Friday, 19 January 2018

Whitwell Wood, Derbyshire on Sunday 8th May 2016

Leader: Graeme Coles
Attendees: Ken Balklow, John Scott, Stephen Dixon, Sue Glasscock, Les Coe & John Brown

Seven of us gathered for the walk round Whitwell Wood; we couldn’t have wished for better weather and as it turned out it was clearly peak flowering time for the bluebells, early purple orchids and wood anemones. The season, as many people have noticed, is very late this year so that ransoms and yellow archangel were only just starting to flower, this did however mean that early wood violet and toothwort were still at their best and flowers could even still be found on the spurge laurel. Altogether it was a very colourful and enjoyable day.

Toothwort (Lathraea squamaria)
Of the wood's specialties, the Bird’s-nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis), which can usually be seen at this time of year, was nowhere in sight, although last year’s stems were still clearly visible, while the Service Tree (Sorbus domestica) and Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) were just coming into leaf. Common Gromwell (Lithospermum officinale), with its characteristic porcelain like seeds still on the dead stems, was abundant, but not yet in flower. Columbine (Aquilegia sp.) which usually lines the rides in May and June was just coming into flower in one or two spots. There was not much to be seen of the grasses apart from the frequent tufts of False-brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum) and last year’s stems, there were also many less easily identifiable clumps of grasses which were the subject of the usual debate. The Mountain Melick (Melica nutans) was found, but there was no sign of Wood Barley (Hordelymus europaeus) at the spot where it usually occurs. At the Ginny Spring SSSI, which is a Bryophyte covered seepage mire, there was only Marsh Valerian (Valeriana dioica) to be found of the site’s rarities, but this was hardly surprising given the early date.

It would take too long to mention all the species seen, but I was delighted to be able to add a new one to my own list for the wood, Hairy Wood-rush Luzula pilosa) which Ken Balkow spotted. This is an insignificant plant with a fairly short flowering season and indicates that in the past I haven’t spent as much time as I should have done on my hands and knees!

While our exploring was confined entirely in Derbyshire we did catch sight of South Yorkshire a few yards away across the Bondhay Dyke, the stream at the north end of the wood, so it could be said that we didn’t entirely desert the county for the day.

Below is my take of the days events from my notes. (Les Coe)

Whitwell Wood is semi natural ancient woodland on the limestone belt. However, a lot was clear felled in the 1930's and replanted with both conifers and broad leaved trees. On the northern side of the wood, there is a freshwater spring known as the Ginny Spring which is designated as a site of special scientific interest (SSSI).

This was my introduction to the SYBG, and being a botanical novice I greatly appreciated the advice and guidance provided by Graeme Coles, John Scott, Ken Balklow and Steven Dixon.

Graeme Coles & John Scott

Sue Glasscock, Ken Balkow, Graeme Coles, John Brown

Just off the main forest track, we were led to a small group of Bird's-nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis), but only last year's stems were on display, which was a first for me. A return visit later in the year produced the photo below.

Bird's-nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis)
Close by was a Wild Service-tree (Sorbus torminalis), with many saplings growing around it, where we spent time examining the leaf shape for future reference.

Proceeding to the small pond we noted Broad Buckler-fern (Dryopteris dilatata), Golden-scaled Male-fern (D. affinis), a Cowslip/Primula hybrid, Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus) on the way, and there found Wood False-brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum), Early-purple Orchid (Orchis mascula), and Sweet Violet (Viola ordorata).
Returning to the main track, we noted Yellow Pimpernel (Lysimachia nemorum), Hairy Brome (Bromus ramosus), and then some non-flowering Common Gromwell (Lithospermum officinale), which still had last years white seeds attached.

Common Gromwell (Lithospermum officinale)
We then wandered into the woodland finding Mountain Melick (Melica nutans), Common Dog-violet (Viola riviniana) and Early-dog-violet (Viola reichenbachiana) and Black Bryony (Tamus communis). Further on we spotted the parasitic Toothwort (Lathraea squameria) at the base of a tree by the side of the path, Yellow Pimpernel (Lysimachia nemorum), Sanicle (Sanicula europaea) and Woodruff (Galium odoratum). A Hawthorn Tree was examined as to the possibility of it being the Midland Hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata): It seems that we were undecided.

At the Ginny Spring we found Broad-leaved Cottongrass (Eriophorum latifolium)), Marsh Valarian (Valeriana dioica), Hairy Woodrush (Luzula pilosa), Black Bog-rush (Schoenus nigricans) and White Beak-sedge (Rhynchospora alba).

Hairy Woodrush (Luzula pilosa)
Returning along the stream-side footpath we noted Hard Shield-fern (Polystichum aculeatum), Wood Melick (Melica uniflora), Tufted Hair-grass (Deschampsia caespitosa), Lady-fern (Athyrium filix-femina), and then Spurge Laurel (Daphne laureola) on reaching the main forest path again.

A most enjoyable day in such knowledgeable company.

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