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The Society Indoor meetings are held on alternate Thursdays
between September and March at 7.30pm
in the Crosthwaite Parish Room in Keswick.
Field outings are organised at various times through the year.

Visitors are always welcome to the Society's events
for which there is a small charge




Meeting Report. October 5th 2017

Where Griffons Soar by Keith Offord

The first talk of the new season at Keswick Natural History Society was delivered by Keith Offord, a longstanding friend of the Society who was talking to us for the eighth time. This popularity reflects on his natural history expertise, but also the pleasant chatty style with which he delivers a whole load of fascinating information. Keith is primarily an excellent ornithologist and nature tour leader who takes photographs, but what photographs!

Montague's Harrier


The subject of "Where Griffons Soar" was the wildlife of Spain, mostly the birdlife but not forgetting some of the mammals and the flora. He took us to three remarkable areas of bio diversity starting with the Spanish Pyrenees where he leads tours based in the delightful town of Jaca. Even the town has fascinating bird life with Rock Sparrows around the Citadel and Scops Owls, whose sonar like night calls are a classic sound of Southern Europe, in a town park. Keith took us from the unspoilt farmland in the foothills where Black and Red Kites are commonly seen together and the jingling call of Corn Buntings seems to be everywhere, up through copious forests with huge Black Woodpeckers and tiny Crested Tits, and finally right up to the high rock faces where the iconic Wallcreeper flutters around at incredible altitudes, Golden Eagles look out for live Chamois and Alpine Marmots and Lammergeiers look out for their carcasses. The latter is a species of vulture and known as "Bone Breaker" (quebrantahuesos) in Spanish after its habit of picking up bones and then dropping them from a height onto rocks in order to access the bone marrow inside.

Next stop was down in the Extramadura; a wonderful area of expansive grasslands and dehesas adjacent to Portugal where Cork Oak trees and Olive Groves provide areas of light grazing for both sheep, goats and and cattle. The low intensity chemical-free farming hosts a rich display of classic Mediterranean wildlife from Calandra Larks and Bee-Eaters to the huge and beautiful Great Bustard. Here the Great-Spotted Cuckoo parasitizes the nests of Azure-winged Magpies and Keith discussed the odd world-distribution of this magpie which is also found close to China but nowhere in between: how did they get here and why did the Cuckoo turn to this species to look after their eggs? It is not only the farming that is wildlife friendly, churches and other historic buildings host colonies of Lesser Kestrels and massive White Stork nests, bridges have Alpine Swifts and Red-Rumped Swallows nesting underneath and there are boxes erected upon telegraph poles alongside roads which have become popular with European Rollers. The area is perhaps best known in the birding world for the variety of raptors to be found there from the delicate and beautiful Black-Shouldered Kite, the snake eating Short-Toed Eagle, Montagu's Harrier, (like an even more elegant version of our Hen Harrier) to Spanish Imperial Eagles and Europe's largest raptor, the Black Vulture.

Speaking of raptors, their mass migration across the Straits of Gibraltar was witnessed from Keith's third destination of Tarifa at the southernmost tip of Spain. Here birds like White Storks, Honey Buzzards and Marsh Harriers glide over to Morocco in huge numbers, a true wildlife extravaganza.

Every bird Keith mentioned, (and I have only mentioned a small proportion) was illustrated with brilliant photographs. His flight shots were especially impressive: it is incredibly difficult to get Swallows and Swifts within the photographic frame never mind as crisply sharp as Keith's shots. We keenly look forward to his ninth visit to the Society.






Meeting Report. Nov 26th An Introduction to the World of Moths focussing on the Moths of Keswick and its Environs

Peter McQueen

Someone probably better known locally for his acting skills at The Theatre by the Lake or for his regular column as 'Scrooge' in The Reminder, Peter Macqueen shared his expertise on natural history, as the latest speaker at the Keswick Natural History meeting, with his talk on 'Moths in Cumbria'. Delivered in a modest and of course humorous way, Peter recounted his early days in Leicester, where alongside his father and brother, a homemade moth trap was constructed from a wooden box and a domestic light bulb. Although he has an interest in natural history as a whole, his first passion is for the moths. Having progressed to a more professional moth trap, lined with egg trays, which enables the moths to settle down comfortably, having been attracted into the trap by a sodium light bulb. There they wait patiently while Peter identifies and records the different species before returning them to their natural habitat unharmed. Peter covers several sites within the Keswick locality, including his own garden in Braithwaite. His records are used by the recorders at Tullie House in Carlisle to build up a full picture of the moths species found within the area. The UK is now seeing more species of moths coming in from the Continent, probably due to global warming, this also means that some species from the south are now moving further north.

The United Kingdom boasts 2,500 species of moth, these are split into two groups, macro-moths and micro-moths, part of the Lepidoptera family. 1,600 of the species are micro, with 900 macros. Although as Peter explained some of the micro species are bigger than the macros and visa-versa! Despite some people's fear of moths eating our clothes and carpets, there are only three species of micro-moth that we actually need to be aware of.

The name moth is an old English name for a maggot or grub, which again does not make it any more attractive, or does it? Peter started his visual presentation with: 'Are moths brown and boring?' As the next 30-40 minutes proved, no they definitely are not! The images shown were many and varied, some highly coloured, looking more like butterflies, others possibly brown and boring! Some of the highly coloured moths can be mistaken for butterflies as there are day flying species as well as the night flyers.

Moths are fascinating when examined closely, their wings being covered with tiny scales, which if not handled with care can be rubbed off. The scales are like tiles laid on top of one another to give the superbly detailed colours and patterns. Some moths are simply named to reflect their colouring or pattern. Some outstanding examples are Burnished Brass, named because of its colouring looking like polished brass, this species dates back to the 18th Century. The Elephant Hawk Moth is so called as the caterpillar can scrunch up its body, but if threatened will extend itself, looking like an elephant's trunk. The hawk part being due to the speed this moth can attain in flight, it also has the ability to take off vertically. The Elephant Hawk Moth's main food source is Rosebay Willowherb. The majority of moths have specific food sources therefore habitat control is essential for their survival.

As stated earlier moths are fascinating creatures and please remember 'They do not eat your clothes'.

Meeting Report.

Steve Boyle, Butterfly Conservation (Press release 10th October 2014)

Cumbrian Butterflies

Members of Keswick Natural History Society, attending the first of the winter indoor programme, were treated to a superb talk delivered by Steve Doyle of Butterfly Conservation - Cumbria, entitled Cumbrian Butterflies. Steve was instrumental in reviving the Butterfly Conservation Trust in Cumbria on his return to the area in 1990.
He explained how Cumbria is home to 41 of the 59 species of butterfly to be found in the United Kingdom and talking through a typical butterfly season. Commencing with the spring emerging species, taking the audience through the life cycle and how temperature and plant life have an influence on this. The male butterfly establishes its territory on a suitable habitat for egg laying and waits for the females to arrive.
The butterfly season is from late March to October. The first species to emerge is the Orange Tip in early spring, with the last of the season being the Clouded Yellow. One of Steve's personal favourites is the Camberwell Beauty, which is very rare in Cumbria. He was able to photograph one in Arnside following a phone call to alert him of its presence.
The evening was interspersed with tips on how to photograph butterflies, the plants which attract the different species and where the eggs are likely to be found. One interesting fact revealed was that some female species have six legs with the males only having four. The example, from a fantastic selection of photographs, was of a Green Veined White which lays its eggs on the buckthorn plant.
Worryingly, some species are in steep decline, however through the work of the Butterfly Conservation some of the near extinct species are being re-established within Cumbria, the Duke of Burgundy was used as a case in point, classed as a very special butterfly. 25 years ago there were 24 known colonies, to date this is down to just two. The Butterfly Conservation is working to establish suitable habitats and to halt the decline, hopefully the work being carried out will be successful.
One major success was with the Marsh Fritillary. In 2004, eggs were taken from the last know colony in Cumbria. Between 2004 and 2007, 6,000 caterpillars were bred and crossed with Scottish species, 42,000 caterpillars were successfully released on three sites in Cumbria and are now no longer classified as in danger.
The evening ended with questions from the floor being expertly answered, with Steve enlarging on what type of plants to grow in your garden to attract the butterflies.
Leaflets explaining more are available on line from Butterfly Conservation at www.cumbria-butterflies.org.uk. (Or use the 'links' button on this site)


Meeting Report

Flowers of the Yorkshire Dales was the title of the most recent presentation given by Tony Woods who had lived in the Richmond area for a number of years and has a lifetime’s devotion to the subject. He took us on a journey round the parts he knew well, with excellent slides taken at just the right time to show the flowers at their best in their natural surroundings. He has an eye for spotting rare specimens as well as the more common and well known species

Near Richmond itself we saw the celandine, wood anemone, cuckoo pint, toothwort parasitic on hazel, blackthorn, crab-apple whereas at the base of Richmond Castle wild wallflowers, common mallow and rosebay willow herb thrive .Unfortunately, the dreaded Himalayan balsam is present which as well as the Japanese knotweed, they are hoping to control. In the limestone cliffs, west of Richmond pictures of cowslips. hybrid cowslips/primroses , orchids, wild angelica, rock rose, marjoram, thistle, lesser teasel, ragged robin and autumn crocus were shown as typical of the area.

Nearby River Tees on a May morning, it is possible to see the heath spotted orchid, gentian, bird’s eye primrose, glow flower, arctic alpine, cinquefoil and the bistort plants which adapt to reproducing without the help of insects.

Moving on to Wensleydale and Aysgarth Falls, the River Ure flows over limestone rocks gauging out circular depressions. Neighbouring woods are up to 800 years old. Early purple orchids are seen after coppicing, then bluebells and bird cherry which is visited by the bird cherry moth whose larvae can occur in pest numbers completely stripping the plant.

At Gunnerside Ghyll, scene of the old lead mines, we saw plants which tolerate lead in the soil like the tormentil, foxglove, harebell, small white orchid, saxifrage, chickweed, cloud berry, northern marsh orchid, heath spotted orchid, butterwort and the ‘mickey mouse’ mountain pansy

Next, it was over to Semerwater, again in Wensleydale where the globe flower, bird’s eye primrose and grass of Parnassus can be found. At Malham Cove. Source of the River Aire, where there is layer on layer of limestone rocks (and incidentally was also the setting for Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies) the bloody cranesbill, dark red orchid and lady’s slipper nestle in the crevices.

The presentation finished, not with the expected sunset, but with a most brilliant pink sunrise taken over the Dales from Tony’s bedroom window.

The next meeting of the Society is on Thursday December 2 and is to be ‘Landscape and Natural History of the Inner Hebrides by the popular local lecturer, Alan Smith. Everyone is most welcome. Telephone Pat White for details 017687 74705 or visit the website www.keswicknathist.co.uk

Wildlife Summary 2012

David Thomason's Report

As we all know now 2012 was the wettest year since records began and I'm sure everyone remembers the awful wet spring and summer. Butterflies, Damselflies, Dragonflies and most other insects were very late emerging if they emerged at all and this has had a knock-on effect right up the food chain It had a marked effect on the breeding success of most if not all our birds. It has been noticeable that with the poor survival rates of nestlings due to a lack of insects for food, fewer birds are about. Wrens, most of the tit family (except Coal Tits for some reason) and Grey Wagtails seem to be some of the worst affected in my patch.

Waterfowl have been less affected, the ducks and geese seem to be as numerous as ever but poor breeding success in their northern breeding grounds has reduced the numbers of juvenile Whooper Swans and some wintering geese being seen on the Solway Coast, though strangely, the number of adult Whoopers seems to be a lot greater than normal. (Possibly due to the wet weather preventing the harvesting of grain crops, leading to a lot of food for the swans and geese left lying in the fields).

After a poor year last year when there were very few Waxwings about the, last few months of this year have seen a widespread influx of the birds across the county. However, because of the wet spring there are fewer berries for them to feed on, with the result that they are having to move about a lot and so are more difficult to find.

Trees have been very much in the news during 2012 for all the wrong reasons. Tree disease seems to be much more prevalent nowadays, Chestnut Canker, Larch die-back, Sudden Oak die back and lately the major problems with Ash all seem to be linked, but to what? We can only hope that 2013 is kinder to our flora and fauna than 2012 has been.

David Thomason 27th Jan 2013
Meeting Reports

KESWICK NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY

The first meeting of the 2010-2011 session got off to an excellent start with a good turnout to hear Keith Offord,, a well known and popular lecturer whose subject was 'Life over 1000 feet.' Part of Keith's occupation is to look after a specially protected upland in North East Wales which is one of the least cultivated areas in the country, where the vegetation gives rise to species not found elsewhere. He is also a professional ornithologist, photographer and tutor. At 1000 feet, there is a drop of around 3 degrees C and wild life evolves to adapt to this. In NE Wales, the landscape consists of deep heather moorland which thrives in the acid soil, but there is also limestone rock where the soil is alkaline, giving rise, for example, to orchids and grass. Wildlife is therefore related to the geology of the area. Migratory birds like the pied flycatcher arrive in April. They enjoy the long daylight hours for breeding which they do not get at the equator. The wood warbler and redstart are also seen at this height and other birds like the tree pipit, black grouse and coal tit thrive on thinned out forest or conifer saplings merging on to moorland which give them cover but plenty of light though the siskin, red poll and sparrowhawk like the densely packed conifers. The goshawk eats pheasants and so is detested by gamekeepers, resulting in conflict with wildlife lovers. Honey buzzards are also seen in these uplands.
As we all know, sheep transform the landscape and there is a danger of overgrazing. Some birds, like the meadow pipit and skylark can exist happily alongside sheep. Drystone walls provide valuable shelter for the wheatear, little owl, wren, stoats and weasels.
Other birds mentioned as existing in a semi grazed habitat are the lapwing (though numbers in Wales have decreased from 7000 to 3000 in the last 3 years), snipe, redshank, common buzzard, red kite and raven (numbers escalating). There is a decrease in the numbers of red grouse, which may be due to climate change, not necessarily from overshooting. They are now only to be seen on the highest part of the hills as they prefer the colder temperature. This of course has put an end to grouse shooting so heather covered moors are no longer relevant but landowners are encouraged still to manage their moors so the landscape remains as it was.
Keith went on to show slides of caterpillars, dragonflies, acidic pools and an adder, explaining that all forms of wildlife are dependant on one another. The dipper feeds on the caddis fly. The conifer needles drop into pools and becks making the water acidic. We saw slides of the golden plover ,dunlin, curlew, whinchat, merlin, hen harrier, kestrel, buzzard, peregrine, goosander and osprey, all to found in the uplands, many of which are to be found in Cumbria. His final message was that conservation is crucial to maintain the rich environment and that includes burning of heather for regeneration.
Keith's pictures were sharp and thoughtfully captured and with his clear, fluent and articulate delivery, laced with good humour, this was a thoroughly enjoyable and informative evening. Keswick Natural History Society meets fortnightly on Thursdays at 7-30pm at Southey Street Methodist Church. New members and visitors are given a warm welcome.
To find out more, contact the Secretary Pat White on 017687 74705 or visit the website www.keswicknathist.co.uk
KESWICK NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY

The illustrated talk last week was given by Chris Woodley-Stewart, Director of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. These are areas of countryside considered to have significant landscape value in England, Wales and Northern Ireland whose purpose is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape, with two secondary aims: to meet the need for quiet enjoyment of the countryside and to have regard for the interests of those who live and work there. The North Pennines Area lies between Carlisle to the west and Darlington to the east, bounded to the north by the Tyne Valley and to the south by Stainmore Gap.
It was obvious from the start that it was to be an evening full of humour, but at the same time there was no doubt about the seriousness and commitment Chris brings to his work.
The area has special qualities: hay meadows, grasslands, peatlands, interesting geology, lead mining, upland birds like snipe, curlew and golden plover and has world famous rivers, the Tyne and the Tees. There are few trees per hectare but the terrain is remote, wild, tranquil and free from light pollution where the skies are dark.
Nature Conservation Programmes are important and working in partnership with other bodies like the M.O.D. at Warcop for the creation of new woodland or with landowners to restore hay meadows. They have produced a book on the oral history of workers from the past full of local vocabulary and descriptions of the equipment which was once used. They work on projects with children, linked to the National Curriculum. Conferences for sixth formers are organised on subjects like climate change where the students have a chance to ask 'Why?' Adventures are arranged such as gorge scrambling, canoeing, cycling and scrambling. A group of Year 9 pupils were taught how to film a landscape, which as well as teaching skills, was useful in understanding relationships. The sound policy is that children are our future.
It is an area where grips or small trenches are a problem, often starting as one metre deep and one metre across then developing into huge chasms. These affect the peat beds which are crucial for the storage of carbon in the atmosphere. However a successful solution to the problem is to block the drain with a one metre cube of peat before it has chance to increase.
Archaeology is another aspect of their work. There are 400 volunteers working throughout the area, discovering their past community. At almost 2000 square kilometres, it is the second largest of the 49 AONBs in the UK. They restore buildings, teach walling skills to create real jobs and have devised a new kit to take flower seeds for spreading on adjacent meadows, plan the remediation of spoil heaps as well as keeping an eye on the South Tyneside Railway.
It came across strongly that these many and diverse activities took place because of Chris' enthusiasm and dedication as Director. Both he and our Chairman urged us to visit the North Pennines as it is a most stunning area and deserves its designation.
The next meeting of the Society is on Thursday February 9 at 7-30p.m in the Parish Room and is about The Vendace - the UK's Rarest Fish. New members and visitors are most welcome.

Telephone David Thomason for details 017687 73319 or visit the website www.keswicknathist.co.uk

KESWICK NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY

When someone has a passion for their subject, it is such a privilege when thei enthusiasm is shared. At the most recent meeting of the society, Brian and Sophia Fuller took us on an Island Hopping trip, starting with the Farne Islands, home to a wide variety of nesting seabirds e.g. puffins, shags, terns, kittiwakes. Travelling on to Scotland, we saw thousands of gannets on Bass Rock whose population had increased from 5000 to 35000 between 1936 and 2001. Next to the Shetland Isles, which is nearer the Arctic Circle than it is to London and though treeless, the birds use the many fences to land. Here, we saw redshanks, ravens, wheatears, Shetland starlings, whimbrels, golden plovers, arctic skua, dunlins, red throated divers, curlews, auks, black guillemots, hooded crows and the Shetland wrens. The latter tiny bird has a very loud song, probably to be heard over the sound of the sea.
Though the talk concentrated mainly on birds, we were also shown throughout, pictures of the typical vegetation and other wildlife. Hedgehogs and rabbits are in abundance. Grey seals and common seals survive on North Rona in spite of ferocious winds. The greater black backed gull lives here as well as numerous gannets whose nests, amazingly, contain on average at least a pound of plastic which does not seem to harm the birds. Gannets too, inhabit St Kilda's where the fulmar population has also increased because of changes in fishing customs.
40% of the world's population of grey seals live in the British Isles and many in the Monach Isles which has shell beaches and where marram grass stabilises the dunes. Eiders, turnstones, fulmars and lapwings also live here. Finally, we travelled to Coll and Tiree, often called the bread basket of Scotland. There is at least one cow per hectare. We saw a brown hare feeding on seaweed. Wild flowers abound like cranesbill, orchids, oysterplants, and bog bean. There are damp pools, lily ponds, dragonflies as well as birds such as sandlings, gulls and redshanks.
The talk was illustrated by stunning photography with attention to colourful, interesting backgrounds and clear graphs and diagrams. For people new to bird identification this was an excellent introduction. Brian conveyed his enthusiasm for a most absorbing pastime as he remembered his experiences.
The next meeting of the Society will be the AGM followed by an illustrated talk by Carol Minks on Mar 22 in the Crosthwaite Parish Room at 7-30 pm.

KESWICK NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY

The 2011-2012 season began with a good turnout for the excellent illustrated talk on Watching Whales and Dolphins - from Baja California to the Bay of Biscay by Rob Petley Jones who comes from South Cumbria. First of all he described how in 2001, an 18metre whale had been washed up dead on Greenodd Sands obviously in trouble as it had been sighted cruising around the Cumbrian seas for a few days before. This had been seen by a number of our members who had also been lucky enough to spot whales in the Bay of Biscay while crossing to Spain - another favourite habitat for whales because of the very deep waters.
So began a fascinating pursuit of Rob and his wife and for their Silver Wedding celebrations, they embarked on a cruise starting in San Diego, which took them as far as the Sea of Cortez, between California and Mexico. There they saw long beaked common dolphins, grey whales and a fin whale which at 25 metres is the second largest mammal in the world today. They also saw ocean sun fish - mola mola which look like sheets of white polystyrene on the surface of the sea when they come up to sunbathe. There were stunning pictures of all these creatures in many positions making it a really exciting experience.
Approaching San Benitos Island there were close up shots of elephant seals, Californian sea lions and Guadeloupe fur seals, there because of the abundance of kelp, a good source of the right sort of food for the fish on which they feed. In the harsh rugged desert landscape of the Ignacio Lagoon grey whales come to calf as these are the right conditions.
It is often thought that the spray which spouts upwards from a whale is water but it is damp air released when the whale surfaces. Fortunately whales here are no longer hunted but they are seen as a tourist attraction. They are covered in barnacles and like being caressed by humans. It feels like touching firm latex foam.
In Magdalena Bay where there was plenty of food and about 5000 wild dolphins were spotted as well as 3 blue whales which at 30 metres are the largest creatures ever to have lived on the planet. Their nostrils are a metre and a half across. There were also humpback whales and sperm whales which are adapted to deep sea fishing - they can dive down to 3000 metres for giant squid and store oxygen for half an hour before doing so. This enables them to stay underwater for ninety minutes.
After being treated to these fascinating pictures, some of them action photos, it was easy to see why Rob and his wife had caught the whale watching bug to such an extent that they don't want to spend their holidays in any other way. It is possible to observe whales in Britain - The Moray Firth and the Hebrides for instance. We were also encouraged to support the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society which abhors the slaughter of whales and dolphins and the use of dolphins for entertainment purposes in pools at seaside resorts.
Lastly, after a very interesting and illuminating evening, we were left with the question: 'What will the impact of offshore wind farms have on whales, dolphins and any other sea creature?'
Keswick Natural History Society meets fortnightly on Thursdays at 7-30pm in Crosthwaite Parish Room. New members and visitors are given a warm welcome.
To find out more, contact the Secretary David Thomason on 017687 73319 or visit the website www.keswicknathist.co.uk
The next meeting is on October 13 and is about Golden Eagles in SW Scotland.

KESWICK NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY

The Future's Red was the title of the latest talk by Simon O'Hare from the Red Squirrels North of England Project. The evening was devoted to the comparison between red and grey squirrels and how vital it is to ensure the red squirrel does not die out in our area. 367 species of squirrels are found right across the globe and because the design of the animal is so successful, this has not changed for thousands of years. They range in size from 3 kg downwards, our native red weighing about 300gm. The red squirrel is a popular animal and features as part of our culture e.g. Beatrix Potter tales and Tufty Club. Colours are from dark brown and red to grey under thicker winter coat and can even be black.
The reds eat nuts and pine seeds for example and are able to do so because their incisor teeth grow constantly but whereas the greys can manage acorns, the reds cannot. Consequently reds survive better in conifer woodlands and the greys in broadleaved. In Europe as a whole, reds outnumber greys and the problem of greys taking over is only specific to the UK and Italy. Unfortunately the deadly squirrelpox virus is carried by grey squirrels who are immune to it themselves and this passes to reds and from them to other reds very quickly. Survival after treatment by the Vetinary Laboratory Agency is very low so this leads to the question of whether we should intervene. Should we not just accept the greys - we introduced them into this country and evolution after all if only man made, is survival of the fittest?
However, a new project 'Red Squirrels Northern England' believes something should be done. This is a well financed, scientifically robust project which concentrates on grey control, conservation and education. Local areas under review are at Whinlatter and Thirlmere. Among the things we can do are: join a conservation group, report sightings of greys, raise funds and supply appropriate feeders being careful to disinfect regularly to prevent the spread of disease. Simon's enthusiasm and enlightened talk convinced most members that the red squirrel is definitely worth preserving.
The next meeting of the society is on Thursday February 24 on 'Bees and the Environment.' Everyone is most welcome.

Telephone Pat White for details on 017687 74705 or visit the website www.keswicknathist.co.uk

KESWICK NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY

Flowers of the Yorkshire Dales was the title of the most recent presentation given by Tony Woods who had lived in the Richmond area for a number of years and has a lifetime's devotion to the subject. He took us on a journey round the parts he knew well, with excellent slides taken at just the right time to show the flowers at their best in their natural surroundings. He has an eye for spotting rare specimens as well as the more common and well known species Near Richmond itself we saw the celandine, wood anemone, cuckoo pint, toothwort parasitic on hazel, blackthorn, crab-apple whereas at the base of Richmond Castle wild wallflowers, common mallow and rosebay willow herb thrive .Unfortunately, the dreaded Himalayan balsam is present which as well as the Japanese knotweed, they are hoping to control. In the limestone cliffs, west of Richmond pictures of cowslips. hybrid cowslips/primroses , orchids, wild angelica, rock rose, marjoram, thistle, lesser teasel, ragged robin and autumn crocus were shown as typical of the area.
Nearby River Tees on a May morning, it is possible to see the heath spotted orchid, gentian, bird's eye primrose, glow flower, arctic alpine, cinquefoil and the bistort plants which adapt to reproducing without the help of insects.
Moving on to Wensleydale and Aysgarth Falls, the River Ure flows over limestone rocks gauging out circular depressions. Neighbouring woods are up to 800 years old. Early purple orchids are seen after coppicing, then bluebells and bird cherry which is visited by the bird cherry moth whose larvae can occur in pest numbers completely stripping the plant.
At Gunnerside Ghyll, scene of the old lead mines, we saw plants which tolerate lead in the soil like the tormentil, foxglove, harebell, small white orchid, saxifrage, chickweed, cloud berry, northern marsh orchid, heath spotted orchid, butterwort and the 'mickey mouse' mountain pansy
Next, it was over to Semerwater, again in Wensleydale where the globe flower, bird's eye primrose and grass of Parnassus can be found. At Malham Cove. Source of the River Aire, where there is layer on layer of limestone rocks (and incidentally was also the setting for Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies) the bloody cranesbill, dark red orchid and lady's slipper nestle in the crevices.
The presentation finished, not with the expected sunset, but with a most brilliant pink sunrise taken over the Dales from Tony's bedroom window.
The next meeting of the Society is on Thursday December 2 and is to be 'Landscape and Natural History of the Inner Hebrides by the popular local lecturer, Alan Smith.
Everyone is most welcome.
Telephone Pat White for details 017687 74705 or visit the website www.keswicknathist.co.uk