Being far too busy for the last couple of months has meant trips to Cassop have been limited and time to blog even more so. May saw the Wood anemones which had carpeted the floor in April replaced by Wild garlic, Woodruff, Bluebells and Water avens, but there was no sign of the Herb-paris I’d been hoping for. It hasn’t been recorded here since 1979 so we would have been very fortunate to find it! There was plenty Germander and Wood speedwell too.
By our visit at the end of June, the woodland canopy has closed over and it’s cool and dark on the path down into the reserve – a welcome respite after a hot climb up to Quarrington Hill. Most of the flowers are finished now and plants have set seed, eager to finish their reproductive process whilst there is still enough light.
In May we were surprised to find the Highland cattle back on the reserve, though it was not clear whether this was by accident or design! This meant the grassland areas were still quite supressed, with not much in flower apart from Crosswort, Bush and Common Vetch and a few Cowslips in the shady spots. A little higher up the hill, in the fenced off old quarries, there is a good display of Early-purple orchids, safely out of reach of the cattle.
By June the grassland is transformed, dominated by swathes of Hogweed hosting a multitude of buzzing pollinators on a warm day. A Guelder rose flowering at the edge of the woodland also turns out to be a good insect host – I can see at least 10 individuals, of a range of species, when I look closely!
May’s Early-purple orchids have been replaced by lots of Common-spotted ones in June but Gill found the real highlight of the trip – Globeflowers! I know it’s a good year for these aptly-named members of the buttercup family as we saw masses of them along the River Tees near Bowlees a couple of weeks ago, and they were on John Durkin’s list for Cassop from 2011, but I was still surprised to see them here, quite a way from the pond. I was intrigued by Globeflower’s unusual scientific name, Trollius. According to Geoffrey Grigson, in The Englishman’s Flora, this comes from the German Trolleblume; itself a contraction of die rolle Blume, or the flower with rolled-in petals. When I finally get around to digging my own garden pond there will definitely be some Globeflowers beside it – the lovely Eggleston Hall garden centre has plenty of cultivated varieties to choose from, as well as native ones.
Grigson also cites a Cumbrian couplet which links Globeflower’s traditional English name of ‘lockety gowan’ (meaning a closed-in yellow flower) with that of Bird’s-eye primrose, Primula farinosa, apparently once called ‘bird-een’ by children.
“The locket-gowan and bonny bird-een
Are the fairest flowers that ever were seen.”
I wouldn’t disagree with than sentiment! Sadly, we found no Bird’s-eye primrose – it hasn’t been recorded here since 2007 – so a photo taken near Low Force in May will have to suffice!
On the vegetation around the pond there are lots of Common blue damselflies and some whopping dragonflies which I can’t get close enough to photograph.
As always, though, I’m drawn more to the botanical treats, this time in the form of Marsh Cinquefoil, Comarum palustre, which I’ve not seen before in England. As it grows in more out of the way places, Marsh Cinquefoil hasn’t garnered many local common names, though I think ‘Bog-strawberry’, from the Isle of Man, seems very apt. There is plenty growing on the wet ground by the pond outflow, amongst some very robust orchids – another species on my garden pond wish list!
There is Brooklime in the wettest areas, too, and the new growth of Bulrushes will soon be producing their sausage-shaped spikes of flowers. For now, wild roses in a range of hues from palest pink to magenta steal the show.