of the Kendal - Underbarrow road for the customary introduction and health and safety briefing by Neil. Sunscreen had been applied but further hazards apparently included a steep cliff face and the possibility of ticks, something I had heard about but not encountered personally in the UK.

Lancashire Whitebeam

Recording began on the far side of the road, where the attractive but highly invasive ground elder was getting a hold. After 200 metres, we emerged onto the high ground at the north end of Scout Scar, where hoary rock-rose was seen growing on the edge of the abyss, along with the Lancastrian whitebeam, numerous examples of which were to be found along the escarpment, which offered magnificent panoramas over southern Lakeland, from Langdale southwards to Heysham power station.

Rare Spring Sedge

Neil had offered a mystery prize to the first person to locate the rare spring-sedge and, rather predictably, it turned out to be Jesse who discovered the first example, pointing out the relatively dark appearance of the inflorescence. Many other examples were found later. Horseshoe vetch, along with both common and hoary rock-roses, formed a bright yellow border along the cliff edge. The vegetation was beginning to show signs of stress from the warm and dry start to June. Nevertheless, there were good populations of early purple-orchid, including at least two examples of the white-flowered form. Related plants included fly orchid, dark-red helleborine and lesser butterfly orchid.

Hoary Rock Rose

 

As the species count climbed through the 100 barrier, it became necessary to examine the sward more closely. Thus we discovered the dioecious sedge and the round basal leaves of the harebell, which give the plant its Latin name, Campanula rotundifolia. There were small patches of more acidic soils, as evidenced by the presence of heather and bilberry. An undesirable consequence of all this close-up groundwork became apparent as soon as we sat down for lunch on a rocky outcrop. I noticed that the specks of grit picked up on my trousers appeared to be moving and realised that I was myself on the lunch menu for an army of minute ticks. Neil came to the rescue with a roll of Sellotape, which must surely be the best way of removing ticks from clothing. The Sellotape was to be deployed at intervals for the rest of the afternoon, as those wearing the lightest trousers were alerted to the presence of these bloodthirsty invaders.

 

We descended through and explored the woodland below the scarp on the first available path, before retracing our steps to the top and heading eastward towards Helsington Barrows. The walk back to the car park afforded more splendid panoramas, this time towards the east and the Howgill Fells. We had recorded over 150 species in a spectacularly beautiful setting, although, strangely enough, some of us were itching to get back to a hot bath. We never did learn what Jesse had won for being first to spot the rare spring-sedge!

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