Friday, 2 August 2013

Malham Tarn Fen and Bog and 70 years of the FSC

Seventy Years of the Field Studies Council
International Bog Day
Malham Tarn Fen and Bog
Malham Tarn Field Centre
A quality community event - 1000 ft above sea level at a source of the river Aire.
30 Years of Craven Conservation Group

Field studies courses are a brilliant experience.
The Field Studies Council (FSC) has been running them for 70 years.

Well done to those before and in the war period who set it up - and to all those who have run centres and courses ever since!

There are lots more pictures lower down this post.

I dedicate this page to everyone who has stayed or come on a course at Malham Tarn Field Centre,..
and also to those who have come on National Trust guided walks and to the area on school trips.
 And a big thank you to the National Trust, and its workers and volunteers  who maintain the estate,
and to landowners and farmers and workers who have looked after the place in the past..


27-28 July 2013 were  set aside by Malham Tarn Field Centre as an Open Day to celebrate 70 years of the FSC.

The FSC now has 17 centres.

"Field courses" are environmental study courses:-
a "holiday" to learn about some aspect of the environment!
 Whether your choice is birds, geology, insects and learning skills such as art, painting, navigation, fly fishing...

  • School children enjoy a first residential stay away from home & learn skills with their peers. 
  • Environmental workers  come and train. 
  •  Families and retired people can start a new specialism.. and maybe contribute towards species recording.

The FSC strapline on the internet says:- the FSC is a registered charity committed to helping people of all ages understand and be inspired by the natural world.
It is 65 years since Malham Tarn started running field Courses. The FSC leases Malham Tarn Field Centre from the National Trust. And guess who was a special visitor at the FSC Members meeting on the Saturday afternoon: Mrs Mary Reckitt, who was the wife of the first warden Paul Holmes!

The FSC is keen for people with memories of Malham Tarn (and the other 16 Field Centres) to post their memories. You can read them here:- on

I have met several people in Settle, now in their seventies and eighties who came up to the centre from school at Settle or Skipton... One day soon I will add mine (from 1960s, onwards..)

28th July is International Bog Day and has been celebrated as such by various places since about 1989.  It is an EXCELLENT time of year to celebrate bogs because so many of the special wetland plants do not flower till late in the year.

I have written a post about the importance of Bogs here. - Although bog pools can be dangerous, and should be respected, Bogs are vitally important and fascinating places: - they are:

  1. Carbon reservoirs, 
  2. Water reservoirs, 
  3. Reduce flooding,
  4. Historical/archaeological repositories showing history in the pollen and peat.
  5. Wild places to experience solitude and nature
  6. And, most important:  are wildlife reserves. One lady (from Lincolnshire) on a guided walk was delighted to find cranberries and lamented the loss of the wetlands in Lincolnshire where they once grew.

I led four walks during the two days onto the fen and bog, and I gave short picture presentations on Malham Tarn fen plants and on the History of Craven Conservation Group

During the two days at least 17 people from Craven Conservation Group (CCG), our local natural history society came up. (An include: JH and son A, CT and husband P, TM, DT, RC, DC, SF, PF, TW, JA, K, AC, AB, KB and we gained a new member  .. tell me if your initials are not here.)
CCG was started at Malham Tarn Field Centre 30 years ago, so this was a birthday celebration too!

Terry Whitaker opens the moth trap
at 11am on Saturday morning in the courtyard of the Field Centre.
Terry is a member of CCG and also of the Yorkshire Naturalists' Union

There were only 6 people in my first group. Here four of them are looking at what I call the "Paul Holmes Pool". BTCV volunteers clear (or at least used to) a section of the pool every two years, otherwise it would get taken over by bottle-sedge.
In this pool grows bladderwort - and the three weeks of good weather had led it to flower...(See next picture)

(The group comprised one lady who was a "Member of the Field Studies Council and had come up from the south for the event. One friend from Lancashire who had read my email, and who runs a children's wildlife group. The husband and son of a stall holder at the event, and a member of Carven Conservation Group and her son.)

The beautiful bladderwort flower.. and lots of buds ready to flower.

As we returned along the boards we met Sharon and Peter Flint  
who were investigating the animal in a peat pool.

See below for what we were photographing

A froglet

A dragonfly nymph.. this is two years old -
the really big ones (three years old) had emerged
and were now flying round as adult hawkers


In the afternoon we had a bigger group of 18 people, 10 of whom are seen perched on the bridge.

Afternoon session on the Saturday -
the meadow sweet and reed canary grass is doing well.

In the evening we had music from two live groups. This group, The Zealots  is playing soul music.

The Moonbeams et al played inside later in the evening

A friend and I walked up to see the walled garden.
 which is maintained jointly by the National Trust and Malham Tarn Field Centre
some of the volunteers and school groups
that come to the National Trust.

 A tutor at the field centre said: "Basically the neat, 
tidy and smart looking bits are the NT's 
and the more rustic beds are the ones we have 
worked on with visiting school groups!"

Sunday: What a change in weather!. It had rained all night.
I gave my neighbour a lift up and we approached the centre carefully. would the cave near the centre be flooded? .. yes it was.. and a stream was running across the road. I took photos of the Giant bellflower - when it comes into flower I know summer is nearly through.

and over the adjacent wall the water flowed across the fen.

A quality community event - 1000 ft above sea level at (one of the many sources) of the river Aire.


The 11.15 group on the Sunday pause at the bridge.
Notice the water in the stream is right up to the bridge..
the grey flat layer at our feet are petals of meadow sweet
and other plants that have drifted along the stream and piled up at the bridge.

Our group includes:: 3 CCG members;
A visiting FSC member who had initially had a lot of contact with Flatford Mill;
Two stall holders and their three children;
A man from Preston and four (or was it six) young Spanish/South American people visiting him

Here are the same group walking over the bridge at the west end.
This bridge used to have a hand rail.
I have written to ask the National Trust to build another handrail here
The water is high but has another 2 inches till it will reach the bridge.

Back at the centre, Jo runs a workshop on foraging

Inside a lab, a craft workshop is taking place

The afternoon walk is a select group - including a CCG member,
another person interested in wildlife on my email list,
Sharon and Pete who are YNU/CCG and
a couple on holiday in Grassington who "stumbled across"
the event and were delighted to take part.
Perhaps you can see more clearly here how the water level in
the stream has risen to touch the bridge.

Sharon showed us the malaise trap
Insects fly into the net, Sharon explained, the crawl up the net and get caught in a bottle of alcohol.
They are especially interested in Caddis-flies.

Sharon and Pete  have a blog
They are  running a course 30 July - 2 Aug up at Malham Tarn on Freshwater invertebrates

Back on the boardwalk we found a baby lizard

Come on a course at Malham Tarn -- e.g Grasses Sedges and Rushes starting this evening (2 Aug) - you can come on that as an individual day visitor too (ask for details. but if you don't know anything about Grasses and Sedges it would be best if you came on the Saturday)

On Saturday 10 Aug I will be leading a walk on the wheelchair accessible part of the board walk.. So if you are not very mobile that would be a good time to come.

You can support the FSC's campaigning activities by becoming a supporter..

and if you have a little money to donate (£36) you can become a member - the £36 goes to one of the FSC's three funds (FSC Kids Fund, FSC Bursary Fund or FSC Young Darwin scholarship Fund  for people 16-17 yrs old who want to learn more about a branch of wildlife

Read the post I wrote about International Bog Day and Malham Tarn fen just before the event