Thursday, 3 May 2012

Upper Teesdale

The River Tees meanders its way through a landscape of rolling green hills which have remained unchanged for millennia. With the warming of the climate following the last ice age, whilst much of the UK was covered in trees, many arctic-alpine plants found refuge on the Teesdale fells, where the trees could not take hold on the crumbling soils of the sugar limestone outcrops. When man began to clear the forests around 1000 BC, the plants were then able to spread down the fells and into the valleys. This has resulted in an area which has been described as arguably the most important botanical site in England.

I realise that certain readers of this blog may consider that I am a little obsessed with Gentians, but they are a charismatic and often stunningly beautiful family, and none more so than the electric blue Spring Gentian, which in the UK grows only in Upper Teesdale, and only consents to open fully on bright sunny days. They are also very photogenic, you can never take enough photos of a Spring Gentian, and I can't decide which is the best of the many photographs I took today, so, with no apologies given, here are a few of my favourites.

Botanically speaking, it's still a little early in the year, but there are still plenty of species to see other than the gentians, most notably the beautiful Bird's-eye Primrose, and the very rare Teesdale Violet.

To the botanist this is paradise, and birds seem very much secondary here, but even so we shouldn't ignore the fact that this is one of the best breeding sites in England for a variety of waders and the calls and displays of Curlew, Redshank, Lapwings, Common Sandpiper, Snipe and Oystercatcher provide the backdrop, or should that be the canvas, to a glorious days botanising. Also here, though more difficult to see are Black Grouse, Short-eared Owl, Merlin and Ring Ouzel.

With the River Tees in the background.

Bird's-eye Primrose

Bird's-eye Primrose

A white version of Bird's-eye Primrose.

Teesdale Violet is quite a difficult plant to identify, but this one seemed a likely candidate, with very downy, kidney shaped leaves, characteristic of the species, and seperating it from the almost hairless, heart shaped leaves of the Common Dog Violet.

Mountain Pansey

The fern Green Spleenwort.

The River Tees with Cronkley Fell to the right.

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