Laura Tedstone leads the Trust’s Heathland Heartlands project which is set around Dipton in North West Durham and, as the name suggests, focuses on heathland restoration and conservation. In this case this is lowland heathland habitat (below 300M) that is now uncommon in County Durham. Although the project is only funded for a short time, Laura and her intrepid team of local volunteers are making a real difference in the area which became apparent as she gave the keen members of the botany group a working tour of three sites: New Kyo North, then New Kyo South and Chapman’s well wood.
Straddling the side of a very busy main road and next to new housing, the New Kyo North patch has much to contend with from human contact that is not always eco-friendly. Yet, the flora growing on this brownfield site is looking good and showing many indicator species of lowland heath. The assembled party was divided into four working groups and tasked to survey the area with 1x1M quadrats, randomly dispersed 10 times each group to sample the area and counting presence or absence of particular species. These included Calluna vulgaris heather, Erica tetralix cross-leaved heath, Vaccinium myrtillus bilberry, Empetrium nigrum crowberry, Agrostis spp common and creeping bent, Carex spp sedges, Deschampsia flexuosa wavy hair-grass, Molinia caerulea purple moor-grass, Nardus stricta mat-grass, Galium saxatile heath bedstraw, Hypochaeris radicata cat’s ear, Lotus corniculatus Bird’s foot trefoil, Potentilla erecta tormentil and Rumex acetosella sheep’s sorrel.
It is important to map the coverage of heather across all of the sites in the project, looking at different stages of their life cycle, i.e. pioneer, building /mature, degenerate and dead. Laura explained that each stage provides different micro-habitats for different species of butterflies, other invertebrates and animals to live and breed.
The hard work of tree felling and scrub clearance is starting to show its impact. While the sun helps greatly, what a lovely sward of grasses to complement the varied and more showy insect-pollinated flower species.
See what I mean about showy? Pastinaca sativa, wild parsnip, was in abundance..
…and, although only a small patch of Echium vulgare, viper’s blugloss, was found, it was a such a splendid sight as the group left the reserve.
So, task complete and lunch devoured, time for a walk around the neighbouring sites across the road – New Kyo South and Chapman’s well wood – and what a great way to end a great day. Ophrys apifera bee orchid, Blacksonia perfoliata yellow-wort, Centaurium erythraea common centaury, Rhinanthus minor yello-rattle and Euphrasia agg eyebright species, were some interesting finds. So too, ahead of the grasses identification training day, were the many grass species that were looking resplendent in their swards.
Laura was also keen to end the day on a real high by showing the group a speciality that Audrey, one of her regular and keen volunteers, found on a work day – Lycopodium clavatum stag’s horn moss – not much but wonderful to see!
Please click here to download a species list. A brief site assessment report will be available shortly.
Many thanks to Laura Tedstone for her excellent lead, to Keith Robson for studiously compiling the species list and to all botany group members who attended for contributing to a great day.
Laura Tedstone would like to add the following word of thanks to the DWT Botany Group;
I would like to thank all the botanists for attending on Wednesday at New Kyo North and collecting such a huge amount of data. Favourite plant of the day for me had to be the Echium vulgare, viper’s- bugloss
If you would like more details of the Heathlands Heartlands project and are interested in volunteering please visit the Heathland Hearlands section of the DWT website or email Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org
Coming next: Tuesday 2nd August, visit to Raisby Hill grassland to count Epipactis atrorubens dark red helliborine – see events page for details or email email@example.com