Tuesday 25 January 2022


Old Finningley and Brooks Wood, Hurst Plantation

28th April 2021

Leaders : John Scott and Kay McDowell

 At the end of April a small group of us went to Finningley, in the far south of vice county 63 close to the Nottinghamshire border to look for small early flowering specialities such as little mouse-ear (Cerastium semidecandrum).

The site known as ‘Old Finningley’ is an old RAF airfield base which was turned into Doncaster Sheffield airport in 2005. It is possible to see planes taking off but we were there to spot plants not aeroplanes. The site is dry, open sandy soil providing conditions for small annuals worth getting on your hands and knees for.

 We soon spotted little mouse-ear in flower, followed by the unusual leaf structure of spring beauty (Claytonia perfoliata) which has leaves united in a whorl below the white flower. Nearby were the leaves of smooth cat’s-ear (Hypochaeris glabra) which has been identified as vulnerable on the Red List of vascular plants. Shepherd’s cress (Teesdalia nudicaulis) was in flower and is a member of the crucifer family. Then we found the pinkish-purple flowers of common stork’s-bill (Erodium cicutarium), then small cudweed (Logfia minima), another annual. The cudweeds Filago and Gnaphalium look very similar, but Filago has receptacle bracts mixed with the outer florets whilst there are no receptacle bracts in Gnaphalium. We also saw changing forget-me-not (Myosotis discolor), so called because the flowers are pale yellow or cream at first, becoming pink, violet or blue and bird’s-foot (Ornithopus perpusillus), which has small white flowers and is quite rare. Spring vetch (Vicia lathyroides), another member of the pea family has been recorded here before but we didn’t see it this time. A taller plant than the miniature delights was bugloss (Lycopsis arvensis), which was not yet in flower.

After lunch we drove a couple of miles to Hurst Plantation and an area called Brooks Wood which is a mixed plantation woodland on sandy soil. In the next field we noticed a farmer chain harrowing, throwing up large clouds of dust, which reminded us of the last few months of very dry weather. Hurst Plantation is a former sand quarry which has been allowed to regenerate naturally and includes some areas of open water. Amongst the woodland we recorded sanicle (Sanicula europaea) with its attractive palmately-lobed leaves, a first record for this tetrad, and hard-fern (Blechnum spicant), a rare sight in this part of South Yorkshire. Further round we recorded yellow pimpernel (Lysimachia nemorum), slender trefoil (Trifolium micranthum) and heath wood-rush (Luzula multiflorum) not quite in flower yet. In another wet area under willow scrub we saw sharp-flowered rush (Juncus acutiflorus) and pill sedge (Carex pilulifera).

 On the way back up the A1 I stopped off at Wentbridge church to see the masses of spring-sedge (Carex caryophyllea) flowering in the churchyard.

Photo credits : little mouse-ear photo by Jesse Tregale all others by Kay Woodward