Posted by: lensweb | June 3, 2014

Deepdale walk and hunt for bird’s nest orchids

May 31 Deepdale walk and hunt for bird’s nest orchids.

An all day 7 mile walk in beautiful scenery.

Park at White Lodge car park at Taddington (pay and display, WC), on A6 west of Ashford.

Grid ref  SK 170 706         Postcode SK17 9UQ

Leader Marion Bryce

An enthusiastic group set off, daring a small herd of cows which blocked the stile as we set off up Deepdale.


Pushing through a wonderland of meadow saxifrage we soon saw our first orchids. A striped leaf rosette with a loose spike of early purple Orchis mascula flowers, thrust above the tussocky grass, it is not every day that we see crosswort Cruciata laevipes either.


A dainty green hairstreak drifted by. To our delight it landed on cow parsley and posed so we had a good look.


Some spectacular and uncommon day flying moths were on the wing, small yellow underwing Panemeria tenebrata which feeds on mouse ear, grass rivulet Perizoma albulata (food plant yellow rattle) and speckled yellow Pseudopanthera macularia (food plant wood sage).


Best of all were the obliging dingy skippers which followed us up the flowery dale so that now, everyone knows what they look like for recording on our butterfly transect.


The first pale pink common spotted orchids Dactylorhiza fuchsii were opening, a delicate curved stemmed flower with pale green spotted leaves. Along the dale were the tizer coloured nodding heads of water avens Geum rivale, much more attractive than the wood avens Geum urbanum which is a pest in our Long Eaton gardens. These 2 species hybridise and we saw a good example of a hybrid with large yellow flowers. Red starts kept their distance calling from the tree tops, ‘chiffchaff on steroids’.


A pair of hobbies  proclaimed their territory with dramatic soaring and diving displays, at the top of a steep bank, pointed wings like a large swift circling, a shrill khee khee khee repeated and insistent.  Before we knew it we were on top of the plateau wading through buttercups, pignut and red clover. Suitably revived at the hospitable victuallers in the beautiful village of Sheldon, we squeezed through gaps in the fossiliferous drystone walls on our way to Magpie Mine.

This old lead mine has a Cornish engine house which used to power the pump to keep the water out of the working mine levels. Though lead ore remains, the deep working became uneconomic and a collapse of the shaft in the 1960s signalled the end of attempts to reopen the mine. The (screened) shaft is 581′ deep where it meets a sough which was worked up from the River Wye for boats to transport the ore, there is a further drop of 200′ filled with water. We dropped a stone but we didn’t hear the splash. There is also an unusual and picturesque old horse gin from an earlier working.


Dancing heads of yellow mountain pansy (Viola lutea) topped the lead spoil heaps and the white star flowers of Spring sandwort (Minuartia verna) or ‘leadwort’ peppered the almost bare stony soil a fascinating and specialised plant community but a cool breeze hurried us on to Little Shacklow wood, through a ferny cleft past the entrance to the old Duke’s rosewood marble mines. The slippery muddy track led through swathes of wild garlic to the River Wye.

It seemed natural to see water buffalo wallowing in the buttercup meadows. Following the famous and picturesque fly fishing river we were sorry to see the old corn mill, which had been fully restored to film ken Russell’s ‘Sons and Lovers’, had fallen back into disrepair.

We were still in good spirits as we walked up through Great Shacklow Wood and found the object of our desire. The Bird’s nest orchid Neottia nidusavis is white or flesh coloured with reduced leaves and has no chlorophyll. It grows as a parasite on the roots of beech trees, gaining nutrients from the host root’s fungal mycorrhiza, this enables it to grow in deep shade. The honey fragrance attracts flies and there were various uncomplimentary remarks, and everyone agreed it was a very strange plant indeed.


Marion Bryce 3 June 2014


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