As an urban park, Middleton is surprisingly well looked after and on Tuesday the wildflower group enjoyed a wonderful woodland walk through acres of native bluebells. It wasn’t our first choice as we were hoping to go to Bretton woods, but the complicated booking system was off-putting.
Bluebells at Middleton Woods
Middleton is the largest ancient woodland site in West Yorkshire – mainly oak, beech, hazel, and willow and birdsong fills the air although we were only able to distinguish great tit and blackcap. A return visit was made today as I wanted to see the lower woods which were even more spectacular than the upper woods. Alongside the small, natural lake in the middle of the park is the visitor centre and cafe; the lake has been tarmacked round for public use but is full of roach, tench and rudd with frogs, newts and toads; a real little oasis. Urban parks have their benefits as the bluebell woods are very accessible for all abilities and best of all it was reasonably quiet.
A warm, dullish morning for our first spring wildflower walk of the season; after two years of lockdown we really appreciated the companionship. The path into the woods was dry and well-trod and our first treat was this delightful clump of goldilocks buttercups. Much more profuse than remembered and obligingly alongside the path. Harder to see was this lords and ladies amongst the grass.
Coming into the woodland the early dog violet and common dog violet were hard to spot as already the dried leaf litter was covered in grass and emerging greenery but we did manage to find quite a few, the bluebells were well advanced for mid April.
Along the path we saw clumps of wood anemones and a spurge laurel, neither spurge or laurel but a member of the Daphne family and highly poisonous particularly the berries.
Going through the gate and onto the banking there were a few red-tailed bumblebees nectaring on the ground ivy and celandine, the mix of blue and yellow beautiful in the late morning sunshine.
Rodley is a beautiful site for birds, flowers, butterflies and dragonflies and although just on the outskirts of Leeds on the ring road, it is well worth a visit, particularly as it is well maintained and has an interesting small, visitor centre
As we try and restrict our walks to a couple of hours we walked up the ramp onto the ‘butterfly bank’ which lived up to its name with a mass of bees and butterflies covering a large clump of crown vetch. The purples and pink of hemp agrimony, marjoram, field scabious, small scabious, nettle bellflower and musk mallow contrasted with the strong yellow of dark mullein. Turning right and arriving at the three well cared for ponds what a feast of different damp loving plants including corn marigolds, marsh woundwort, marsh cinquefoil, water plantain, water forget-me-not, amphibious bistort, gypsy wort, greater and lesser spearwort. A magical place to sit in the shade and enjoy the numerous damsel flies and dragonflies.
Beautiful Brockadale -what a variety of flowers and butterflies! Although we were too early for bee orchid, common spotted orchids were just coming into flower, perhaps a couple of weeks later than usual.. The car park is always a good place for meadow cranesbill, dovesfoot cranesbill, French cranesbill and cut-leaved cranesbill before heading onto the reserve. Moving on down the path passing bladder campion, white campion and white bryony, we turned left for a short distance as we had been told about a large patch of purple milk vetch which we may well have missed. We ended up on the main bank which was a mass of yellow rock rose mingled with hairy rock cress, greater stitchwort and fairy flax.
purple milk vetch
common spotted orchid
A glorious morning for a tranquil walk along the wildflower paths of 18th century Bramham Park, for a very small charge we were able to enjoy this peaceful garden awash with swathes of ramsons interspersed by leopards bane and the tilting heads of water avens. Large groups of twayblade were coming into flower amongst sanicle, pignut, common dog violet and tormentil. Milkwort nestled in the short grass with green field speedwell and sticky mouse-ear. Beautiful bugle sat amongst the barren and wild strawberry, while bulbous buttercup had still to reach its peak. In a few weeks time orchids will fill the unmown corners so a return visit would be worthwhile, a truly magical place to spend a morning.
Hetchell Wood was a delight in the spring sunshine with plenty of bluebells, lesser celandine interspersed by common dog violet and barren strawberry. Amongst the dogs mercury and greater stitchwort, sanicle was almost in flower. Taking the path across the meadow we stepped carefully to avoid the beautiful cowslips, common twayblade and wood anenomes continuing along the path flanked by shimmering white blackthorn bushes we scanned the bottom of the coppiced hazel looking for toothwort eventually finding this fine growth of the parasitic plant. The circular route took us past wonderful clumps of marsh marigolds with golden saxifrage clinging to the mud beneath. Yellow archangel and green alkanet on the roadside verge were admired before we reached our cars. A beautiful walk on a fine morning..
t was a warm, muggy cloudy morning for our last walk of the season where our aim was to find autumn lady’s tresses, a tiny spiralling flower hiding in low grass. Amongst the damp grass along the main path we passed white, red and bladder campion as well as agrimony, lady’s bedstraw and, as the path widens out to the sunny bank, harebells. Here also we had rock rose, eyebright, fairy flax and quantities of autumn gentian, common centaury amongst field scabious, small scabious. On the bumpy knoll where the leaves of the pasque flower could still be seen, we found devil’s-bit-scabious and plenty of yellow-wort and our target spoecies – autumn lady’s tresses. A number of our walks have been rained off this year so it was good to finish with such a rewarding morning at the flower rich site.
autumn lady’s tresses
Anglers CP has always been a favourite for bird watching but the wildflowers are also improving year by year: dog roses, guelder rose and dogwood are in full splendour at the moment edging the path as we passed the right hand field, full of meadow buttercup, lady’s smock and red clover. Interspersed amongst these flowers were northern marsh orchid, although possibly these have hybridised with southern marsh orchid, and also a few common spotted orchid. Yellow flag, lesser stitchwort and mouse- ear grew by the water’s edge as we turned right towards the bird hide. Hundreds of orchids can be seen along this path, still coming into flower, a real feast for the eyes. As we turned back onto the main path, broad-leaved willow-herb and cut-leaved cranesbill were coming into flower alongside clumps of creeping buttercup, red campion and hemlock.
northern marsh orchid
A chill wind caught us as we walked up the sloping track brightened by dog’s-mercury, cuckoo pint, white dead-nettle and a clump of hairy violet. We stopped to admire clumps of goldilocks buttercups amongst the celandine, up in the woodland we began to focus on tiny common dog violets with their pale, notched spur nestling amongst the dried autumn leaves.
Climbing up the path further into the woodland early dog violet, with its dark unnotched spur became more prevalent among large patches of anemone, their flowers closed waiting for the sun to come through. Early purple orchid was well in flower alongside sanicle and bluebells. Bushes of spurge laurel had finished flowering. We carried on through the wood until we came to a stile to take us back down onto the footpath through the meadow, the sun was out by this time and orange-tip, peacock and tortoiseshell butterflies enjoyed the ground ivy, red dead-nettle and celandine on the edge of the woodland, with a variety of bees including bee fly. Walking back towards the track we saw butterbur, shepherd’s purse, slender speedwell, germander speedwell, wood speedwell and crosswort……a good morning’s walk.
As the sun was warming up nicely we decided to take a look on the other side of the road at Ledsham vale and were well rewarded by the beautiful pasque flower in full bloom, the best we had seen it for many a year.
It was a warm, clear morning for our last flower walk of the season. The lack of rainfall has taken its toll on the vale which, on first glance looked dry and parched, lacking the lush green and purple haze of scabious present on previous visits at this time of year, but further into the vale we began to see the flowers that we hoped to see. All three scabious were identified, small, field and devil’s-bit although not as abundant as previous years, red bartsia, harebells, fairy flax, betony and restharrow were all plentiful as were yellow-wort and autumn gentian. We failed to find autumn ladies-tresses although one of our group had seen it on the vale in the last few days but just failed to locate it! Corn sowthistle, common rock-rose, milk-wort, ladies bedstraw, agrimony, yarrow, white campion and the wonderfully named traveller’s joy were a delight to see. Large numbers of meadow and common grasshoppers jumped about around our feet and a buzzard soared above the vale, a really beautiful last outing of the season.