Newsletter 2018

This section is for anything botanically related that will be of interest to members. Submit your comments or reports for inclusion to Louise Hill at or to

Canals, Plants and People: a Yorkshire Perspective

Canals, Plants and People: a Yorkshire Perspective
Author : Ray Goulder
Published : The People, Landscape and Cultural Environment Education and Research Centre. (PLACE)
Paperback : 222 pages and the authors coloured photographs Price : £10.50 + £3.00 p&p (£13.50)
Obtained from : Dr Margaret Atherden, PLACE Office, York St John University, Lord Mayor’s Walk, York YO31 7EX. Cheques to be payable to PLACE.

The author will be attending the South Yorkshire Natural History day at Treeton on the 23rd February, where copies of the book will be on sale.

A review of the book can be found on the COUNTY FLORA tag above

Geoffrey Wilmore 1941 - 2018

G.T.D. Wilmore passed away on Saturday 3rd November 2018 after a short illness. He was BSBI Honorary Recorder for VC63 from 1992 until December 2015.

Taken at Brockadale Nature Reserve in April 2015
Geoffrey Wilmore

Geoffrey Wilmore BA (HONS) FLS, a professional ecologist being well known in the botanical community at both local and national level. He had been employed for over twenty years in the Ecological Advisory Service of Bradford Metropolitan Council. He was a contributor to the National Vegetation Classification scheme, published as British Plant Communities (Rodwell 1991 et seq),  and was a coordinator of and a major contributor to the West Yorkshire Plant Atlas Project since its inception, and was a joint editor with Jack Lavin MBE when the volume was finally published by the City of Bradford Metropolitan Council in 1994.

He also produced the Alien Plants of Yorkshire for the Yorkshire Naturalists' Union in 2000  and was joint editor of the South Yorkshire Plant Atlas published by the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union in 2011.

He was a founder member of the South Yorkshire Botany Group in 2014.

As a tribute to Geoffrey, we have been given permission by the Bradford Botany Group to reproduce here an article from their bulletin written by Geoffrey.

Flowers of Spring-to-Leaves of Autumn - Cuttings from an Ecologist's Scrapbook

September 30th 2014 - Kay McDowell and I completed the last ecological survey of the season at Blacktoft Sands, the RSPB Reserve overlooking the River Humber and the Spurn Estuary. We were looking at various aspects of wetland plant ecology under a contract let through Natural England. This was, for me, quite a momentous occasion, for it marked the last commission I knew I would complete as a professional ecologist working for a customer. I had not come to this decision lightly; indeed, the thought of ending a career I have loved every minute of for the last forty years was a thought I chose to keep putting off and ignoring. But the years roll by, age (and minor infirmities) tell eventually, and I knew it was time to hang my professional boots up.

This contribution to the BBG Annual Review, therefore, is a look back at some of the interesting, humorous, mundane, exciting and even frightening episodes in the working life of this ecologist since it all began in 1974. Along the way, I have made many excellent and lasting friendships and various familiar names, (Kay’s already), will crop up as the narrative unfolds. The title took a little while to dream up. I wanted it to evoke something appropriate to ecology, and at the same time, give a feeling of snippets taken from the memory over the years. Then I recalled two great classics of world literature written in the nineteenth century. The first was Leaves of Grass - an anthology of verse by the great American poet, Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892) in which he celebrated nature, democracy, love and friendship throughout the formative years of the developing America. The second was Sketches from a Hunter’s Album by one of the four major Russian novelists of that period, Ivan Turgenev (1818 – 1883). This classic work comprises twenty five short stories about the rural world of Russia and country life before the emancipation of the serfs in 1861. Both these works have the countryside, the world of nature and the rural scene as significant and underlying themes. I felt I could not do better than crudely paraphrase each of them, separately, to form a composite title to my humble piece.

Before beginning on this forty year journey, however, a few introductory comments are necessary to set the scene. My early working life was spent in the chemical industry, where, eventually, my father’s family business was taken over by Jeyes Group (of the famous Jeyes Fluid) in the 1960s. I stayed with Jeyes for a further four years and then realised that I was ‘a square peg in a round hole,’ and unsuited to big business – so I left, to become a very mature student reading Geography at Leeds University in 1970. My interview with the Admissions Tutor was quite interesting. I remember he asked me – “Why do you want to study Geography, Mr. Wilmore ?” My answer was – “Because I like maps !” I don’t think the Admissions Tutor thought much of this response, especially when he noticed from my CV, that my school record showed that I didn’t have ‘O’ level (the precursor of GCSE) or ‘A’ level in Geography, - much less, indeed, I had only studied Geography for one year as an eleven year old, before being moved into the languages stream at secondary school. Luckily, I could demonstrate that I held a Certificate in Business Management, which amply satisfied the university entrance requirements. I must have been the only student in that freshmans’ year at Leeds to be studying Geography virtually from scratch, with no prior exam qualifications; apart from being easily the oldest member of the 70-strong intake.

After the normal three year degree course, I left with a reasonable honours degree. During those three years, however, my interest had been particularly fired by a course we did entitled ‘Vegetation and Soils’ – under Dr. Robert Eyre. This was wonderful, - we learned about British (as well as World) vegetation types, - looking at the topic from a phytosociological point of view – (it was before the advent of NVC), and went on many field trips. Phytosociology concerns the structure, composition and inter-relationships of different plant communities in a more general sense, and was the forerunner of the modern National Vegetation Classification system, which looks at all the separate component parts of different habitat formations and groupings (e.g., woodland, grassland, wetlands etc.,) in a far more detailed manner. The one year course on ‘Vegetation and Soils’ was, therefore, a powerful stimulant in my decision to try and eventually work in ecology.

After the degree course, I set about applying for ecological/wildlife related jobs, but initially with little success, as I had, obviously, no practical experience. During my final year at University, however, I had chosen as my thesis topic – ‘The urban development and growth of Keighley since the Enclosure Award in 1780’. This subject, being right on my doorstep, enabled me to use the facilities at Cliffe Castle Museum on a very regular basis – (I ended up having my own space in the library there). The staff, particularly Jack Lavin, the Senior Keeper of Natural History at the time, and Anne Ward, the Principal Keeper, were very helpful indeed and I ended up forming quite a rapport with them.

After the thesis was submitted and the degree course eventually completed, I approached Cliffe Castle again and asked if I could work there on a voluntary basis, while looking for permanent work. Anne Ward readily agreed to this and found me numerous jobs which initiated me into the workings and raison d’ĂȘtre of a Local Authority museum. I learned how to put on displays effectively, write captions and labels, and was also given the job of cataloguing all the books and other literature in the Cliffe Castle library. Eventually, by some sort of special dispensation, I became a lowly member of staff – the temporary Museum Assistant. From the first tentative approaches for voluntary work in July 1973, - we had now arrived into the Spring of 1974.

Those of us who are old enough (and the younger BBG members by hearsay), will recall that a major upheaval took place in April 1974, known as Local Government Reorganisation. In this redistribution of power and authority, Keighley became a part of the newly created Bradford Metropolitan District. Similarly, four more Metropolitan Districts were created in part of the old West Riding of Yorkshire – these were, obviously, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield. This Local Government Reorganisation proved to be a boon to me. As a result, the staffing structure at Cliffe Castle changed dramatically, because existing museum staff at the various Bradford Museums were integrated into the system and assumed/took over new roles. Thus, Margaret Hartley, originally Keeper of Natural History in the Bradford set up, became Senior Keeper of Natural History for all the Bradford Met. District museums, and she came to be based at Cliffe Castle. Jack Lavin, the former Senior Keeper, meanwhile, had negotiations with the ‘powers that be’ and, to cut a long story short, he was given the go ahead to set up and develop a Biological Recording and Environmental facility and Database, covering Bradford Met. District. This new unit came into being on April 1st 1974 and became known as the Biological Data Bank, and Jack Lavin became the Field Officer.

Those of you who attended my evening Powerpoint presentation on Alien Plants – An Ecological Perspective in March 2013, will recall that I made the point that ecology was a relatively new science, having been developed by Sir Arthur Tansley and others in the early 20th century. In terms of local government, in the 1970s, it was a very new science indeed. In fact, Jack Lavin, with the foresight to negotiate and set up a biological data recording unit in Bradford Council, became a trail blazer in this field, - all credit to him ! The Bradford Biological Data Bank was, indeed, one of the very first such units in local government in England.

As I say, we opened for business on April 1st 1974, and I became Jack Lavin’s unofficial assistant in carrying out our first surveys. I had been in the right place, fortuitously, at the right time. The first major task that had to be embarked upon by the newly formed Bradford Biological Data Bank, based at Cliffe Castle Museum in Keighley, was a habitat survey of all land parcels in Bradford Metropolitan District. At that stage, in 1974, agreement had not yet been reached to provide an ecological service to the other four West Yorkshire Districts. That followed later.

Starting with a clean sheet of paper, as it were, it was necessary to map and annotate all land throughout Bradford District. This meant a broad Phase 1 Survey of every field; piece of woodland; areas of moorland and heath; open water and marshland; urban (built-up) areas; parkland and amenity zones (golf courses, playing fields etc.,; waste ground and marginal land. We also had to plot river and canal courses, hedgerows, walls and fences. To achieve all this, we went out into the field armed with photocopies of large 6 inch to the mile (1 : 10560) Ordnance Survey maps, folded to fit our A4 clipboards. The survey was conducted using English Nature’s prescribed Phase 1 Habitat notation, which was a colour coded system, in which different habitats had different colours, thus making map interpretation easier. So, deciduous woodland was dark green; coniferous woodland was light green; wetlands were blue; heathlands and moorlands purple; grasslands were orange; urban areas shaded in black, and so on. Letter codes were also used to identify different types of habitat – so SNG became ‘Semi-Neutral Grassland’; AG was ‘Acidic Grassland’; WH – ‘Wet Heath’ i.e,. with cotton grass abundant; DH – ‘Dry Heath’ with heather abundant etc., etc.

You will quickly realise that surveying on a ‘broad-brush’ scale was far more efficiently carried out from suitable vantage points. Thus, high points of Haworth Moor were excellent in viewing the surrounding landscape, and, when, in a year or two, we came to perform a similar Phase 1 exercise in Kirklees (Huddersfield) District, then the heights of Almondbury Hill Fort were fantastic. You could see half the world from up there – or more correctly, almost all of a 6 inch map!

One hazard of the job was, of course, having to carry an assortment of coloured pencils. With natural wastage and the inevitable losses, we went through phenomenal amounts of coloured pencils. One assistant we employed on contract for a year, was working with me one day and suddenly lost his dark green coloured pencil down an open manhole. We could see it floating merrily three or four feet down in murky water, but there was no way of reaching it.

The lad looked at me, very crestfallen, and blurted out : “ I’ve lost me pencil ! What do I do ?” To which I replied – “ Well, improvise ! Write on the map what colour your habitat should be !” “ Oh ! Will that be alright ?” he said. What he didn’t know at that stage was that the rough field copies of our maps had to be accurately copied on to original 6” maps before being sent to English Nature. All this happened long before the advent of computerised GIS (Geographical Information Systems), so the winter months following the first summer’s field work were spent laboriously colouring in, by hand, the various habitats to the prescribed English Nature notation.

One important feature of the Phase 1 Survey was the identification of more diverse habitats of greater ecological significance. The major criterion here was botanical diversity, although areas with varied bird life, such as reservoirs, or herb-rich meadows which attracted plentiful butterflies and moths were similarly important. These richer habitats were identified on the map, and target noted, using a small red biro circle with a dot inside it; a short target note detailing the important features of the ‘site’ was then written and accompanied the map. These target notes then formed the basis of what came to be known as ‘second tier’ sites, which would then be surveyed in more detail at a later date, in the evaluation of potential Sites of Scientific Interest (SSIs) – (now known as Local Wildlife Sites (LWS)) - but more of that later. We also received much information of more diverse sites from English Nature, the Local Authority itself, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and, indeed, the general public. With all due respect to the general public, some of the potentially valuable wildlife sites notified to us, were somewhat marginal, to say the least. I remember one candidate for inclusion was – a kestrel which had been seen to perch on a Millstone Grit face in a quarry for ten minutes; another was, - over 1,000 fieldfares which had congregated on the roundabout of the newly opened Kildwick –Skipton bypass at Silsden. There must have been standing room only! And how on earth did the observer count them? Were the birds ‘frozen’ at a point in time!

Returning to the office after fieldwork, and spending a lot of time catching up on report writing and map colouring in the winter months, part of the daily tasks also included inputting all the botanical data we had recorded, on to the computer. Let me say, straightaway, that, compared with the sophisticated computer technology we have now, (where we can access anywhere or anything in the world instantly, at the touch of a button or by a touch screen, using a gadget the size of a large matchbox) the computer technology in 1975 was veritably stone-age, or even dinosaurian ! Very soon after the Biological Data Bank came into being, Jack Lavin was negotiating the delivery of a ‘state-of-the-art’ computer from the Council’s Computer Division. Well, the auspicious day arrived when we took delivery! Now the general office where three or four staff worked – myself, the survey assistant and our admin. girl, Debbie, - was roughly square in shape, and, at a guess (if my memory serves me correctly) – of about 20 feet x 20 feet dimensions. The computer was carried into the office by four men, squeezing it through the door with an inch or two to spare, and installed along the far wall of the office, where it came to rest, occupying around 18 feet of the 20 foot length of the office wall, and jutting out probably three or four feet into the room.

This was truly a behemoth of 1970s technology! We all stared aghast at the sheer size and apparent complexity of the contraption. Apart from the computer keyboard, (about the size of a large typewriter keyboard), there was a huge paper tray rising at an angle of forty-five degrees towards the wall, from the main substance of the machine. This paper tray would carry vast supplies of perforated computer paper, which was churned out whenever any print outs were required. We were all, of course, eager to see the behemoth in operation and eventually the computer technician had everything wired up and pressed the switch! A fairly quiet humming sound proceeded from the innards of the machine, which eventually developed into a low semi-rumbling noise, while two or three lights of various colours flickered or lit up in unison. When he had linked us in to the mainframe computer down at Computer Division in Bradford, he proceeded to instruct us in the nitty-gritty of inputting data, printing it off, and even (get this for progress!) the printing of distribution maps of West Yorkshire plotting the occurrence of different species.

The computer team stayed with us until we had all practised for around half an hour on this new technology and then, when we felt moderately confident (with the added assistance of a sizeable computer manual) to ‘go it alone’, they left, assuring us that they were at the other end of the ‘phone if we should get really stuck!

Needless to say, after they had departed, for the rest of the day, Jack and Debbie played around on the machine for some considerable time, and everything seemed to be going swimmingly. Then I was able to try my hand. I have been safely ensconced at the keyboard for around ten minutes when I heard this thunderous shout from Jack, behind me:

“ Whoa! Geoff, (Jack always referred to me as Geoff), Quick, switch everything off. The machine’s on fire!! And, Debbie, open those windows!” And, indeed, smoke was slowly puffing out from the rear of the behemoth and curling up to the ceiling. The business end of the computer, housing all the working ‘gubbins’, was red hot!

The Phase 1 field-by-field Survey of Bradford Metropolitan District, mentioned in Part 2, took two field seasons (1974 and 1975) to complete, when just Jack Lavin and myself tackled the job in its entirety. Map colouring, species and ecological documentation then occupied us (largely myself) during much of the two winter periods (1974/5 and 1975/6). The finished maps, neatly produced on substantial 6” to the mile originals, were then presented to English Nature’s Wakefield Office, and were gratefully received.

The overall aim and purpose of the newly formed Biological Data Bank was, however, to provide an ecological service and biological data provision for all the five Districts of West Yorkshire. During the winter periods, therefore, of 1974 and 1975, Jack was constantly occupied in setting up meetings with planning chiefs and other high ranking officials in the other four Districts of the Metropolitan county, and securing funding to carry out surveys on their behalf. During the winter periods, when agreement was reached with the various Districts to provide a funded ecological service, deadlines and time scales were also set by the Districts when initial Phase 1 Surveys should be completed. It became quickly apparent that Jack and I, a field staff of two, would need reinforcements to assist with future surveys in 1976 and beyond. Thus began a series of appointments over the ensuing years, of young ecological assistants who were employed largely on fixed-term contracts, usually for six months or a year, with the option of extensions. A number of these new appointees were drawn from the Environmental Sciences faculty of Bradford University. Jack eventually became more involved with his primary role of running the Data Bank and furthering its development in the wider sense across West Yorkshire, and less so with the hands-on practical fieldwork aspects of the job. My role evolved, therefore, as being virtually wholly involved with fieldwork and ecological evaluation. In this regard, it fell to me to take the young ecological appointees out and train them in the basic aspects of plant survey and ecological principles, and, importantly, to ensure, as far as possible, that they all followed and adhered to a prescribed and standardised survey technique – i.e., that we all ‘sang from the same hymn sheet.’

Over the twenty years that I remained at the Biological Data Bank (later known as The West Yorkshire Ecological Advisory Service), I must have taken over twenty young ecological aspirants out on field work. A number of these people have progressed and furthered their careers to a high level since those early days. I would like to particularly mention three ; the first, Jennie (later Dr. Jennie) Chapman was particularly keen and as sharp as a needle, and, indeed, kept me up to scratch if I missed or overlooked any details or queries that she asked about. Eventually, I recall, Jennie became a high-ranking research academic at Cambridge University. The second ecological trainee, Elizabeth (Liz) Newton, was with us for several years and eventually moved on to a high position (I believe Principal Ecologist) with the then Countryside Commission, and was based in the North of England. The third person, and the one whose career I have followed particularly and with much interest, is Andrew Barker. Andy, as he was, and is, known to everyone, came from an absolutely non-ecological background as a shop assistant at one of Dixons’ computer and video stores in Kingston-on-Thames in Surrey. He seemed, on the face of it, a most unlikely candidate either for interview, or appointment. He showed, however, such enthusiasm and commitment at interview, that he was appointed and commenced work with us in November 1990. At that unlikely and unpropitious time of year for field work, Jack suggested that I take him out on Haworth Moor, to show him the most relentless and unforgiving habitat assemblages possible, - to really indoctrinate him into the exigencies of extreme ecological survey. We tramped through mire and bog, heathland and tussocky Molinia sward, (and it rained cats-and-dogs into the bargain), but none of this phased him in the least. In the end, when Jack Lavin retired from the EAS in 1993, Andrew took over as Head of the Unit, and when Bradford Council eventually closed the Service down later in the 1990s because of economic cutbacks, he moved to a Bradford-based environmental consultancy firm, Bullens, becoming, eventually, Principal Ecologist there. But that is not the end of his story. He moved from strength to strength, and in the late 1990s he joined AECOM, a globally important Environmental and Construction business, where he is now the Managing Director of their European operation. Thus, three young people who started out in ecology and made good – I like to think I had a small part to play in their initial training.

To go back to the 1970s and 1980s, which I consider were the really productive years of the Biological Data Bank, we formed valuable associations with several people who have been and still are integral and important members of Bradford Botany Group. Leslie Barnett heard of our existence in the 1970s, and came to see us and began contributing a stream of plant data from his local area of Esholt and its environs. Phyl Abbott got in touch with us in the 1970s and alerted us to the fact that Roach Lime Hills, near Garforth in Leeds District, contained the very rare autumn ladies-tresses (Spiranthes spiralis), plus a host of other ‘goodies’, and she later became a member of the Editorial team on The West Yorkshire Plant Atlas Project; while Jill Lucas met up with me when we were both involved with the Huddersfield Narrow Canal with its nationally important populations of floating water-plantain (Luronium natans), and Jill subsequently assisted greatly with surveys and data gathering in Kirklees District generally. Geoffrey Barker, a former long-standing member of BBG, was also a frequent contributor of plant records from his local Baildon area and further afield, and Brian Byrne, our esteemed Vice-President, and the late Geoffrey Appleyard, were instrumental in swelling our database with, particularly, information and records of trees; while Jesse Tregale had recently joined the BBG in those days and started to accumulate data for his famous hectad – SE13, which he freely donated to us. In the mid-1980s, when the plant database at EAS had swelled to a considerable extent, Jack and I took the decision to produce a Flora or Plant Atlas of West Yorkshire. All the above mentioned people contributed enormously to this exercise, and Les Barnett, indeed, marshalled all the forces of BBG to give a concerted effort to plant recording for this Project. I would like, very belatedly, to sincerely thank everyone mentioned here for their sterling efforts all those years ago. The West Yorkshire Plant Atlas was produced eventually by Bradford Council in 1994, and all the data contributors are acknowledged.

The Phase 1 comprehensive surveys of the remaining four Districts of West Yorkshire – Leeds, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield, utilising the English Nature Habitat notation, - were completed in 1980, utilising, as mentioned above, several ecological assistants on temporary contracts. We then were able to concentrate on those particular habitats and sites, identified during Phase 1 Survey and target noted, which were floristically or faunally richer (see Part 2 of this article in BBG Annual Review 2016). These were primarily known as ‘second tier sites’ and required more detailed survey and evaluation, together with the compilation of individual plant species lists, as well as noting ornithological, invertebrate, bryophyte and fungal interest and importance, where appropriate. Their ‘official’ designation, at the time, was Sites of Scientific Interest (SSI), but this designation rapidly caused confusion with the English Nature nationally recognised Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), so these regional SSIs became known as Local Wildlife Sites (LWS), and that appellation is still used currently. The survey of these so-called SSIs (LWS) across the county, took two or three years, until the mid-1980s, and we ended up with around 135 chosen sites which were put forward for designation by the various Local Authorities and adopted, on our recommendation. A selection of important and well established sites included, in the five Districts – i) Holme House Wood, Beechcliffe Ings, Old Hills (Bingley), Trench Meadows (Shipley) and the Leeds-Liverpool Canal (part) – in Bradford District; ii) Roach Lime Hills, Townclose Hills, Mad Banks and Ledsham Banks – in Leeds District ; iii) Rochdale Canal, North Dean Wood, Elland Park Wood, Hardcastle Crags and Broadhead Clough – in Calderdale District ; iv) Huddersfield Narrow Canal, Honley Wood, Lepton Great Wood and Storthes Hall Wood – in Kirklees District ; v) Newmillerdam, Stanley Marsh, Stanley Ferry Flash, disused Barnsley Canal, Wintersett and Anglers Country Park – in Wakefield District. Out of the above selected list, several were subsequently recommended by us to English Nature as potential SSSIs, and were thus designated in due course – these included Roach Lime Hills, Townclose Hills, Mad Banks, Ledsham Banks, Trench Meadows, part of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal (the eastern section in Leeds District), Broadhead Clough and Old Hills (Bingley).

An integral part of the ecological evaluation process in respect of the above SSIs/LNRs, and, indeed of SSSIs themselves, was the use of what became known as the Ratcliffe Criteria. Dr. Derek Ratcliffe, who I had the good fortune to meet on two or three occasions, (a polymath if ever there was one!), was English Nature’s Chief Scientist in the 1970s and 1980s, and wrote the classic A Nature Conservation Review, published in 1977, which gave an in-depth appraisal of all the major habitats worthy of ecological conservation in the British Isles, including a discussion of the ecological criteria required to make correct value judgements on the habitats and sites involved. These ecological criteria are crucial to overall evaluation and are used to this day, although under the guise of a slightly altered format devised by DEFRA. In essence, there are eight major factors to take into account when assessing a site’s value. The first i) is Diversity – the diversity of habitats, vegetation communities, species (both flora and fauna), - i.e., the overall species richness exhibited by the site; ii) the second is Representativeness, i.e., how typical are the vegetational/habitat components, and here the NVC community descriptions are of great value in informing one’s decision ; iii) the third is Rarity, which is self-evident, if a site contains rare communities or several rare species, then, obviously it is important ; iv) the fourth is Naturalness, - how ‘natural’ looking is the site or habitat (given that there are virtually no totally ‘natural’ sites or habitats left in the British Isles at the present time) ; v) the fifth is Fragility, - this applies particularly to wetland habitats, (open water, marshland etc.,) where pollution, drainage, the spread of aggressive alien wetland plants or simply a succession of hot, dry summers, like we had in the 1990s can alter or destroy the habitat and thus lower or remove its value ; vi) the sixth is Position in an Ecological Unit, i.e., Connectivity – is the prospective site linked with or connected to another valuable site, so that the whole can be taken as one unit ? Species-rich hedgerows or narrow tracts of woodland linking two other rich habitats can satisfy this function ; vii) the seventh is Recorded History, - is there good and authentic recorded historical documentation about the site, going back many years ? ; viii) finally, the eighth, and one devised more recently by DEFRA, is Educational Value, - does the site or habitat fulfil a viable educational role for school parties, as a training ground for undergraduates at University etc. If one or more of these criteria apply to the site or habitat in question, then it becomes a candidate for serious ecological evaluation.

Concurrently with the SSI surveys, we made another important contact, this time with Dr. John Rodwell (later Professor Rodwell) of Lancaster University who had been appointed to superintend and lead the collection, collation and dissemination of NVC (National Vegetation Classification) data (see Part 1 of this article in BBG Annual Review 2015). John Rodwell came to Keighley on several occasions to discuss the input of suitably structured vegetational data into the NVC system, and over the next several years, we made important contributions in respect of woodland, grassland and wetland communities, in particular. John remained with the NVC Project to its conclusion and, indeed, personally, wrote a huge proportion of the seminal work which eventually appeared as British Plant Communities – Vols 1 – 5, produced by Cambridge University Press.

Undertaking field survey can sometimes present the surveyor with difficult, challenging, frightening or simply humorous situations and encounters. A number of these come to mind, involving various members of the survey team over the years, including myself. To look at some of my own ‘incidents’ – I was working on my own on the first Leeds-Liverpool Canal survey in the early 1980s in the Keighley area, - happily walking along the towpath and writing species information and notes on my survey sheets on the clipboard, when, not looking ... I suddenly stepped into thin air and descended feet first into the muddy waters of the canal ! It was a warm day, - I stank to high heaven, had to go home and get bathed and completely changed, and the survey data were completely ruined. Another incident, also walking along the towpath of the L-L Canal, this time in Calverley some years later, when a colleague and I heard a distinct droning noise. In the distance, behind us, we saw a dense black cloud flying towards us about six feet above the ground. My colleague started running for dear life, while I fell flat on my stomach on the towpath, and a huge swarm of bees passed noisily overhead. I have also encountered fierce-looking dogs, - rottweilers, Alsatians, running loose, again on various canal towpaths, not to mention horses galloping towards me in various fields, and stopping short a foot or two away, snorting, and pawing the ground. Also, when surveying farmers’ fields, with permission, the farmers have told me, more than once – “There’s a bull in the field, lad, but he’s placid, he’ll not bother you !” - Likely ! I was always wary after that.

During the 1990s, Local Government faced serious cutbacks throughout Great Britain generally, and Bradford Council was no exception. Various departments began to shed staff by either early retirement (Jack Lavin at EAS in 1993), or by voluntary severance (myself at EAS in 1995). So, after twenty one years at the Biological Data Bank/Ecological Advisory Service, I found myself (albeit with good severance pay and a Local Government pension) adrift and temporarily jobless. The only job I knew was as an Ecologist, so I set myself up as a Freelance Consultant. As good luck would have it, Dr. Margaret Bignall, (who had worked at the EAS for a while as a temporary surveyor, following a spell at English Nature) had recently before set up in business as an Ecological Consultant herself. Within a month of leaving the Unit in May 1995, Margaret contacted me and asked if I would be interested in participating in an ecological survey of Local Wildlife Sites in Doncaster Met. District ! So began the next phase of my career outside local government.

The Doncaster survey work was an excellent start and over the next few years I forged a good working relationship with the staff at Doncaster Council. Also, I met up with a certain Louise Hill in 1995, who had approached Colin Howes, the Keeper of Natural History at Doncaster Museum to enquire if there were any ecological jobs going, after she had left University. Colin got in touch with Margaret Bignall, who then approached me, and asked if I would be happy to take Louise with me on survey and ‘show her the ropes.’ Louise proved a very quick learner and we worked together through that 1995 survey programme, and again in the follow-up Doncaster survey, around nine years later. Louise and I have worked together periodically since then, and have kept in touch to this day. She now runs her own ecological consultancy in Doncaster. I also mentioned Kay McDowell at the beginning of Part One of this article (BBG Annual Review, 2015). Kay joined the BBG several years ago and proved to be the last of my trainees. She christened herself ‘The Apprentice’, and, like Louise was a quick learner and worked with me mainly on surveys for East Yorkshire Council. BBG members will no doubt have read one or two pieces about surveying that she has contributed to the Annual Review in recent years.

Consultancy work in recent years has been varied and interesting. I have worked for both North and East Yorkshire Council on Local Wildlife Site surveys; the Department of the Environment; the Highways Agency; the Ministry of Defence; the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust; and, particularly, for English Nature, (now Natural England). I should also mention Jeff Lunn, until fairly recently the Regional Manager for the Yorkshire and Humber Region of Natural England, formerly based in Wakefield and latterly in Leeds. Jeff and I go back right to the time when he came to West Yorkshire in the mid 1980s. He has always been an excellent work colleague and a good friend. It was a real pleasure to me when he and John Rodwell collaborated so successfully and fruitfully with me in the recent production of The South Yorkshire Plant Atlas.

My ecological journey has run its course. I can look back with great pleasure on a wonderful career spanning forty years, during which I made very many good friends, and the highlight of which, for me personally, was my election to Fellowship of the august Linnean Society in 1996.

Geoffrey Wilmore


David Broughton is (BSBI) Vice-County Recorder for Huntingdonshire (VC31) and Mid-West Yorkshire (VC64). He set-up a botany blog 'to more readily share news on recent wildflower discoveries made by myself and others, to encourage wider recording, and as a way to challenge myself to take more photographs of the plants I find'.

In 2016 he entered in his blog a review of Burdocks which you may find interesting and useful.

Click on the link below to read it.

An appeal for samples of Musk Mallow (Malva moschata)

Michael Wilcox from the BSBI is undertaking a study of this taxa.

Malva moschata is a frequent plant. In Stace (2010), it mentions that there are possible hybrids with M. alcea that arise in gardens. Anyone seeing M. moschata please could you send a flowering specimen with relevant details. [If you do see the introduced M. alcea, a specimen would be useful].  Preferably fresh/flowering or fruiting if later.

On collecting a sample, email for details of where to send the sample(s).

A new tip for Scaly-male Fern ID from Tony Church

Specimens and photographs demonstrate an additional character to help with identification in the Dryopteris affinis complex. The technique confirms D. affinis subsp. affinis, and offers some help with the other taxa. It is especially useful for otherwise indeterminate young plants.

Pinnule venation viewed through a lens against the light provides valuable diagnostic information. A single pinna (preferably infertile) should be viewed with the upper surface towards the eye.

In D. affinis subsp. affinis the pinnule midrib and all lateral veins appear perfectly translucent and of consistent breadth to the margin of the lamina.

In borreri and filixmas only the midrib is semi-translucent, and often becomes obscure towards the tip; lateral veins are hard to see for much of their length because rows of green cells within reduce the area of translucency.

Cambrensis is intermediate in these respects, but laterals usually appear to reach the margin, often broadening out there into an obovate translucent area. They also fork more freely, the basal lateral on the side facing the rachis having generally five or more segments, while normal affinis has at most four and usual forms of borreri two or three.

Angus Hannah Recorder VC100 (Clyde Isles)
BSBI / BSS Scottish Annual Meeting 2017– Abstracts
Read below the full article

The ferns of the Dryopteris affinis complex (scaly males) have caused many difficulties to recorders and are inconsistently recorded across Scotland. It is hoped that use of an additional character can make identification a bit less difficult, at least in some cases, and help towards more systematic and accurate recording of these difficult taxa.

Pinnule venation can help to distinguish the three common members of the Dryopteris affinis aggregate, D. affinis subsp affinis, D. borreri and D. cambrensis subsp. cambrensis. Viewing a pinnule against the light through a hand-lens can often suggest a diagnosis or help to confirm one already indicated by other characters. A similar effect is achieved with condensed bottom lighting through a binocular microscope at x20, so any specimens collected can be studied or photographed at leisure. The method only works using fresh material. A single (infertile) pinna should be removed from the lower part of the frond and viewed with the upper surface towards the eye (in sunshine it is necessary to shade the pinnule while viewing). Attention should be focused on pinnules close to the rachis.

In affinis subsp. affinis all the secondary and tertiary (lateral) veins of the pinnule, as well as the slightly broader central vein, will appear perfectly translucent and of consistent breadth throughout their length, to the margin of the lamina. This character state is consistent in affinis at all ages, and is therefore especially useful in determining juvenile plants, something which is impossible by other characters as these are insufficiently manifested at that stage.

D. affinis subsp. affinis

In most forms of borreri by contrast (and also in fil-mas), when a pinnule is similarly viewed only the main vein along the midrib is conspicuous and partially translucent, and even it is usually obscure in the distal quarter of the pinnule; the lateral veins appear variable in width and become almost opaque in parts, and so are much less obvious. At higher magnification it is apparent that this results from rows of green cells running parallel to the vein inside the margin and narrowing the area of translucent cells to such an extent that in places the lateral veins are scarcely visible with a hand lens. Lateral veins appear to reach the margin less consistently in these taxa, but the micro12 15 scope shows this to be largely an impression resulting from their opacity. Sometimes the lateral veins broaden out into an obovate translucent area towards the margin of the lamina. Borreri is a complex taxon with several variants, but the common forms do not have lobes on the pinnule margins (cf. cambrensis below) and lateral veins seldom fork more than once or twice at most before reaching the margin.

D. borreri 
In cambrensis subsp. cambrensis (the usual taxon) the veining is somewhat intermediate between that of affinis and borreri, in that the lateral veins are fairly clear right to the edge of the pinnule, but are generally narrower and do not have the pure translucency of affinis. As in borreri there is often a broader translucent area in the vein near the pinnule margin. Because the pinnules are usually more lobed than in the other taxa, the lateral veins of cambrensis appear more curved and are more inclined to fork; particularly on pinnules adjacent to the rachis the lowest lobe may have up to a dozen tertiary veins reaching the margin. Sometimes affinis has a lobe in this position, but seldom with more than half a dozen tertiary veins, and these are always more easily seen than those of cambrensis. Some forms of borreri also have a lobe here, but the overall form of the pinnule is usually distinctive. The basal (i.e. nearest rachis) basioscopic (downward pointing) pinnule in cambrensis is usually stalked and cordate at the base, in contrast to that of affinis, which is usually partially adnate on the side away from the rachis.

cambrensis subsp. cambrensis 
As with all critical taxa, no single character should be relied on for identification, but taken along with such as pinnule outline, stipe thickness and scaliness, and frond stiffness and glossiness as well as indusium characters in season, venation can be very helpful in making a determination.

D. filix-mas

My thanks to Tony Church for showing me this character and guiding me through some of the subtleties of these taxa, which he knows far better than I do.

Tony has very kindly offered to comment informally on any specimens sent to him. He needs one entire, fresh infertile pinna from near the base of the frond (in addition, a fertile one from the same frond is helpful if available).
Seal in a plastic bag with grid-ref written on it and include your e-mail address for reply.
Post (second class is fine) to: Island Bank Cottage, Lamlash, Isle of Arran KA27 8LG.

Shire Brook Survey SK4184 (SK48c)
29 April 2018

A botanical survey of Shire Brook, near Sheffield lying within SK4184 (SK48c) was carried out on a dry, cool and cloudy spring day to add to the records for Atlas 2020. An on-site car park provides parking for many vehicles, but no facilities are available.
It is an area in which many locals walk their dogs, cycle and jog around the well-maintained footpaths. A site map is available detailing the many walking routes around the site.

Carr Forge Dam

 The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the finding of Arrowhead (Sagittaria sagittifolia) growing at the edge of the Carr Forge Dam.

Arrowhead (Sagittaria sagittifolia)

As expected, there were many trees in full blossom to be enjoyed, some I am still trying to identify. In an area of heathland, in which the heather was well established, grasses, woodrush and sedges were beginning to show.

Wild Cherry (Prunus avium)

A St John’s Wort provide difficult to determine as it showed the characteristics of two species, so was considered a hybrid. The Common Whitlowgrass (Erophila verna agg.) is awaiting determination but is probably E. glabrescens.
Many plants are still without flowers, so identification in the vegetative state proved beyond me.

Cuckoo Flower (Cardamine pratensis)

 Les Coe

 Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus ) Alder (Alnus glutinosa) Silver Birch (Betula pendula) Hazel (Corylus avellane) Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) Holly (Ilex aquifolium) Wild Cherry (Prunus avium) Bird Cherry (Prunus padus) Blackthorn (Prunus spinose) Oak (Quercus robur) Goat Willow (Salix caprea) Elder (Sambucus nigra)

 Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis) P Annual Meadow Grass (Poa annua)


Field Woodrush (Luzula campestris)

 Yarrow (Achillea milleforlium) Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolate) Ramson (Allium ursinum) Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) Lords & Ladies (Arum maculatum) Daisy (Bellis perennis) Heather (Calluna vulgaris) Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) Wavy Bittercress (Cardamine flexuosa) Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsute) Cuckoo Flower (Cardamine pratensis) Rosebay Willowherb (Chamerion angustifolia) Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) Common Whitlowgrass (Erophila verna agg.) Celadine (Ficaria verna) Hedge Bedstraw (Galium album) Cleavers (Galium aparine) Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum) Cut-leaved Cranesbill (Geranium dissectum) Shining Cranesbill (Geranium lucidum) Dove’s-foot Cranesbill (Geranium mole) Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) St John’s Wort (Hypericum sp.) Soft Rush (Juncus effuses) White Dead Nettle (Lamium album) Dog’s Mercury (Mercurians perennis) Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolate) Hoary Plantain (Plantago media) Cowslip (Primula veris) Primrose (Primula vulgaris) Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) Curled Dock (Rumex cripus) Broad-leaved Dock (Rumex obtusifolius) Arrowhead (Sagittaria sagittifolia) Biting Stonecrop (Sedum acre) Red Campion (Silene dioica) White Comfrey (Symphytum orientale) Dandelion (Taraxacum agg.) Bulrush (Typha latifolia) Hairy Tare (Vicia hirsute) Common Vetch (Vicia sativa agg.) Common Dog Violet (Viola riviniana)

 Broad Buckler Fern (Dryopteris dilatate) Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum)

Erophila majuscula (Hairy Whitlowgrass)

Whilst looking for flowers in a limestone quarry in Lindrick Dale, Anston (SK539821) during April 2017, I photographed a plant that I subsequently mis-identified and posted the picture on the BSBI South Yorkshire Botany Group Flickr site. I had a response from Ken Balkow with a suggestion that the plant was Erophila majuscule

Being Curious about this unfamiliar species, I checked the South Yorkshire Plant Atlas for the distribution of this species. Here it states that all records of Erophila sp. would be treated as E. verna agg. So, there was no guidance there for previous finds or distribution of E. majuscula.

I checked with Louise Hill (VC63 recorder) who reported “The guidance for the BSBI ATLAS 2020 project is to record as Erophila verna agg. UNLESS identified to one of the three segregates - including glabrescens, majuscula and verna.” She was happy to record the specimen found as E. majuscula.

Erophila majuscula (SK539821)

In early April of this year (2018) I was in Anston Stones Wood looking for spring flowers which were somewhat late in putting in an appearance. I moved on to the grassland in Little Stones (SK526836) where there are some large limestone outcrops. It was on one of these outcrops that I noticed a small white flower only 2.5 cm in height. The resulting photograph was again posted to a Flickr group called ‘Flora of the British Isles: A Photographic Guide’. This drew the response that the plant was again E. majuscula, with a confirmation provided by Tim Rich.

Erophila majuscula (SK526836)
Erophila majuscula (SK526836)

I returned to the site a couple of days later to see if the species covered a wider area. I observed that the species had spread along the outcrops over a distance of 30 mts and I counted some 40 plus plants, the largest of which stood only 2.5 cm high, whilst the smallest were just tiny closed flower heads poking through the moss.

A few days later in April, I visited Barrow Hills N R, Nottinghamshire (SK682917) where I photographed another Erophila species that had well developed fruits and that had similarities with E. majuscule, but I was not confident with they were the same species, especially as there was such a difference in habitat, so referred my photograph to Louise Hill for her opinion.

Her response was “Judging by the greenness, relative hairless-ness of the upper stem, long(ish) 'leaf stalk' and the fact that the petals appear to be split for at least 1/2 their length, this one could be Erophila verna.  Some botanists split this species into two varieties.  var verna is noted for the oblong to oblanceolate fruits - which your specimen has.”  The fruits of   var. praecox are broadly elliptic to orbicular, most tipically twice as long as broad or less (from BSBI Plant Crib).
Erophila majuscula (SK682917)

On checking my photographic records I found that I had previously recorded Erophila verna agg. at two sites in Lound, Nottinghamshire in April 2016 (SK697863) and (SK711874). This specimen also has many of the features of E. Verna var verna. and also had a sandy habitat similar to that found at Barrow Hills.

Erophila verna agg. (SK697863)

Erophila verna agg. (SK711874)

Erophila verna agg. (SK711874)
My thanks to VC 63 recorder Louise Hill for her help and patience in answering my many emails in connection with this report. Louise also guided me to the BSBI Plant Crib for Erophila sp., to be found on-line at
You might also find useful to be consulted alongside the Plant Crib description.

My thanks also to the Flickr group and their knowledgeable member Peter, who managed to get Tim Rich to look at my photo and confirm the ID.

In conclusion, if in early April you spot a small white flower, having a basal rosette of hairy leaves, a leafless stem, and bifid petals and a rather hairy appearance, try Erophila species, but be aware that in “Crucifers of Great Britain and Ireland” BSBI Handbook No 6, it warns that ‘Erophila is a critical genera that requires careful observation and often some experience for correct identification’.

Erophila majuscula update (April 2018)

Ken Balkow suggested that the Barrow Hills plant showed similar features to E. majuscula and that I should consult the VC56 recorder, Mark Woods. Mark requested that I collect a sample from site and send it to him. As there were numerous plants on the site, a few samples were collected, dried and dispatched to Mark.

He was then able to confirm a positive determination for E. majuscula stating that this was a new record for VC56 Nottinghamshire

Les Coe

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