Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Ferns of Ribblehead Viaduct - 26 July 2009

Friends of the Settle Carlisle Line organised a second Walking of the Ribblehead Viaduct on 26 July. The first walking was two years ago.

Would you like to come with me on the walk across this 24 arch bridge?
Across the bridge which British Rail attempted to close c 20 years ago?
Put on your waterproof and windproof jacket and strong shoes and come with me.

Look, there's a group walking along the railway now.

The event was possible because the Line had been closed for a fortnight or so for major works on the line. As in 2007, I volunteered to take people round the (now) Natural England Old Quarry Nature Reserve just behind Ribblehead Station. This entitled me to wear a flourescent orange jacket and feel very important.. along with the ?two hundred other volunteers in flourescent jackets.

What has this to do with the Tropical Rainforest Fund?

a) About half the St John's congregation had defected and were volunteers or walkers at this event. (Slight exaggeration - but I did see eight of us during the day. You can see six of us plus two visiting friends in the top picture here, having just arrived and stepped off the bus. This was before it started pouring with rain. The seventh settled down to sign people in in the Signing-In tent. And the eighth, Bill Mitchell arrived later to sign copies of his new book, "Thunder in the Mountains", the dramatic true story of hardship, violence and debauchery behind the building of Ribblehead Viaduct. )
b) A topic like this just might draw people to this web page so they will read more of the forest fund project..
c) I plan to make a web article on Ferns of the viaduct.. or maybe wildlife of the viaduct.
d) Taking people round the nature reserve is looking after a wildlife habitat... and what special people I took round! .. but more of that later.

Here you see the viaduct at 3.45pm with the very last group (at the top right) just coming across. Then as you walk down and back across to Ribblehead Station (left distance) you are given an archaeological tour of where the different buildings and workshops of the shanty town were.. all now covered with grass and bog.

Well I arrived and went to the big tent where there were lots of displays. I put out some programmes for Craven Conservation Group on a table.


Here are some ferns:
Why do ferns grow well on the walls rather than flowering plants? The viaduct is a very exposed place. They grow on mortar in the walls and in crevices where soil accumulates. Perhaps the windy exposure (and also on the tracks, the herbicide) prevent other plants growing and so give ferns a chance. Ferns do well in moist places - they need water at some stage for sexual reproduction to take place. (The male gamete has to swim to where the female gamete is, and after fusion a new fern plant will grow) I think they must have been reproducing well today.

Green spleenwort (Asplenium viride). Click on the picture to see a larger picture

The leaves, or fronds are "once pinnate" - that means they are divided into leaflets called pinnaes. Green spleenwort has a green stem.

Lady Fern (Athyrium felix-femina) is twice pinnate. Its pinnae are divided into pinnules. Its fronds are about 30cm long. In sheltered places they can grow over 1 m.
It is called "Lady Fern" because it is more delicate than Male Fern. It is not closely related to male fern. There is no sex involved.

Rosebay Willow-herb. (Chamerion angustifolium)
This is sometimes called Fireweed and has spread along the railways, and is at its finest in late July.

To be continued

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