After the Landslip

Pelaw Wood sits neatly beside the banks of the River Wear, just along from the centre of Durham City. While it is not a DWT reserve, it is certainly a good place to enjoy wildlife and a suitable choice for the botany group to look for spring flora on Friday 6th April. The wood has a long history that is well narrated on the Friends of Pelaw Wood website – click here.

The botany group was delighted that Friends of Pelaw Wood Chairman, Tony Ewin, and fellow Friend, Anne Quigley, were able to join us to guide us around and to point out key features. Their well-informed tour opened up new ground for several group members who have lived in Durham for many years, yet not really explored this site. How often do we not look closely at what is on our doorstep? No more!

The picture below illustrates the choice of title for this report – the newly restored path was opened last summer, following major work by Durham County Council. The huge landslip of 2013 put large areas of the wood off-limit because of safety risks – and you can imagine why!

For a refreshing change, the weather was mild and dry, no snow or bitter wind, so it was great to be out. However, the coldness had certainly put back the plants with fewer in flower than in a normal spring at this time and vegetative identification skills were being tested hard.

Plants in flower, typically found in woods such as this, included Anemone nemorosa (wood anemone), Ficaria vesca (lesser celendine), Fragaria vesca (wild strawberry), Mercuralis perennis (dog’s mercury), Primula vulgaris (primrose). Plants with flower buds that will soon open up included Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard), Allium ursinum (ramsons, wildl garlic), Galium aparine (goosegrass), Prunella vulgaris (self heal), Silene dioica (red campion), Viola riviniana (common dog violet). Others were just emerging from the ground, so were identified by their vegetative parts (and a few left as ‘probables/possibles’). For example, Arum maculatum (Lords and Ladies), Conopodium majus (pignut), Crataegus monogyna (hawthorn), Geum urbanum (wood avens), Sanicula europaea (sanicle).

Almost 90 species were recorded, 2 refound since 2000 and 9 new finds since then. The records will be submitted to John Durkin, recorder for vice county 66 (Durham), and will inform the 2020 Atlas currently being compiled by BSBI – Click here for more information. The wood will receive further visits to update the plant list and to identity the wide range of Bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) growing there. For a full list of species found on the day, with thanks to Keith for compiling and everyone for finding, click here.

So, Tony and fellow Friends, can be well pleased with the great impression that our visit made and their work is certainly having an impact. The Friends’ website shows their objectives as’

‘Formed in September 2003 by local people our objectives are ‘To promote, for the benefit of the public generally, any charitable purpose in the vicinity of Pelaw Wood connected with the enhancement, improvement, maintenance and protection of the environment and landscape’.

Thank you to those Friends, and to Durham County Council for their major works. Why not have a look yourself over the coming months? You may also wish to volunteer to help the Friends – see the website for updates.

If you are interested in wild flowers and wish to know more about the DWT botany group please email and look for future events on the DWT website. This friendly and inclusive group is open to all DWT members, whatever your experience or  expertise – just bring your enthusiasm to see and learn about our wonderful plant life.