Tuesday 26 June 2018

Norwood, Woodall Survey

Norwood, Woodall (SK47 81)
Sunday 24th June 2018
Leader: Louise Hill

This was a joint meeting between the South Yorkshire Botany Group and Doncaster Naturalists’ Society

Louise Hill
John Scott
Peter Burton
Graeme Coles
Les Coe

Ken Balkow
Marion Dutton

The group assembled at Kiveton Pit Country Park car park at 10am. It was then decided that it would be advantages to start from a footpath leading to Norwood from the road in Woodall where it passes under the M1 motorway. (Unfortunate for any late comers who found that there were no members at Kiveton Pit Country Park, as advertised). This starting point falls within SK47 80.

The purpose of this meeting was to survey the under-recorded woodland of Norwood, near Woodall which lies on the Coal Measures, as this area will be affected by the construction of HS2 in a few years’ time. The Wood is contained for the most part within SK47 81

In the North East corner of the wood the Chesterfield canal emerges from the now closed Norwood Tunnel, thereafter following the Northern woodland boundary, creating a series of ponds along the way. The Western boundary of the wood is also the county boundary between South Yorkshire and Derbyshire.

The South Yorkshire Plant Atlas suggests for this woodland, which can best be described as a mixed broadleaf, bluebell woodland (W10), “In Woodland of this kind, the underlying rocks and sticky soils they give rise to, can sometimes be so impermeable that ground water emerges in flushes or gentle springs”.

Louise added for the woodlands characteristic, with “It was a W10 woodland which has been invaded by quite a lot of sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) but there were also lime influences on the upper slopes where we found the dog's mercury (Mercurialis perennis) and yellow archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon).

The main canopy species in the flushes was grey willow (Salix cinerea) but with some alder (Alnus glutinosa), silver birch (Betula pendula) and occasional ash (Fraxinus excelsior).  These species did not occur in any significant numbers on the upper slopes.

The wooded seepages supported soft rush (Juncus effusus) and colt's foot (Tusssilago farfara) and locally-abundant water horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile) and a mint (Mentha sp). This graded into a more open fen type habitat on the valley bottom dominated by reed canary- grass (Phalaris arundincea) with bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara), marsh bedstraw (Galium palustre) and greater bird's-foot trefoil (Lotus pedunculatus)”.

Woodall Pond

Timing is all; as the first field through which the footpath passes had a grass cutter hard at work when we returned to the parked cars on completion of the days tour. In this field we had earlier found the late flowering Timothy (Phleum pratense) standing high above surrounding vegetation, the common Crested Dog's-tail (Cynosurus criostatus), Marsh Foxtail (Alopecurus geniculatus), Common Bent (Agrostis capillaris), the small yellow flowered Nipplewort (Lapsana communis), the even smaller white flowered Hairy Tare (Vicia hirsuta) scrambling amongst the grass, and Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), being a typical component in agricultural grassland. Another typical grassland species, Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) now showing the fruit from whence it acquired its name, the common Creeping Thistle (Cirsium arvense), and less common Toad Rush (Juncus bufonius .agg) which can appear reddish at times, completed the survey of the first field before passing over the style into the next field.

Here was found Zigzag Clover (Trifolium medium), Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris), the common Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare), Curled Dock (Rumex crispus), the early flowering and now faded Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), and Scented Mayweed (Matricaria chamomilla) distinguishable by the hollow flower heads. Some disturbed ground revealed not only the Common or Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), but a far less common Small Nettle (Urtica urens), which, unlike its larger cousin, bears male and female flowers on the same plant and has much less of a sting. Also found here was Pale Persicaria (Persicaria lapathifolia) which does like the disturbed ground.

Small Nettle (Urtica urens)
We continued with the more common Knotgrass (Polygonum aviculare), then Shepherd's-purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris), Daisy (Bellis Perennis), Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale agg.), and Prickly Sowthistle (Sonchus asper) with leaves that wrap around the stem. A tall fescue previously going by the name of Giant Fescue (Festuca gigantea) but now named (Schedonorus giganteus) was also examined to confirm the ID. Under trees, we found the shade loving Wood Dock (Rumex sanguineus), which bears a fruit with only a single wart. Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris), now past its best shared a damp spot with Short-fruited Willowherb (Epilobium obscurum).

The public footpath entered the woodland at the top of a steep bank and continued to follow on this higher contour, while below a small stream runs through the valley bottom. Initially, the more adventurous member (better known as John) descended the bank and found the flora was much more interesting in the wetter ground. As communications became difficult, he persuaded all the party to joined him. In the valley bottom we found a faint animal track, possibly created by deer and/or badgers suggesting that these animals had the quite woodland to themselves for most of the year. As we worked our way down the valley towards the lake, several flushes created by seepage from the land above were encountered, causing the ground to become boggy in places. Occasionally it was necessary to resort to using the botanist’s toolkit of secateurs and branch-saw to clear a way through the tangled branches of fallen trees.

In this valley mire environment, we found Male-fern (Dryopteris filix-mas), Broad Buckler-fern (D. dilatata), Lady-fern (Athyrium filix-femina), Hart's-tongue (Asplenium scolopendrium), the ubiquitous Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), all enjoying the wet and shaded conditions, as did also Wood Dock (Rumex sanguineus) and Wood Millet (Milium effusum). The Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scriptus), long ago ceased flowering, now only had seed capsules, while Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium), also a spring flowering plant, had just leaves remaining. Likewise, the Townhall Clock, otherwise known as Moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina), had remaining leaves that had a rubbery texture to the touch. The Early Dog-violet (Viola reichenbachiana) had only leaves and fruits but could still be identified by checking that the sepal appendages on the fruits were of equal length. The leaves of Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis) were abundant, with Red Campion (Silene dioica), Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon), Wild Angelica (Angelica sylvestris), Wavy Bitter-cress (Cardamine flexuosa), Hedge Woundwort (Stachys sylvatica), and Marsh Thistle (Cirsium palustre) all showing.

Marsh Thistle (Cirsium palustre)
Amphibious Bistort (Persicaria amphibia), Upright Hedge Parsley (Torilis japonica), False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum), Meadow Vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis), were also noted. Then Louise stopped to study an unusual looking figwort, which might possibly be a Green Figwort (Scrophularia umbrosa).

This odd-looking figwort was found growing in very damp conditions which resulted in much discussion on the matter of differentiating between the Common Figwort (Scrophularia nodosa), Green Figwort (S. umbrosa) and Water Figwort (S. auriculata) between Louise and Graeme; the leaves of S. umbrosa are pointed, like S. nodosa, but the stems are winged like S. auriculata and, under the two upper flower lips can be found a staminode, the shape of which is a critical feature. In the case of the Green Figwort (S. unbrosa) this is cleft, whilst with the Water Figwort (S. auriculata) it is rounded but to add further confusion the staminode of  the Common Figwort (S. nodosa) is occasionally illustrated as also being cleft in some books! A good hand lens is needed to enable the flower head to be examined to spot these small differences. Our specimen definitely had a lobed staminode.  Without a copy of Clive Stace's New Flora of the British Isles to hand we only had the winged-ness of the stem as a separating feature, a characteristic which is rather subjective at the best of times. The critical feature is also the width of the scarious border on the sepals. We'll know next time!  We concluded that it was S. nodosa growing in a particularly wet location. The stems are not winged enough. The staminode could be definitely be described as notched but did not have diverging lobes and the sepals do not have a wide enough papery margin to be Scrophularia umbrosa.

Common Figwort (Scrophularia nodosa)

Common Figwort (Scrophularia nodosa)

The Water Figwort (Scrophularia auriculata), with its small red-brown flowers could also be found growing in much drier conditions alongside the woodland paths. (These paths would probably have had their share of water throughout the winter months).

Water Figwort (Scrophularia auriculata)

As we progressed towards the lake, passing into another tetrad, the obstacles to our progress changed from brambles underfoot which constantly attempted to either trip one up or leave one with calf permanently scared, to tall bulrushes which also had a hidden weapon. If one handled them they could also inflict a cut to the hand, as was discovered. Then came the decision, was a plaster to be applied, or did one lick and suck the injured place before applying liberal doses of antiseptic spittle? The latter seemed to be the preferred course of action.

Bulrush (Typha latifolia)

This obviously is an area for extreme botany and where only dedicated botanists are likely to be found. On reaching the end of the lake, we were surprised to note that two hours had passed with so little of ground covered, due entirely to the quantity and quality of interesting flora found in the valley bottom. It was whilst taking lunch at this point that we encountered our first and only other visitors to the woodland when a horse and rider passed along the bridleway.

Equestrian on Bridle Path

Leaving the wooded valley behind, the route now followed a wide woodland track, which soon diverted away from the OS marked public footpath, but in view of latter waymarked signs, this seems to now be the normal route through the woodland and the public footpath did seem to be unused and overgrown.

A bindweed was located growing amongst the vegetation. A tip towards identification was provided by Louise; under the flower there are two large bracts which partly cover the sepals. Between these two bracts there was to be found an intermediate small pointed bract, which identified the flower as Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium).

Woodland track

On the woodland track was both Annual Meadow-grass (Poa annua) and Rough Meadow-grass (P. trivialis), with Black Medic (Medicago lupulina) sprawling in the grass. Alongside the track was a drainage ditch which supported many grasses and plants; Marsh Foxtail (Alopercurus geniculatus), Water Figwort (Scrophularia auriculata) with winged stems, Squirrel-tailed Fescue (Vulpia bromoides), Three-nerved Sandwort (Moehringia trinervia), Pendulous Sedge (Carex pendula), Nipplewort (Lapsana communis), Prickly Sowthistle (Sonchus asper), Shining Crane's-bill (Geranium lucidum), a Lady-fern (Athyrium filix-femina) and Greater Plantain (Plantago major).

Greater Plantain (Plantago major)

Continuing along the track we also found Narrow Buckler-fern (Dryopteris carthusiana), Cut-leaved Crane's-bill (Geranium dissectum), Perforate St John’s-wort (Hypericum perforatum), Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum), Catsear (Hypochaeris radicata), Giant Fescue (Schedonorus giganteus) formerly (Festuca gigantea), Goat Willow (Salix caprea), White Willow (S. alba), Buddleia (Buddleja sp.), and Himalayan Honeysuckle (Leycesteria formosa) which is considered to be a noxious invasive species in Australia, New Zealand and some other places, but was a popular plant in Victorian shrubberies.

Himalayan Honeysuckle (Leycesteria formosa)

On departing from the wood, we emerged at the point where the canal left the now closed Norwood tunnel. Alongside the canal was an Ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) resplendent, with keys in abundance.

Using a grappling hook, another essential item of the botanist’s toolkit, we extracted some pondweed from the canal which was identified as Fennel Pondweed (Potamogeton pectinatus). The plant was identified by the leaf, when cut in two reveals in cross- section that the sheath contained two tubes, no doubt acting as floatation chambers to keep the plant from sinking.

Next, a burdock plant, not yet in full flower, was examined. By cutting a leaf and noting the leaf-stem was hollow eliminated Greater Burdock (Arctium lappa) which has a solid leaf-stalk. It was decided that the species was Lesser Burdock (A. minus) due to the size of the flower heads. Arctium nemorosum has larger flower heads.

Now we started the return journey, following a public footpath across a field leading towards a tunnel under the M1 Motorway. On the way we noted Field Maple (Acer campetre), Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and Bristly Oxtongue (Helminthotheca echioides) with its pimply leaves.

Footpath leading to M1 underpass

The path now skirted the edges of a field of oilseed rape and ran parallel with the motorway for a short way before turning to join a bridleway running between Wales and Woodall, known as Walseker Lane.

Species associated with this agricultural environment were now being found, such as Swine-cress (Lepidium squamatus) and Shepherd’s-purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris). A large muck-heap attracted our attention as a possible source for botanical treasures. Reflexed Saltmarsh-grass (Puccinella distans) was found in the compacted area where all the nutrient-rich run-off collects. This is normally a coastal species but now increasingly being found inland, no doubt due to the practice of salting our roads.

The field edges and bridle path now produced a number of interesting species; Wild Oat-grass (Avena fatua), Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea (Lathyrus latifolius), Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium), Black-grass (Alopecurus myosuroides) with its black seed heads, the aromatic Pineappleweed (Matricaria discoidea), Red Goosefoot (Chenopodium rubrum), Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris), and Barren Brome (Anisantha sterilis) were all encountered.

On entering the sleepy hamlet of Woodall there were still a few plants that could be considered as wild; Sun Spurge (Euphorbia helioscopia) growing on waste ground between houses and Common Field-speedwell (Veronica persica) by the roadside on the edge of a retaining wall for a lawn.

An interesting survey, having passed through several different environments, ended at 3.30pm when arriving back at our parked cars.

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Holme Moss & Isle of Skye Quarry

Holme Moss & Isle of Skye Quarry
Tuesday 12th June 2018

Peter Burton
Louise Hill
John Scott
Les Coe

The party met at the car park at Digley Reservoir for 10.30am.
There we were greeted by the calling of Cuckoo, Curlew and Oystercatcher announcing our arrival in the high moorland. The aim for the day was to reconnoiter potential sites for a South Yorkshire Botany Group visit in July. After planning the routes for the day with the leader, we set off to park alongside the Holme Moss Mast.

Holme Moss
We found the moors were very dry following a period of fine weather, making the trek through the heather and cotton-grass pleasant.

Cotton Grass - Eriphorum angustifolium

As we proceeded across the moorland, we found two species of Cotton-grass, Common Cotton-grass (Eriophorum angustifolium) and Hare’s-tail Cotton-grass (E. vaginatum), with a sheep grazed stump of Rowen (Sorbus aucuparia) nestling amongst the heather, as was on old Grouse nest that looked to have been predated as only egg shells and a whole egg remained.

Peter led us to a site where he knew the Stag's-horn Clubmoss (Lycopodium clavatum) grew. Also, at this site we found New Zealand Willowherb (Epilobium brunnescens), Procumbent Pearlwort (Sagina procumbens), Heath Rush (Juncus squarrosus) and Soft Rush (J. effusus).

Stag's-horn Clubmoss (Lycopodium clavatum)
Resuming our walk over the moor we came across Cross-leaved Heath (Erica tetralix), with sightings of Grouse, Swift and Golden Plover, the latter putting on a display of injured wing to try and draw us away from her nest or chicks. A visit was made to examine a solitary tree, thought to be a Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis) but it was difficult to be sure as it only had soft new growth. The old needles had probably been blasted off by the Beast from the East. We also found sheep grazed stumps of this species amongst the heather at various points throughout the walk. Common Polypody (Polypodium vulgare), and Narrow Buckler Ferns (Dryopteris carthusiana) were come across occasionally.

The walk meandered along the boundary of two counties, South Yorkshire and Derbyshire, and we came across boundary markers, in the form of concrete posts, set in the ground along the way. When we reached Wigley’s Cabin, and after admiring the expansive view over Hey Clough, towards Holme and Holmfirth, we started the return journey taking a slightly different course.

Wrigley's Cabin
A caterpillar of the Oak Eggar Moth, aka Northern Eggar (Lasiocampa quercus) was found and Small Heath Butterflies (Coenonympha pamphilus) flew amongst the Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), Cloudberrry (Rubus chamaemorus) with fruit, and Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos).

Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos)

A mountain Hare was flushed from its hiding place. Many Marsh Thistles (Cirsium palustre) inhabited the ground near to the mast as competition had been reduced due to the ground being regularly cleared of other vegetation by the maintenance teams for the mast.

Cloudberrry (Rubus chamaemorus
Next, we visited the Isle of Skye Quarry, situated on the A635 road on Wessenden Head Moor. Immediately our presence was noted by Curlews who strongly objected to this intrusion into their territory. One bird sat like a sentinel guarding the entrance to the quarry and vocalised its displeasure.

A sentinel Curlew

Bell Heather (Erica cinerea) in full flower, Heath Woodrush (Luzula multiflora) and Marsh Thistles (Cirsium palustre) were immediately discovered on entering the quarry. Southern Marsh Orchids (Dactylorhiza praetermissa), Lady Ferns (Athyrium filix-femina), Scaly Male Fern (Dryopteris affinis agg.), Broad Buckler Ferns (D. dilatata), Hard Fern (Blechnum spicant), New Zealand Willowherb (Epilobium brunnescens), Pill Sedge (Carex pilulifera), Glaucous Sedge (C. flacca) were all found to be plentiful especially amongst the rocks and under the quarry walls.

Bell Heather (Erica sp.)
Fox and Cubs (Pilosella aurantiaca) here put on an impressive display against the quarry wall, with Yorkshire Fog (Holcus lanatus) and Water Horsetails (Equisetum fluviatile), Soft Rush (Juncus effusus) and Creeping Willow (Salix repens) covering the Millstone Grit of the quarry floor. The rock in this particular location is known as Huddersfield White Rock
(see http://mapapps.bgs.ac.uk/geologyofbritain/home.html). Use your 'back' button to return here.
In addition Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis), Common Mouse-ear (Cerastium fontanum) and Broad-leaved Willowherb (Epilobium montanum) were all sharing this space.

Fox and Cubs (Pilosella aurantiaca)
Also, there were Yellow Sedge (Carex demissa), Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor), Lesser Trefoil (Trifolium dubium), Common Figwort (Scrophularia nodosa), Heath Woodrush (Luzula multiflora), Heath Rush (Juncus squarrosus), Common Vetch (Vicia sativum agg.), Black Sedge (Carex nigra), and Heath Bedstraw (Galium saxatile).

A pair of mating butterflies were Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilusc) and a Wood Tiger Moth (Parasemia plantaginis) were found by Peter, who provided the ID.

Monday 11 June 2018

Sheffield and Tinsley canal

Sheffield & Tinsley Canal
10th June 2018
Leader: Ken Balkow

Ken Balkow
Les Coe 


Louise Hill 
John Scott 

 The Tinsley Canal offers a diverse collection of flora and fauna, such that in a single visit one will only scratch the surface of what is on offer. As the walk could pass through six tetrads, it would not possible to record everything in each of them with our limited resources, so we decided instead to appreciate the flora (and fauna) on offer. In Ken we have a knowledgeable leader who is extremely familiar with this Canal’s natural environment. 

Despite traveling through the industrial east-end of Sheffield, the canal affords that get-away-from-it-all feeling of peace and tranquility. The waterway, which not so long ago served the industry of Sheffield, is now given over to pleasure pursuits; one can take a tour of the canal on passenger barges while the towpath offers a pleasant route for walkers and cyclist wishing to access the city centre without suffering the fumes and noise of other road users. Fishermen can also enjoy their sport in pleasant surroundings. 

On a pleasant warm sunny day, the group met in an unusually quiet Meadowhall to begin the survey. Even before reaching the start where the River Don and the Canal pass under the M1 Tinsley viaduct, there were a wide variety of native and alien plants are to be encountered. In an area that has been left to nature there is great competition for dominance of space from Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica), Great Bindweed (Calystegia sylvatica) and Russian Vine (Fallopia baldschuanica), with a False Acacia Tree (Robinia pseudoacacia) also distributing its saplings in order to also establish a niche for itself. 

Despite this, we found plants filling every other available space. Hoary Mustard (Hirschfeldia incana), Fodder Vetch (Vicia villosa), Cut-leaved Crane's-bill (Geranium dissectum), Sweet Vernal-grass (Anthoxanthum adoratum) were all to be found by the tram stop. Beaked Hawkweed (Crepis versicaria) already going over, Black Medick (Medicago lupulina), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), a hybrid Campion (Silene hampeana), Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) not yet in flower, Japanese Quince (Chaenomeles japonica), Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Oxford Ragwort (Senecio squalidus) and Narrow-leaved Ragwort (S. inaequidens), Melilot (Melilotus sp.), Thyme-leaved Sandwort (Arenaria serpyllifolia), Curled Dock (Rumex crispus), Goat's Rue (Galega officinalis) growing by the fence, Hedge Bedstraw (Galium album), Greater Knapweed (Centaurea scabiosa) and Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis) were established along the walkway leading to the canal towpath. Also noted was possibly Balkan Clary (Salvia nemorosa) but this has to be confirmed. 

Balkan Clary (Salvia nemorosa)

At the start of the canal walk we found growing in or at the edge of the canal Water Figwort (Scrophularia auriculata), Broad-leaved Pondweed (Potamogeton natans), Curled Pondweed (Potamogeton crispus), Narrow-leaved Water Plantain (Alisma lanceolatum), Reed Sweet-grass (Glyceria maxima), Gypsywort (Lycopus europaeus), Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense), a species of Water Cress (Nasturtium sp.) and Hedgerow Crane's-bill (Geranium pyrenaicum). 

 A canal side building had some artfully drawn murals, some of which had unfortunately become defaced. 

 Along the canal towpath plants were growing in any and every available space, be that at the water’s edge, on the walls of locks, lock gates or even in the thin strip of land between the footpath and water. At various points along the canal, adjacent land, being neglected, had also been colonised by the flora. In here Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera) were to be found growing in the shade. Common Spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsia) were being admired by bank-side fishermen as they sat waiting for the fish to bite, and further along Southern Marsh-orchid (D. praetermissa) also growing alongside the towpath, had unfortunately been trod upon. 

Where cuttings had been made for the canal, the tree lined sides also afforded suitable sites for shade loving plants. Here ferns were well established; Heart's-tongue (Aspenium scolopendrium), Male-fern (Dryopteris filix-mas), Golden-scaled Male-fern (D. affinis), Broad-leaved Buckler-fern(D. dilatata) and Hard Shield-fern (Polystrichum aculeatum) and Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum agg.), with Male-fern even spreading down to colonise the retaining wall at the water’s edge. 

Many trees and bushes have found suitable places to become well established alongside the canal, with many introductions, both by man and bird, with some wind-blown seeds from nearby plantings by local business premises around their car parks and gardens. We noted along the way Japanese Quince (Chaenomeles japonica), False Acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia), a member of the pea family, Swedish Whitebeam (Sorbus intermedia), was in full blossom and is quite common in Sheffield, Bird Cherry (Prunus padus), Common Alder (Alnus glutinosa) and Italian Alder (A. cordata), with saplings of Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii) and Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) growing at the water’s edge. Fig Trees (Ficus carica) which have become established along the canal having grown from seeds discarded by people. The warmer micro-climate created by the heavy industry contributed to the success of this tree. However, all the trees are infertile as the wasp that normally pollinates the flowers is only to be found in the Mediterranean. One of the Fig trees passed on this walk is a very old specimen having grown to 10mts high and 20mts wide. Wild Cherry (Prunus avium) and Butterfly Bush (Buddleja sp.) had colonised waste ground adjacent to the towpath, Honeysuckle (Lonicera sp.) and Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) scrambled through the low bushes while the Grey Poplar (Populus canescens) was throwing up lots of suckers. 

Two species of Broom were noted, as well as the common Broom (Cytisus scoparius) the Hairy-fruited Broom (C. striatus) was found, distinguished from the former by having pods hairy all over, rather than hairy edged. The sweet-smelling white flowered Many-flowered Rose (Rosa multiflora), Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus) and Wayfaring Tree (Viburnum lantana), which still had flowers on it, Spindle (Euonymus europaeus), and Cockspurthorn (Crataegus crus-galli) a species of Hawthorn native to eastern North America, were all on display. An old wooden post in the canal even had a small Birch Tree (Betula sp.) growing from it. A Juneberry (Amelanchier lamarckii) and Snowberry (Symphoricarpos sp.), a shrub in the Honeysuckle family, a Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster sp.), Darwin’s Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) was seen on the opposite side of the canal. Bladder Senna (Colutea arborescens), whose flowers are yellow and form into the butterfly-like shape that is common for many members of the pea family, rounded off an exercise in tree watching, a much under-subscribed hobby. 

A variety of grasses and sedge were to be found growing alongside the towpath, Remote Sedge (Carex remota) is a common waterside plant along this canal, with False Fox-sedge (C. otrubae), Oval Sedge (C. ovalis), Red Fescue (Festuca rubra), Yorkshire Fog (Holcus lanatus) with its pink striped pyjamas, Barren Brome (Anisantha sterilis), Oval Sedge (Carex leporina), Rat's-tail Fescue (Vulpia myuros), Wall Barley (Hordeum murinum), Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne), Reed Sweet-grass (Glyceria maxima), Glaucous Sedge (Carex flacca), Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis), False Oat-grass (Arrhenatherum elatius), Common Couch (Elytrigia repens). 

Water plants are able to establish themselves despite the frequent boat movements, by occupying the water margins. Some of these plants were quite exotic; notably the Altar Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) found growing at the water’s edge in the Marina when lunch was taken. 

Marina on Sheffield & Tinsley Canal

Here also, a plant of “well-trodden places” Lesser Swine-cress (Lepidium didymus) was to be found growing between the cracks in the pavement. Hemlock (Conium maculatum) with the coloured stems, growing to 2mts high path-side along with Hedge Parsley (Torilis japonica). A fine tall display of Fox-and-cubs (Pilosella aurantiaca) growing alongside Great Willowherb (Epilobium parviflorum), Rosebay Willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium), Pendulous Sedge (Carex pendula) around the edge of the marina. These shared space with Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca) and Hairy Tare (V. hirsuta), whilst in the water floated Greater Duckweed (Spirodela polyrhiza) with in the margins was established Shade Horsetail (Equisetum pratense), a hybrid between Field Horsetail (E. arvense) and Water Horsetail (E. fluvatile) despite one of the parents not being present. Also in the vicinity of the Marina was Shining Crane's-bill (Geranium lucidum), Hemlock Water-dropwort (Oenanthe crocata), Skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata), Yellow Iris (Iris pseudacorus) and Marsh Yellow-cress (Rorippa palustris)

The passing of a barge carrying passengers under Broughton Lane bridge and sightings of Banded Damoiselles (Calopteryx splendens) flitting over the Bulrushes (Typha latifolia) provided an interlude to the botanising. Three species of Water-lily can be found growing in the canal, White Water-lily (Nymphaea alba), Yellow Water-lily (Nuphar lutea) and Fringed Water-lily (Nymphoides peltata). 

Whilst Ivy was quite common amongst the waterside trees, there was also a cousin present in the form of Persian Ivy (Hedera colchica), which does lacks the winter beauty of our Common Ivy (Hedera helix). Field Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), a stand of the flattened seed pods of Honesty (Lunaria annua), Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense), Narrow-leaved Water Plantain (Alisma lanceolatum), Wild Carrot (Daucus carota), a handsome blue flowered Meadow Crane's-bill (Geranium pratense), Broad-leaved Everlasting-pea (Lathyrus latifolius), Bittersweet, or if you prefer, Woody Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara), Prickly Sowthistle (Sonchus asper), and Short-fruited Willowherb (Epilobium obscurum). 

Here we watched a pair of mating Damselflies on a Yellow Water-lily that constantly sank below the water as the leaf upon which they rested rose and fell, but they stuck to their task regardless. Also patrolling across the water was a Dragonfly (unidentified) with a green Damselfly, probably a female Common Blue (Enallagma cyathigerum), keeping to the bank-side vegetation. 

Brown Bayley Mooring had flowering Greater Knapweed (Centaurea scabiosa), Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris), Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea), Creeping Thistle (Cirsium arvense), Cat's-ear (Hypochaeris radicata), and Common Vetch (Vicia sativa), with the leaves of Unbranched Bur-reed (Sparganium emersum) floating on the water. 

A diversion away from the canal to an area which might have once been a car park, it still having tall lighting towers and a fully tarmacked hard-standing, which, despite this hostile environment, plants had still managed to establish themselves in cracks and crevices, with Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber) relishing the dry conditions. Eastern Rocket (Sisymbrium orientale), was to be found growing against a wall, while Stinking Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) and the tall yellow flowered Weld (Reseda luteola) were happily growing through the tarmac, and Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolate) was at home in what would appear to be hostile conditions. 

Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber)
Finally, now nearing the end of the tour there were still plants a plenty to be found. Crossing the Darnall Road aqueduct Purple Toadflax (Linaria purpurea) was spotted growing on the opposite bank, with Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Wall Lettuce (Mycelis muralis), more Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) and the leaves of the early flowering Colt's-foot (Tussilago farfara) growing at the canal side. Here, poor drainage had led to the path becoming somewhat muddy now (but even worse in the winter months), but where the Shade Horsetail (Equisetium pratense)had found a home. A white form of Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) and a Many-flowered Rose (Rosa multiflora) brightened up the shaded cutting, with an Iris (Iris sp.), having broad leaves and purple flowers needed further consultation before an ID could be established (but probably Iris germanica

 On leaving the canal to catch a tram to make the return journey to Meadowhall, growing at the curb side we noted Horse-radish (Armoracia rusticana), Wall Speedwell (Veronica arvensis), Common Whitlowgrass (Eropila verna agg.) and Common Field Speedwell (V. persica). The quantity and variety of flora found alongside or adjacent to the canal was most impressive, with trees and shrubs, ferns, flowers, grasses, sedges and water plants providing stimulation for the botanist; dragonfly and damselfly for the odonatist; Bird song accompanied us throughout the tour, while butterflies and moths did entertained us, but could prove illusive for ID purposes. This is a walk to be recommended to anyone with an interest in all things nature.