Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Wildflowers in Lathkill Dale

Thursday was such a lovely day that I decided to take advantage of it and go for a walk in Lathkill Dale. It's a national Nature Reserve and is famous for its wild flowers. The photo at the top is the early purple orchid. A lot of the photos will be improved by clicking on them.

It takes about 30 minutes to drive out to the village of Monyash where this walk begins. I parked in a layby just outside the village, crossed over and went through the gate into this gentle looking landscape.

I had to walk through this herd of young cows, they must be used to seeing hikers and apart from one or two curious looks they took no notice of me.

Right from the start the wild flowers were wonderful, this one is water avens which I've never seen growing wild before.

From a distance water avens isn't an especially eyecatching plant but the individual flowers are beautiful.

The blue flowers are Germander Speedwell, the pink ones are a type of vetch, the white one is Greater Stitchwort and the yellowy green flower is, I think, Lady's Bedstraw. I'm open to correction on this as I haven't seen it before and am by no means certain.

By this time the gentleness of the original scenery had changed and this is the path way ahead of me. As I walked on both sides of the dale rose steeply but there were still wildflowers everywhere. To my right there were hundreds of the beautiful purple orchids in the grass.It was impossible to take a photograph that really showed them up though unfortunately.

This was the best I could do.

There were several large patches of cowslips but they were virtually over, there were just the odd one or two still in flower, they must have been wonderful a couple of weeks ago.

This is pink campion, this is still quite common and grows on grassy banks on country lanes and in open bits of woodland too.

This shows the steep sides of the dale and the rocky outcrops of limestone. It looks so peaceful and rural doesn't it? Yet in the 18th and 19th centuries this was a busy industrial area with three corn mills working, men quarrying the limestone and the noise of the machinery used to mine the lead ore which lies beneath the surface. Leadmining was never very successful though as it proved impossible to drain the water from deep shafts. It's dangerous to leave the path in this area as there are still many hidden mineshafts.

This is a lovely flower but I have no idea what it is - any suggestions? I feel that I ought to know what it is but in spite of going through my wildflower books I haven't come up with any ideas. Apart from wildflowers there were also lots of bees and butterflies, I saw a couple of beautiful yellow Brimstones, some Peacocks and many pretty little Orangetips.

This is called Jacob's Ladder and I know it because the cultivated version grows in my garden. It is one of the rarest of Britain's wild flowers though and in spite of a notice saying that a particular fenced enclosure is full of them I saw only three or four plants flowering.

Lathkill Dale is very open and there is virtually no shade, this lamb had found one of the few cool spots on a hot day.

The halfway point on my circular walk and I am standing on a small bridge looking down on the River Lathkill which is more visible sometimes than others, in dry periods it has a habit of practically disappearing partly because the limestone is so porous and partly because the water drains away into an old leadmine drainage sough.

This photo shows why this area of Derbyshire is known as the White Peak, the soil here is thin and poor and it's an area of caves and dry river valleys. It's a favourite area for potholers and I can only say rather them than me! The recently discovered cave called Titan is in the White Peak and is the largest known cave in the UK. It is not on my list of places I want to visit!! The Dark Peak is also limestone but is covered with a layer of millstone grit which makes it badly drained and this is the part which is the peat moorland.

After crossing the bridge and following the path upwards and round a bend I found to my surprise that I was walking through woodland and eventually I came to this rather magical, mysterious place with steps cut into the rock climbing upwards to a small cave.

The track eventually led to a farm and as I went through the farmyard I saw what must be about the most luxurious pigsty I've ever seen.

The slits in the wall had a sloping piece of stone on the lower half and that must be where the pigswill was poured in to the grateful recipients on the other side.

Here is the only occupant of this palace among pigsties - you will need to click to see her as I didn't feel I should start scrambling about on the stonework to get a better picture.

Beyond the farmyard I found this lovely old-fashioned signpost, so much nicer than the horrid modern metal ones and just as readable and effective.

Further on still I came across this rather splendid gentleman - there was a stone wall between him and me but to be honest he looked rather a sweetie, some of the sheep looked fiercer than he did.

The last lap walking along the top of the dale and looking down on the area where I'd walked earlier in the day. This is modern agricultural pastureland and the lack of wildflowers was really noticeable. Nature Reserves like Lathkill Dale are the last bastions of the once rich diversity of the English countryside.


peppylady (Dora) said...

Dale isn't a term we use here to talk about a land form.
We have a nature reserve but it mainly ponds a great place to look at birds and moose.

Our main rock around here is granite . Most of our land now was form by glacier breaking loose.

Thanks for the tour.

Kelli said...

What a beautiful place for a walk, Rowan! I wish I could have joined you. The flowers are so pretty and I love the little lamb too.

Lynda (Granny K) said...

What a lovely walk, Rowan. Could your mystery flower be a Meadow Saxifrage (Saxifraga granulata) or another member of Saxifrage family?

kerrdelune said...

Rowan, thank you for taking me on this walkwith you - it was splendid and the images are gorgeous, just what I needed today.

meggie said...

Thankyou for sharing your walk. Lovely to see the wildflowers.
I have enjoyed catching up, with your recent posts.

Miss Robyn said...

oh my gawd! the history of your area is mind boggling... those ancient steps are what Daisy would have called faery steps :)
I love your 'wildflowers'... here, I pay ridiculous prices for plants like that for my garden. I loved the walk, thankyou.. cannot wait to see things like this when I come over!

Ragged Roses said...

What a wonderful walk Rowan. Thanks for sharing the photos. The scenery is just beautiful. I also find that my photos never capture the beauty of wilflowers, although yours are lovely. Isn't it strange that their beauty increases when you are very close up to them, it's as if they are either very modest or keeping their beauty a secret!

Judith said...

Thank you for the walk. Even after being in Canada for 52 years, these scenes still make me want to come "home."

Rowan said...

Lynda, I think you could well be right about the white flower, it does look very much like Meadow Saxifrage. Thank you:)

RunninL8 said...

Wow what a magical place to spend an afternoon in!

Rosie said...

What a wonderful, peaceful walk you had. Lathkill Dale is so lovely, as are all the wildflowers - I've really enjoyed your photos of them, especially the purple orchid, pink campions and meadow saxifrage. The flower of the water avens is very attractive with an unusual colour.

PAT said...

Rowan I love when you take a walk! This post is fabulous. I love the photos and your story!


Malyss said...

What a delightful walk!
landscape is beautiful, the little lamb is so nice...It is exactly how I imagine Great-Britain (I'm French)when I read books about your country.
Thank you for this lovely moment;


I really enjoyed your photographs. I am a huge fan of James Herriot's books and so your photos were such a pleasure to look at - especially that beautiful little lamb!

The wild flowers were lovely and the green of the hills with the grey rocks in contrast is wonderful! Thanks.


Rowan said...

Mary and Gillian, Lathkill Dale isn't Herriot country, these are the Derbyshire Dales whereas James Herriot worked and lived in the Yorkshire Dales which is further north. I'm a great fan of James Herriot too.

Lynda (Granny K) said...

Hi Rowan, my comfrey leaves are soaking in the sweet almond oil, I need to put them in the oven now. I'm wondering how much beeswax to use? I've only got 'Hidcote Blue' comfrey, not the original one, but the leaves look the same, so I am just making a little trial batch to see how I get on! I'm very keen to know about the Elderflower ointment, which I presume is for 'drawing'. The elder is in flower now behind the office where I work. I can see it from my window and am itching (no pun intended!) to have a go.
I used to buy a drawing ointment called 'Secaderm' which was green with a lovely smell, but is no longer available. Please would you do a post about the Elderflower ointment for us?

Janet said...

I have missed taking walks "with" you so this was a wonderful post for me. I always enjoy your photographs and your knowledge about your surroundings. The wildflowers are so lovely. Isn't it a shame that modern farming has destroyed so many of them?

Lila Rostenberg said...

Thanks for the gorgeous photos of such a peaceful area!

Curlew Country said...

Gorgeous pictures Rowan, my mum and dad were down that way yesterday. We're very lucky to have this on the doorstep aren't we. Monyash is one of our favourite stops for ice cream - very, very good!

Anonymous said...

Such beautiful pictures, thank you so much for sharing.
The water avens flower next to my garage too, those are children from a mother plant my parents and I took home from Denmark, when we were on vacation there, when I still lived at home, many years ago. I love that plant !!
If you click on my name you will find my new space Magic Meadow !!

Strawberry Lane said...

Thank you so much for another wonderful, and fascinating walk through your beautiful countryside.
Such lovely photographs! I always appreciate your comments ... makes me feel like I've walked the paths with you.

Thimbleanna said...

Gosh Rowan! Your posts just take my breath away. That farmyard is SO cool -- I clicked and saw that big sweet pig -- I love pigs LOL! Don't you need a maid? Or a servant? Living quarters in trade for services and then if you'd give me a little time off I could go on these walks LOL???

Sal said...

I love the fact you found all those wild flowers.
I was walking past a churchyard in Exeter last week and I counted all of these wild flowers: speedwell,scarlet pimpernel,purple vetch,oxe eye daisies,buttercups,daisies,pink valerian,pink campion,herb robert,dandelions. All quite common but still nice to see in a city!
My grandma used to take me on walks around the Devon lanes and she taught me the names of many wild flowers. Sal;-)

Ancestral Gael said...

I love the post and have a technical question. How do you insert the photos so they are small, but can be enlarged by clicking on them?

I've not worked out how to do this, so any help would be gratefully received.