Saturday, 10 November 2018

More on Thorne Moors

I have learned more about Thorne Moors - since my post 

It is part of Humberhead Peatlands National Nature Reserve

Find out more at the Thorne and Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum -

Thorne Moors is the largest Lowland Raised Mire in England, Hatfield Moors it's neighbour the second largest.  Thorne is also known for Large Heath Butterfly, Bembidion humerale and Curimopsis nigrita, two beetles found only on the Humberhead Peatlands (a modern generic term for Thorne, Hatfield and the smaller local Turbaries in the Isle of Axholme), nowhere else in the UK.

Thorne Moors is mainly in South Yorkshire with north of Blackwater Dyke in East Riding Yorkshire and east of Swinefleet Warping Drain is in North Lincolnshire. 

Thorne Moors - Pilgrimage - to the Raised bog (remains of) beyond Doncaster

Have you ever been to Thorne Moors? It used to be referred to as Thorne Waste on old maps. 


Thorne Moors - a former raised peat bog in East Yorkshire. To me, a mythical place.. where campaigns were held in the 1980s  to try to save it from total destruction for peat extraction.. (More notes in my next post)

Beyond and east of Doncaster. South of Goole. Beyond beyond.

(Note:- this article is being written by a Yorkshire person who lives at another end of Yorkshire, to the far west.)

Thorne is 2.5 hours drive away from Settle -  I live 6 miles from the source of the River Aire - and amazingly Thorne Moors is 8 miles from  the mouth of the Aire into the Ouse. (Six miles  beyond that, the Trent and the Ouse join to become the Humber.) 

In the 1980s  (and 1990s) I remember campaigns to try and save an area of raised bog in east Yorkshire, far away beyond Doncaster, that was being strip mined for peat by Fisons. It was a relic of the area of wet marshes and bogs of the Humberside Levels that had been a barrier to transport communications in the Middle Ages ..  until drained by Dutch engineers to give what is now grade 1 arable land. Rare plants had grown on this bog long ago such as the Rannoch Rush.

Peat was dug for centuries for fuel, leaving pools that became colonised by the surrounding Sphagna and vegetation. Larger pools were dug in the 19th C. and the peat taken by train to London for use for bedding for horses.

Cars were invented so it was no longer needed for the horses and peat digging dramatically reduced. Then Fisons bought it and just stripped the area of peat with mechanised means.

(Remember - we should avoid using peat for gardens - and we should use compost instead, or other peat substitutes, because even though Throne Moors peat extraction is now finished, vast areas of Irish bog are being destroyed. (See a picture of me looking at an Irish peat bog - to be added shortly.))

Eventually Fisons said they would give the bog to Natural England's forbear (Nature Conservancy Council/English Nature)  once they had extracted all the peat down to 1/2 m from the rock/sand/clay below.

In the 1980s I worked at Malham Tarn, and spent much time walking over the surface of Malham Tarn Moss (Peat Bog),  and showing students its fascinating plants. I showed them the results  of the former efforts of scientists to try and get parts of that bog "growing again". (30 years later some pools have not changed much, but others - the ones with some basic water input have have changed considerably though not to raised bog vegetation yet..)

Well, whilst on the YNU Bryophytes day at Nosterfield in October 2018, Steven Heathcote told me about the planned "Sphagnum day" at Thorne Moors for the 2nd November.  What an opportunity to visit the place! It was being organised by Helen Kirk of the Thorne and Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum,  Kieran  Sheehan, and a team of botanists. 

I swotted up on the rare Sphagnum balticum - Baltic Bogmoss that was reputed to grow at Thorne Moors  There are  34 species of Sphagna that grow in Britain, and this one is extremely rare. I bought some new wellingtons, with aubergine trimmings to replace my leaking old ones,  booked a B&B at  the market town of Thorne over the internet, and set off.

At 9.30am on a sunny and cold morning, thirteen of us met at a farm in the flat grade one arable land, where we left most of our cars.. We  piled into three cars and drove 1/2 a mile along the narrow straight road, raised high above the surrounding flat land. I learned a new word "warp". Warping is the process by which the land had been subject to controlled flooding (when the tide was in)  in the past so that the fertile silt was deposited to the ground.

At the entrance to Thorne Moor Nature reserve there was a gate across the road to which our organiser had a key.

Suddenly we were in a different world. 
Our now gravel track, still very straight, was only just above the height of the surrounding soil - which now included reeds, pools, birch trees and various bog plants. The road was straight - it had been built for a rail track/tram track by the peat extraction companies. The wide sky came down to the  birch and reed lined flat horizon, with willows by the track. 

Our driver drove carefully not wishing to ground the car on the rough track, in places with grass down the middle.  The speed dropped to zero when a Marsh Harrier soared in front of us .. so close! Not just a dot in the distance with binoculars. It had white marks on the under surface of its wings.

I wondered if the birch trees would pose a management problem, turning the bog into birch car. I was assured that if (IF) the water table was maintained high enough, the birch would not grow. Much effort had been taken by Keiren's firm  to build control of drainage channels so that the water table could be maintained at a high level (by Natural England.)

We parked in the parking place, where there was a bench

Looking back along the very straight track

Same view with the camera set to telephoto

Same view - above picture cropped and enlarged

No road now, we would have to walk. 

We set off along another straight track, and came to a viewing platform. 

Picture from half way up viewing platform

And from the top

You used to look to infinity in all directions I was told - and just see birch and bog.   But now wind turbines are springing up all around.  The only landmarks were places like Goole Church tower and Gasworks. You can see that on the horizon a fifth of the way in from the left (above) and two thirds of the way in in the picture below.

We continued to our site. Here we divided into three groups, each with a "Sphagnum expert" Paul Buckland was our expert. Here we are looking at a specimen of Sphagnum.

Some of this is Sphagnum subnitens. It has a luminous sheen

I just wanted to sit down and make a survey of a couple of square metres to find out what really was growing here in this new habitat for me on my first visit to Thorne.  The others had shot off searching for new Spahgna. They knew what a big area they hoped to cover.

So I sat down. Amongst the Hare's-tail Cotton-grass, Common Cotton-grass, Cross-leaved Heath, Purple Moor-grass, Heather, and mostly just six species of Sphagna (fimbriatum, fallax, cuspidata, and occasionally papillosum, palustre and subnitens.  - no Sphagnum capillifolium ). I poked around and found Cranberry and dead Sundew leaves with overwintering buds ready to grow next year. (Elsewhere we found masses of Bog Rosemary)

I scraped up some "green felt" from the surface of the wet peat and looked at it under the lens.  It was full of liverworts. A Thorne "hepatic mat" (Liverwort mat) - It reminded me of the time Tom Blockeel had spent searching at Swarthoor/Helwith Bridge Moss for liverworts amongst the Spahgna there. I would take some back. (He was with us but with a different group)

I joined the others. Sphagnum denticulatum had been seen. They showed me some spiky Spagnum squarrosum (one of my favourites)

Then Paul found a healthy 1m patch of Sphagnum magellanicum (now called S  medium - but we like the old name). This has big hooded chunky leaves, branches that do not taper much, and red colour in their leaves or stem.

Sphagnum magellanicum section through stem

We considered it might be a patch that was introduced by Jane Smart who had carried out work her under Brian Wheeler in the 1980s. 

Further along there was evidence of previous experiments.

But the light was getting low. (Only  six weeks till the shortest day)

We made our way back towards the  three cars. We had a plenary discussion.  Helen gave Kay and I (as the only two people, I think, who did not have one) copies of the book: Thorne Moors A Botanical Survey 

Since then I have enjoyed reading this informative book.

Thank you to all the people who look after Thorne Moor now and to those who campaigned to save it in the past.

I stepped back from Narnia, into the wardrobe and returned to the Grade 1 arable land, then the headlamps of the rush hour traffic in the dark, returning to the M62 and A1, then other A roads and home.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Coffee Morning for Rainforest Fund - 6 Nov 2018 - and WWF-Living Planet Report 2018

Thanks to all who supported this coffee morning. We raised £115 
That will protect 1 acre of rainforest. THANK YOU.

If you missed the chance to buy cards, look out for them in Wholesome Bee and the Boxer and Hound Cafe (Opposite the King William Guest House, on the way to the Folly)

30 Oct 2018:
WWF-Living Planet Report 2018
Populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians have, on average, declined by 60% between 1970 and 2014, the most recent year with available data.
The Earth is estimated to have lost about half of its shallow water corals in the past 30 years.
A fifth of the Amazon has disappeared in just 50 years.
$125 trillion
Globally, nature provides services worth around $125 trillion a year, while also helping ensure the supply of fresh air, clean water, food, energy, medicines, and much more.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Bryophytes at Lower Knotts, Tosside

We had a great day at Lower Knotts Nature Reserve near Tosside with the NWNU North West Naturalists Union Lower Plants Group on 20 Oct 2018

To start off with...we had a base camp.. to which we returned for lunch!

This is a new reserve a mile south west of Tosside in the forest of Bowland.
The centre of the reserve is where two OS gridlines intersect so it contains the corners of four monads (1 by 1 km squares).


The area covered by the first monad is the area you see in the picture (plus a little more). We managed to record over 40 species of mosses and liverworts here. (I am waiting for Gordon and Mike' 's grand totals).
Mike showed us the Calypogeia arguta - a tiny liverwort with shining yellow green blobs of clusters of gemmae. It was growing on bare clay.soil near the bank of the stream.

 Calypogeia arguta -Knotched pouchwort. It took a lot of looking to see some bigger leaves (see centre) that look like the ones in the book.
This is Scapania nemorea - Grove Earwort. It has brown gemmae.
I remember finding that in Ingleton Glens in November 2014.

When we got down to Bond Beck we found lots of Homalia trichomanoides - we had found a tuft of that at Ingleton Glens too. It prefers a basic influence.

Here is a big Cladonia (and some Campylopus introflexus)

There was a big ash tree in SD 7753.
Underneath was a Horse mushroom Agaricus arvensis

A branch had a Perusaria like lichen - that went yellow then quickly dark orange with alkali.- still trying to identify it.



The sun is setting on this fine Autumn Day.

Thank you Stephanie, Mike, Gordon,  and Naomi.

Nosterfield Quarry Part 2: YNU Bryologists 13 Oct 2018

The Bryologists set off - complete with next generation - on 13 Oct 2018 at Nosterfield Quarry. The sand was deposited in a glacial lake. In one part the quarry company had had excavated down to the bedrock of magnesian limestone. We are the Bryology Section of the Yorkshire Naturalists' Union.
(See Part 1 for pictures of lichens fungi and higher plants)

This is Aloina aloides Common Aloe-moss with stiff rigid leaves held in a rosette - found on the floor of limestone quarries . as here on the magnesian limestone area

More searching revealed the nationally rare plant that we had hoped to find:  Aloina brevirostris Short-beaked Aloe-moss

Aloina brevirostris has much shorter leaves and a shorter beak.

Microbryum-waiting for a name for this -Blobby

Didymodon tophaceus -
Olive beard-moss

We had lunch in the area where the quarry had dug down to the magnesian limestone bedrock below the sand. In the foreground there is a tufa deposit where the water runs over the limestone - with Didymodon tophaceus.

After lunch we went into the planted woodland/ screen wind break behind. On a felled log of willow Steven found two shoots of Syntrichia papillosum - The leaves are about 1.5 mm long. Not bad going eh!

Nick then found some Syntrichia laevipila (Small Screw-moss) on another willow which I am sorry I missed

As we walked back along the old medieval boundary wall,

 (where there was abundant Syntrichia intermedia)

 we came across a tree

Where there was lots of Syntrichia virescens at its roots - and some Orthotrichum diaphanum ( bottom left) hair tips to leaves)

 Hmm! the last time I knowingly saw this was in the tarmac by the cattle grid at Kilnsey  in 2014

See more Syntrichia expeditions...

Carlisle Mosses - (Superb Syntrichia part 1)

Kilnsey Mosses (Superb Syntrichia part 2)

On the way home, a km south of the quarry I stopped off at the northern most  henge of the three prehistoric henges.  The Thornborough Henge has been described by David Miles of English Heritage as "the most important prehistoric site between Stonehenge and the Orkneys".  This one is covered by secondary woodland and both ground and trees are covered by ivy.

Thank you Tom, Stephen, Nick, Mark, Mike, Chris for an enjoyable day.
(See Part 1 for pictures of lichens fungi and higher plants)

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Nosterfield Quarry - Part 1 - Fungi and lichens - 13 Oct 2018

Tarmac's Nosterfield Quarry Nature Reserve, north of Ripon and West Tanfield was the destination for the YNU Bryologists.

But on this Saturday I got a little side tracked onto lichens and fungi. (I will write a post on the Mosses next

Note the splendid patch of Peltigera rufescens at the foot of the entrance notice board.

This was pointed out to me by Mark Seaward who was delighted to find this.  He had made records on the site in July at the Bioblitz. But not noticed it then

The team

In July 2018 there had been a bioblitz with Chris Packham. - They  - Just being pipped to first place for total species recorded amongst 50 places holding bioblitzes over 24 hours that day in the UK, by another quarry site in the south of England

This species of dog lichen has red brown apothecia that are wider than long, and the upper surface is supposed to be slightly tomentose or scabrid. (woolly or rough). It grows on calcareous substrata.

Chris Pennock of Tarmac, told us about the geology. The sand was 80 percent sand - (rather than other grades of particles) because it had been laid down in a glacial lake - (rather than being deposits in river terraces). There is a display inside the visitor centre.

Peltigera rufescens

Coprinus atramentarius  was growing in the car park- 

Chris drove us to the far side of the lake, to the Magnesian Limestone area
Conical waxcap - Hygrocybe conica
In the distance (far distance, to the east, with telephoto lens) - is Sutton Bank

Here is White Spindles - Clavaria fragilis - the bottom half of each unit is translucent stem and the top half produces the spores. It was growing on the  area where magnesian limestone bedrock is being left to colonise into calcareous grassland.

The dog-lichen is Peltigera dactyla, but I wish I  knew the name of this brown grey fungus with white sinuate gills.

Are these maroon blobs along the edge or the lichen thallus the soralia to which the Peltigera keys refer?

There are actually 3 fungi growing within 2cm of each other on this bit of rotten stump. The dark purple one on the left is Ascocoryne sarcoides - Not sure about the other two.

Mike Wilcox introduced me to Brookweed - Samolus valerandi

Beside the ancient wall leading back to the center was some Ballota nigra -  Black Horehound. I had found the leaves of this with a group near Grewelthorpe the previous month.. and they definitely had the same smell. The leaves, not the group.

Now to the bryology..

Nosterfield Quarry Part 2: YNU Bryologists 13 Oct 2018