Sunday, 29 June 2014

Odds and Ends

As Malcolm and I have had other things to do over the weekend, I thought I would post a few photographs from our walks over the previous days.
The warm, sunny weather of the earlier part of the week, resulted in a high pollen count and the main culprits were the grasses, which are in full flower at the moment.  This is one of the most common in these parts and goes by the name of Cock's Foot (Dactylis glomerata).  A close look at the flowers, reveals a plethora of pollen-carrying anthers.
Along the footpaths and scrubby, woodland edges, a well-known member of the Geranium family, makes a lovely show.  Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) is a rather untidy plant, but its scrambling stems are covered with gorgeous little pink flowers and along with the reddish tint to its stems and some of its leaves, it makes an attractive plant.
Growing beside Osborne's Pond, a non native member of the Plantain family can be found flowering bravely. The small, 'snapdragon - like' flowers belong to Ivy-leaved Toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis).  Commonly found growing in walls, paving and anywhere hot dry, it is no surprise that it is a native of the Mediterranean parts of Europe.
Back to the natives and a tall, reddish stemmed plant with a familiar flower on top.  Formidably spiky, the Marsh Thistle (Cirsium palustre) is common in wet fields and meadows with its stems often reaching high above the surrounding grasses.  Its flowers are particularly attractive to insects.

Friday, 27 June 2014


Grasslands come in all shapes and sizes. From the large expanses of grassy meadows to our own domestic lawns. Looking around the back garden and ferreting about in the lawn, can be quite rewarding if you do not spread the grass with weedkillers and insecticides.  Our lawn is dotted with Daisies and the odd buttercup and in the wetter parts, liverworts cover the bare ground where the grass has given up the struggle. Recently however, I have spotted a few patches of a small blue flower, Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris).
When we see these little plants growing around the countryside - where they are not mown flat at regular intervals - they reach up to a foot tall, but in our lawn, they barely make it to an inch.
Another tiny plant which is often found in our domestic lawns, belongs to the cabbage family.  This little white flower belongs to the Wavy Bitter-cress (Cardamine flexuosa).
Wavy Bitter-cress has a very close cousin, the Hairy Bitter-cress (Cardamine hirsuta) which is almost identical. Close inspection is needed to separate them from each other and a very close look at the photo above, reveals the flowers to have six, pale stamens, identifying it as 'Wavy', as the 'Hairy' cousin has only four stamens.
Of course, the larger, open meadows of Shipley Park are filled with a plethora of wild flowers which leave our back garden lawn to shame, so it's good to have a couple more pictures of these gorgeous grasslands which include the wonderful Common Spotted Orchids...
... And a tall, slender, yellow-flowered plant called Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria), as well as the blurry image of Malcolm in the background..!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

The Blues

I have often mentioned the plethora of yellow flowers which seem to dominate the countryside in these parts, particularly with the amazing numbers of buttercups filling the meadows at this time of year. One colour is less frequently seen however, the Blues.  Right now, we have a few flowers showing through which seek to redress the balance and among the most common are those belonging to the Vetch family. Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca) is very common and makes quite a good show of itself.
Sometimes called Bird Vetch or even Cow Vetch, it can be found gracing the hedgerows and field boundaries all over Britain, where its spikes of blue, pea flowers are held above a rather straggling pile of leaves and tendrils. The plant as a whole can often smother and strangle other plants through which it grows.
As with so many of the Pea family of plants, Tufted Vetch is a useful fodder crop and the seeds (and leaves too), are a favourite of caged birds - Budgies love them!
Growing around the lake at Straw's Bridge the other day, was a pale blue flower which was unfamiliar to me. Closer inspection and a quick consultation of the books, revealed it to be a Cultivated Flax (Linum usitatissimum).
Also known as Linseed, it is a non-native variety and has been grown by man for thousands of years.  Flax was first used for its fibres which were gathered, twisted and woven to make textiles, some 30,000 years ago.  Then it was domesticated and grown around the 'Fertile Crescent' of the Middle East at least 7,000 years ago.  These days, it is grown more for its seeds and the oil which they provide.  The seeds are also edible when sprouted and are often to be found in commercially bought packets of bird seed, which is probably how this plant found itself growing on the banks of Swan Lake.
However it got here, it is quite beautiful.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014


Having passed the longest day, things are already showing signs of the fruitfulness of autumn. Wild Cherries have been ripening for several days now and the piles of discarded cherry stones which lay around the place, point to the feast that birds are making of them.  Cherries are not the only fruits to be appearing in the hedgerows at the moment and this morning's walk revealed a couple more. The first of which was one you don't expect to see growing wild but nevertheless, we stumbled upon a few canes of Blackcurrants ripening in the sunshine.
Native to northern and central parts of Europe, they are not often seen growing wild and we had thought the birds would have made a meal of the fruits by now, but perhaps they're not quite ripe enough for them yet.
A more familiar fruit was also beginning to form in the hedgerows around Shipley Lake.  Blackberries are always popular and a freezer full of last year's crop has been keeping us going ever since last autumn, so it's good to see we have a huge amount of blossom on the Blackberries again this year.
Already the fruits are starting to form and a few young, green ones are visible amongst the pink-flushed flowers. Looking forward to another bumper year for blackberries!

Monday, 23 June 2014


The weather is continuing sunny and hot, so it's time to cool down with a few watery pictures.  Firstly, from our walk around Mapperley Reservoir a few days ago. The resident Canada Geese were swimming about and making a meal of the Water Lily stems.
While some were content with nibbling the lily pads, some were being rather naughty by nipping off the flower stems, of which they would eat a few inches, before abandoning the flower.  It seemed rather destructive.
At the other end of Shipley Park, the Manor Floods were less busy, but still worth a picture or two.
Sadly, the swans have failed again this year to bring up a family and all of their original three cygnets are now gone.  This has happened for the last few years now and seems a little suspicious to me.

Friday, 20 June 2014


Some general and quite beautiful views from around the area today, starting with a few from this morning's walk around Shipley Hill.
Among the Ash, Chestnut, Beech, Horse Chestnut and Holly trees which adorn the top of the hill, a small stand of Pines tower above many of their companions.
In the bright sunshine of this morning, the trees were looking wonderfully bright too.
Where the Wildlife Trust have created more footpaths around Shipley Lake, you are able to get some views which have hitherto been hidden to us.
The Meadows of Pewit Carr are also looking green and pleasant at the moment.  The wild flowers - which I might have mentioned lately - are filling the meadow to head height, making finding a path through them, a little more tricky than before.

Thursday, 19 June 2014


Back to the flowers again this morning.  With Orchids, Dog Roses, Red Clover and many others, there seems to be a plethora of pink at the moment.  But amongst all the pink, there is also quite a lot of yellow to be found.  By the waterways, the Yellow Flag Iris' (Iris pseudacorus) are still blooming wonderful.
Near Cinder Hill and all the orchids to be found there, one large patch of yellow flowers is also to be seen. This is a Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris).
Vital to the health of grassy meadows, the Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) is a semi-parasitic plant which takes some of its nutrients from neighbouring plants, especially the grasses, which keeps them in check and prevents them overpowering the other wild flowers.
Of course, the most common yellow flower is still the Buttercup.  And a very handsome sight they are too, especially when seen among those pink Orchids.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

All Creatures Great & Small

Having almost overloaded on flowers during the last few days, I thought we'd have a few animals for a change.  Starting at the larger end of the scale with a field full of British White Cattle and, it being Spring, a handful of rather lovely calves.
The little ones are always curious to know what's going on, especially when someone is rude enough to point their camera at them.
From Cattle to Coots and the lakes are alive to the sound of Coot chicks, constantly petering their parents for food.  These were demanding to be fed on Osborne's Pond the other day.
Getting smaller, we come to a few mini beasts which were to be found in our own back garden.  The moth known as The Vapourer, is a rather nondescript, brown insect which is easily overlooked.  But it's caterpillar stage is anything but ordinary.  With long tufts of hairs for protection and patches of bright colours to warn off potential attackers, it makes quite a show while munching on your Pyracantha!
Another insect next and one which caught my eye while we were walking along the Nutbrook Trail a few days ago.  Feeding on nectar from a Hogweed flower, this handsome Hoverfly is called Volucella pellucens.  Quite a mouthful for such a small insect, but a very colourful character it was.
Lastly, another insect from this morning's walk.  The grasses are full of brown butterflies at the moment and this one grabbed my attention as we walked past it. It's a Ringlet Butterfly (Aphantopus hyperantus) and seemed to be trying to soak up what little sun there was to be had this morning.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Blooming Glorious

More flowers this morning on our walk around Shipley Park.  Setting out across the old theme park car parks, we were struck by the wonderful sight of hundreds of Common Spotted Orchids.  Some of these had the most striking patterns on the petals, including this one...
In the past, these areas were just dry grassland, but since the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust took over the maintenance of what is now the Woodside Nature Reserve, orchids have sprung up all over the place.
Alongside the wild flowers, many of the ornamental shrubs which once adorned the car parks, are still present and still blooming beautifully. Here, a large leaved Cotoneaster is in full flower and proving to be very popular with the bees.
Further on, an Escalonia was doing the same thing...
Back to the Wild flowers and one which I had heard was to be found in this area, but which I had hitherto not found.  Yellow-wort (Blackstonia perfoliata) is an attractive little flower, with grey-green leaves and the brightest yellow flowers you are ever likely to find - and here it was, flowering among the grasses and Bee Orchids.
A specialist in dry conditions, Yellow-wort is a member of the Gentian family.  It has waxy, grey-green leaves which help it to retain moisture in arid areas such as these old car parks.  Another 'tick' for the life list, which seems to be doing rather well this year!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Good Morning

As I opened the blinds and looked out first thing this morning, a friendly face greeted me from the top of the hawthorn tree in our front garden. 'Our' Grey Squirrel is becoming a regular visitor to the tree and the bird feeders therein.
I don't know who was more surprised, her or me!
What a nice way to start the day. "Good morning Mrs Squirrel."

Friday, 13 June 2014


The weather is still warm and sunny, so we set out again for an enjoyable walk in the sunshine this morning. The Wild flowers are enjoying the sunshine as much as the rest of us. Bird's Foot Trefoil forms mats of golden flower at various places along our walks.
Buttercups dominate the fields...
More Orchids this morning too. These Common Spotted Orchids were flowering close to a small, water-filled ditch which drains into the old canal.
It was on that bridge, crossing the old canal, where we were delighted to see that the Water Voles mentioned a few weeks ago, have successfully raised a family. At least one young vole was seen peering out at us before disappearing into the grass. Unfortunately, it was too shy for me get a photograph.
In the tall grasses of Shipley Park, the giant 'clocks' of Goatsbeard (Tragopogon pratensis) shine in the sunshine.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Wild Flower-fest

It was a 'Wild Flower-Fest.'  No other words can describe our walk around Shipley Park and Cinder Hill this morning. The meadows were glorious with Buttercups, Red Clover and more Orchids than you could count.
Southern Marsh Orchids and Common Spotted Orchids were flowering everywhere we looked.

Having walked up Cinder Hill, made use of the exercise machines provided and strolled all round the top of the hill, we sat for coffee and admired the wonderful view. Not a bad place to stop for while!
Then, it was off again for more orchids...