After steady rain the sun came out and there was a real sense of satisfaction all around that we had finally completed our task. In fact we had done so in some style too!
This was Thursday morning in Raisby Quarry, an abandoned site next to the very busy working quarry off the Coxhoe road to Sedgefield. We were there because it is another DWT reserve on magnesium limestone and home to those wonderful dark red helleborines, Epipactis atrorubens. We were there to finish off the annual count of these beautiful orchids and it didn’t take long for that task to be complete. That is thanks to the eagle eyes of Rosa, Malcolm, Carole, Ann, Anne and Keith.
The quarry part of this reserve is smaller than the adjacent spoil heap and, at first glance, didn’t look to be so promising a search area. Having said that there were lots of mag/lime specialities including Blackstonia perfoliata (yellow-wort), Campanula rotundifolia (hairbell), Carlina vulgaris (carline thistle), Neottia ovata (common twyablade) and Lotus corniculatus (birds-foot trefoil). We (thank you Malcolm) even came across Ophrys apifera (bee orchid), an extra bonus for our efforts.
There was a great show of Gentianella amarella (autumn gentian) coming into flower and at a distance looking like a smaller version of the dark red helleborine. They will give a good show for a couple of weeks and they, alone, are well worth a trip to the quarry.
We also found good swathes of Clinopodium vulgare (wild basil) in flower and smelling good enough to eat. We chose to buy from the shop though!
So, what did our results show this year?
Well, the quarry count was 131 plants and, perhaps, not too impressive. That is until you compare with previous years;
It looks as if the numbers have bounced back almost to the count of 2009. Whatever the cause, this result rightly added to the sense of satisfaction that the team enjoyed at the end of the day. But not before Keith took advantage of finding an unusual grass for the North East, Bromus erectus (upright brome) and sharing his excellent identification skills.
He took the more delicate Briza media (quaking grass) to explain the features of this species common to other grasses. This grass is relatively widespread in mag/lime grasslands. Another grass that is frequent in the quarry is Brachypodium sylvaticum (false brome).
Keith chose to compare this with the ‘real’ upright brome, making the differences easy to spot. So everyone left knowing that the annual survey was now complete and pleased that we had all learned a little more about grass identification. Add the sunshine and there were broad smiles all around. Thank you team (and previous team).
For a complete species list (thank you Keith), click here.
For more details of this great reserve, click here