Posted by: lensweb | July 6, 2012

Bonsall Visit – Mining Botany

Jul 2   Bonsall – Mining Botany

Met 7:00 pm at Bonsall. Directions: Take Via Gellia (A5012) from Cromford. Turn right up hill towards Bonsall. Meeting place is several hundred yards after road flattens out and at a right-hand bend with a wide junction. Note the ‘monument’, bus shelter and playing field nearby.

Grid ref  SK279 580                         Leader  Marion Bryce

After a day of continuous rain, we thought a little ecotherapy was needed, so six of us decided to go ahead with the mining Botany walk.  After admiring the magnificent village cross and public water fountain, we donned wet gear and set out on the walk.

The main bedrock at Bonsall is Carboniferous limestone, the layers interspersed with igneous rocks, including dolerite and basalt – called `toadstones’ by lead miners. Where these layers meet a perched water table results in an active spring line.  This is why there was a stream running where there is usually a path. As we puffed uphill onto Bonsall Moor into the long wet grass of the hay meadows, we were in the clouds, taking in water droplets with every breath.

Ruined buildings and bell pits lined the path which wound through a surreal landscape of spoil heaps and lead rakes.  Lead was found outcropping on the surface in Roman times and earlier. Derbyshire’s lead mining region called the `King’s or Queen’s Field’ is under the jurisdiction of the Barmote Courts, a judiciary system separate from the rest of the country’s legal system written in rhyme to aid memory.

Capped mine at Bonsall image

Capped mine – Bonsall. © Marion Bryce

This difficult-to-cultivate landscape has remained ‘unimproved’ and the limestone grassland surrounding and covering the spoil heaps is rich in wild flowers. Up to 8 different species of wild orchid grow, with evocative names like bee orchid, fly orchid and frog orchid. Characteristic plants of the Derbyshire dales grasslands are also found here, common rock-rose, early purple orchids, pink, white and blue milkwort, fairy flax, eyebright, small scabious  and cowslips as well as plants associated with old meadows like violets, yellow rattle, birds foot trefoil and ladies bedstraw. Clumps of wild thyme, downy plaintain, kidney vetch and harebells also thrive in these dry limestone grasslands.  Leadwort and limestone bedstraw thrive on the spoilheaps where grass finds it difficult to grow.

Fragrant orchid image

Fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea). © Marion Bryce

Despite our hurry in passage we saw thousands of common spotted orchid, pink triangles of pyramidal orchid and a pristine patch of fragrant orchid. Chimney sweeper, silver ground carpet and yellow shell moths were flying low through the sodden herbage.  Dave Gell found a lapidary snail hiding in the crevice of a wall.

Lapidary snail image

Lapidary snail (Helicigona lapicida). © Marion Bryce

Keeping on the move, we saw DH Lawrence’s Mountain Cottage across the moor and imagined cosy snuggles by the fireside. As thick cloud enveloped us we squeezed through a series of narrow stone stiles with quaint wooden gates and walked through wonderful wet buttercup meadows, down the slippery slope to Bonsall village.  As the church bells rang, we felt good. Ecotherapy really works.

Marion Bryce

Related Links;

Flowers of Limestone Dales

Derbyshire Lead Mining History

The Bonsall Map Project


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