Friday 20 May 2022

Helbeck Wood SSSi- Lichens, Bluebells and much more with Cumbria Lichens and Bryophytes group

Helbeck Woods SSSI is on a south facing steep limestone slope of the North Pennines, 

just north of the Stainmore Gap - rising above Brough and the A66.- and leading on to the military ranges above Warcop.  NY792157 

When travelling north on the train from Settle to Carlisle, it is the first view of the north Pennines, the first bit of the Alston block that you see before the train goes on to give good views of  High Cup Nick, of Dufton Fell, and then Cross Fell.

But to get up involves a climb. 

It is 30miles (50km) as the crow flies due north of Langcliffe and Settle where I live, and 42 miles by road - a fastish road in North Yorkshire with newly painted white lines down the centre, then suddenly a very narrow country lane once in Cumbria.

I may show a few pictures of the route, parallelling the Settle Carlisle Line at the end of this post, or later.

We parked near Helbeck Hall -  on 19 May 2022 - with permission of the Landowner - I wish I'd taken a picture of it. Their car park was very breezy and with a splendid view down the hillside and to the Upper Eden valley and Wild Boar Fell (the way I'd come). There were 8 of us in the lichens group and 4 in the mosses group. Pete Martin kept counting the lichens people so as not to lose us in the woodland. 

We walked along a track in the woodland at the base of the hillside. The trunks here are dappled with - not light from above but with white patches of  Phlyctis argena and also Pertusaria pertusa, and some Pertusa albescens and other species. Most tall trees were ash - though near the house there were some beech and we found a poplar fallen across the path.

Thelotrema lapidinum

Thelotrema lapidinum

Parmelia ernstii - here much more common then P saxatilis. P ernstii has very few pseudocyphellae (white ridges) on the thallus, is pruinose especially near the edges or the thallus and has lobules/ follicles round the edge of the thallus

This pale green crust of Phyrrospora quernea goes orange with C. and does not change colour with K (liquid at top left) 
(It has a white prothallus and is only black at the prothallus a
if there is an antagonistic reaction with an adjacent lichen. )

However when you shine a UV torch on it, this is what you see: 
The thallus is orange with UV - but with wet KOH it is green .. (Pete Martin has been following Mark Powell on Twitter about this)

The grey crust over a large area on the dryish under-hang of this tree is Cliostomum griffithii (It has no dot in my own square SD 86, of the distribution map so I must look out for it) 

Cliostomum griffithii

Cliostomum griffithii - closer up

From Dobson: Mainly without apothecia but then easily recognised by the numerous small black dust-like pycnidia about 0.2 mm diam. apothecia 0.2 to 0.6 mm diameter flesh coloured to light brown often piebald, with a slightly lighter margin, becoming darker with age, frequently pruinose, often convex and distorted. K yellow. 

We started ascending the hill on a footpath (or was this just the track left by Pete on his reccy two days earlier?)


Lunch amongst the bluebells

A Cladonia with a lichenicolus fungus

We climbed higher. 
It got hotter. 
But I did not take my jacket off because of tick risk - and anyway it would have made my rucksac heavier.
It was limestone pavement/ limestone boulders with potential holes between covered by vegetation 
I got slower.. 
Three and half points of contact:  Two booted feet, one stick, and if the ground was steep, a hand on adjacent rocks - or the very base of ash saplings - no higher because most were dead with ash die-back and would snap between two fingers.

Then we reached the promised holy grail .. An Ash tree with Lobaria pulmonaria that Pete had found on the previous Tuesday.

There was some  Peltigera horizontalis just below it.

A little higher and  a view to The Folly further over in the wood.
with a view of Wild Boar Fell beyond

This area must have had more grazing in the past to have had open spaces - which then became filled  with Ash saplings. 

Higher up again there is more open grassland... and more bluebells.

Lecanactis abietina

Pete nobly descended with Chris M and I (though Chris M shot off) and we left the other four to explore the bouldery scree. I wonder what they found.

Sunday 8 May 2022

YNU Mosses Walk from Rawthey Bridge - VC65

The Bryological Section of the Yorkshire Naturalists Union stepped forth on its spring excursion on 7 May 2022 up the upper (but not highest part) valley of the Rawthey, led by Tom Blockeel, 


Where is Rawthey Bridge and Uldale?

This bridge is on the remote road between Sedbergh and Kirkby Stephen which passes up the valley separating the Howgills from the back of Wild Boar Fell and Bough Fell.  The river Rawthey here is the boundary between VC 65 (North-west Yorkshire) and VC 69 (Westmoreland with Furness - Cumbria). We parked next to a recently repainted post saying WR - presumably for "West Riding"

From Settle, or at least hills just above Settle, on a very clear day, you can see Wild Boar Fell  (  - Settle, N Yorks, being the centre of the world, or at least the centre for this blogsite) 

Look up the Ribble valley beyond  Ribblehead, to the right of Whernside - you can see the steep east facing slope of Wild Boar Fell - the Rawthey gathers its waters on the  left (far) side of Wild Boar Fell. 

Or, travel up the Settle Carlisle Line and look from the train windows: - Just beyond Garsdale station on the right is the famous "river capture" example where the River Eden  (flowing to Carlisle) captures land from the River Ure (flowing to York and the Humber). To the left, to the west of Garsdale Station, is the Grisedale Beck coming from the hillside to the north west. The Grisedale Beck becomes the river Clough.  From Garsdale Head station (or the Moorcock Inn nearby) follow Grizedale Beck back 3 or 4 miles, (between  East Bough Feel and Swarth Fell which is actually the side of Wild Boar Fell) to c 420 m. This (SD75099420) is now a water divide and possible river capture as the streams here now go west and it is the start of the top off the River Rawthey, which flows through Sedburgh  The modern OS map shows a footpath: "The Pennine Journey"

The path we walked on arriving (3km NW of this point) is part of the "Pennine Journey" footpath - which  is based on the walk by Arthur Wainwright in 1938, 

This footpath starts from Settle, going past Lord's Wood to Feizor then on to Clapham, Ingleton, Sedburgh, Garsdale, Hadrian's Wall, then back again via Hexham, High Force, Foxup, Horton-in-Ribblesdale, then down How Beck to Stainforth - see my lichens post). So I have walked and found lichens on the first part and last part and now middle part of the footpath- "A Pennine Journey".


(Click for geology map) 

The rocks we walked across were from the Yoredale series so included limestones, sandstones and shale. And there could have been Silurian erratics from the adjacent Howgills.  


Tom Blockeel is a national expert on Bryophytes and we are so lucky to have him organise the twice yearly YNU trips. He was pleased to have such a good turnout:- 

Gordon Haycock of Wharfedale Naturalists - whose survey of the Bryophytes of Wharfdale is progressing well 

Steve Heathcote, from near Goole, had travelled over 100miles, the width of North Yorkshire, to get here 

Phil from the North West Naturalists Union "Bryophytes and Lichens Section". 

Les and Sue Knight from Swaledale - Sue organised the routes for the BBS field week in Swaledale a few years ago.   Les is busy compiling Lichen records for VC 65 - Swaledale. Our walk today would add a few more.

Tamsin, Christine and Royanne - from the Mosses Group of Craven Conservation Group (based at Settle)

and myself.. struggling along at the back of the group as we route marched in over the moorland path, two miles to our starting point. Next time I must leave my BBS "Mosses and Liverworts of Britain and Ireland Field Guide" at home to make the bag lighter!  It weighs 3 1b 4 oz or 1.5 kg 

In comparison:
imperial units:
(Stace 1 (higher plants) weighs 3lb 1 oz  and Dobson (Lichens) edn 7 weighs 1 lb 15 oz.  The older 
Dobson edn. 5, with thicker, better quality paper weighs 2 lb 3.5 oz )
Metric units:
(Stace 1 (higher plants) weighs 1.4kg  and Dobson Dobson edn. 7 weighs 0.88kg  The older Dobson edn. 5, with thicker, better quality paper, but fewer pages weighs 1kg )

Here are some of our finds

Hermatocaulis vernicosus the Varnished Hook-moss
Christine stopped Gordon on the moorland path to look at this.. and later dragged Tom back to see it. It might be Hermatocaulis vernicosus. This is a protected species (it was given special protection by addition to Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act; in 1995, it was listed as a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan See details

I was pleased to spot this. I have found this in ledges in limestone clifflets beside the stream with Martha Newton in Penyghent Gill

 And the much more common Brachythecium rivulare
Brachythecium rivulare

Health and Safety talk at the start.

Group photo: The path turns north. Behind us on the left - the Howgills. 

Looking for  the liversort Tritomaria quinquedentata

Tritomaria quinquedentata

A fascinating bank beside the river. Looking at Anoectangium aestivum, Conocephalum salebrosumDichodontium flavescens, Amblestegium mougetii  and much more. 

Dichodontium flavescens (formerly pellucidum)

Dicranum pellucidum -flavescens - Yellowish Fork-Moss.

Wood Sorrel
and what's the moss, please?

Rhizomnium punctatum

Amblestegium mougetii this makes big soft cushions

Anoectangium aestivum

Conocephalum salebrosum  Scalewort

We stopped on the moorland for lunch a little way above the river

Sphagnum girgensohni

Sphagnum girgensohni

Further upstream the Yorkshire side of the river formed more of a ravine and we scrambled up the very steep slope to the moist cliff.

Hookeria lucens   Shining Hookeria

Hookeria lucens  Shining Hookeria
I had thought of this as an old woodland indicator.. but see from the book that it often grows with opposite-leaved golden saxifrage , which is indeed where it was growing, if high up, on a cliffside where the ground was flushed with water. 

Bartramia halleriana- This is rare (Well local) - see distribution map

Bartramia halleriana

(We found the less rare Bartramia pomiformis too.

On the moorland path on the way back:-
On the way back along the moorland path - Another Hook-moss

Here are a few lichen pictures

Graphis elegans (And Lecanora "chalrotera sens lat" on the right)

Dibaeis baeomyces

Dibaeis baeomyces

Dibaeis baeomyces

The thallus of this lichen was very pale grey.
I had wondered if the bits of black "cilia" on the surface might make it interesting.
However the BLS Zoom discussion group that met later that week suggested it is just Hypotrachyna revoluta - The tips of the thallus lobes top left are downturned. It has forked rhizines right to the edge of the underside of the thallus. The "bits of black cilia" are probably just bits of damaged rhizines somehow deposited on the surface, perhaps from a lobe of thallus which once covered it.

Flavoparmelia caperata on a healthy birch overleaning the ravine

We had aimed to reach a waterfall marked on the map. However, time beat us and we did not reach Uldale Force by about a few hundred meters. We had gotten side tracked by so many wonderful mossy ledges.

Maybe an excuse to go back another day!