Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Austwick Church Cemetery - a haven for relict hay meadow wildflowers

Austwick Cemetery

Whilst  descending through the grey rain and grey fog down Pen y Ghent last week at 7am on the Bishop's walk, Rev Ian Greenhalgh invited me to look at the flowers of Austwick church cemetery.
Pen y Ghent

Ox-eye Daisy and Knapweed

This  visit  on the late afternoon of Thursday 30 June 2011 with camera certainly was not grey!!.

Austwick churchyard/cemetery

I was delighted to find a number of "Hay Meadow Indicator Species" - i.e. grassland species that only occur in old unimproved grassland.  

I had the privilege of meeting a family tending a grave..

and I had time to think a little about the ecology and management involved..
New flowers

and time to play at taking pictures of beautiful textures in the vegetation and scenery.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park and English Nature used to use a system of Ranking of Hay Meadows and Old "Unimproved" grassland by using a list of "Hay Meadow Indicator" species.

0      species  =  Reseeded/heavily fertilized grassland
1-4 species    = Some interest
5-9 species   =  Unimproved grassland - worth investigating further
> 10 species = High conservation value.

I have surveyed grassland both inside and outside the National Park, and used this system to compare the fields.

Fields with 10 or more species I would get excited about.  And within the top category, I myself would make an extra division - did it have more than 15?

After finding two species of Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla) (apart from the garden one) and Self Heal and Quaking-grass  in my first few steps of looking, I realised I should be able to make the "Ten species "target.

Here is what I found:

English Name                      Latin Name

Bird’s-foot Trefoil       Lotus corniculatus
Primrose                        Primula vulgaris
Downy Oatgrass         Helictotrichon pubescens
Field Woodrush          Luzula campestris
Glaucous Sedge        Carex flacca
Greater Burnet          Sanguisorba officinalis
Hairy hawkbit             Leontodon hispidus
Ladies Mantle xan.    Alchemilla xanthochlora
Lady’s Mantle glab    Alchemilla glabra
Lesser Stitchwort      Stellaria graminea
Meadow- sweet        Filipendula ulmaria
Quaking Grass          Briza media
Selfheal                       Prunella vulgaris
Twaeblade              Listera ovata  
Water Aven              Geum rivale
Yellow Meadow-vetchling Lathyrus pratensis

And growing on the road verge outside were:-
Bistort                         Persicaria bistorta
Meadow Crane's-bill   Geranium pratense

That's 16 species - plus two more growing outside !!


Twayblade (This is a type of orchid)

Twayblade close-up

Yellow Meadow-vetchling
Bird's-foot Trefoil

Greater Burnet

Self-heal from the side

Self-heal from above

Lady's Mantle 

Field Woodrush - the fruit are opening
and shedding their three seeds

Water Aven

Yes 16! 
Plus two extra on the road verge outside. (The Bistort and the Meadow Crane's-bill

It is an excellent cemetery.

Britain has lost over 98% of its species rich grassland, mostly in the last 60 years. .. This cemetery is an oasis for the flowers and for the insects that live on them.

Three species not on the above list but which were nice to find are:- Yellow Oat-grass,  Knapweed and Foxglove and "Fox and Cubs" (Pilosella aurantiaca)

Fox and Cubs

The people of Austwick are lucky to have such a diversity of wild flowers - which look good with the mixture of mown areas and mown borders and areas where the wild flowers are allowed to flower - And later in the year all  most areas I imagine will be mown, otherwise False Oat-grass would take over.

Red Clover, Oxe-eye Daisy,
Rye-grass and Rough Hawkbit
 beside gravestone

View from Austwick cemetery

View towards village from the cemetery

Why not visit the churchyard whilst the flowers are out? .. and take some photos too?

No comments: