A party of 7 botanists left Littletown village last Tuesday evening 15th May to explore Elemore Woods. Littletown is an old mining village but there was little sign of industry as we followed the path into the woods.
The Elemore Woods area is a site of approximately 203 acres with 154 hectares given over to woodland. The whole area was once the pleasure grounds of the Baker Family of coal mining interests and who lived at Elemore Hall. The woodlands are broken up into several named woodlands, owned and managed by the Woodland Trust. It is now the largest deciduous woodland in County Durham and the largest woodland site owed by the Woodland Trust in the North. Through the years some of the original woodland has been destroyed much to be replaced by conifers but that is now slowly being rectified by the Woodland Trust management programme.
Our walk entered the first named part of the woods, Dog Kennel Bank. We passed an area just before the woodland path which was obviously damp with much Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet) in evidence. There were many of the usual plants you would expect to see including Cirsium arvense (Ceeping thistle), Galium aparine (Cleavers) and Heracleum sphondylium (Hogweed) not yet in flower. At the end of the path before walking into the woods I spotted what I thought was a Stellaria media ( Common chickweed) growing at the back of the Geranium robertianum (Herb Robert) although it looked rather small. I learnt from the expertise of my fellow botanists that it was in fact a Moehringia triervia (Three-nerved Sandwort) also a member of the Campion family just as common chickweed is. I may well have seen this plant before but I couldn’t remember it being the case . I must look harder next time I am out in similar terrain, it was the highlight of the evening for me as a new plant to add to my knowledge. I have to admit I know little about Sandworts
On the ground above the conifers was an area of Conopodium major (Pignut) some just coming into flower and high on the bank Hyacinthoides non-scripta (Bluebells). Everyone who enjoys being in the countryside has been commenting this year that the bluebells are late. Four years ago I was walking in Bluebell woods in the South and have photos taken on 3rd May showing vast areas of Bluebells in woods on the edge of the North Downs. Bluebells were well out in the area we were looking at on our walk which was only twelve days later than I had seen them four years ago and as we all know the South is always a little earlier than the North. I believe nature has caught up following the long winter season and most of the plants will be flowering at the usual time we expect now winter has passed.
Continuing through the woods we all stopped to look at some of the trees including several Ulmus glabra (Wych Elm) and one that initially puzzled us . After looking really hard we identified it as Laburnum anagyroides (Laburnum). It was a large species and quite unlike the specimens seen in gardens. Even the trunk of the tree looked a different colour. Continuing on we all stopped to look at
Geum riveale (Water avens) with their drooping orange-pink flowers with erect petals. As we followed the line of flowers we noted several that had pure yellow flowers. These were Geum x intermedium (hybrid Geum)as a result of interbreeding with Geum urbanum (Wood Avens).
In two hours we had seen and identified over seventy flowers and trees. (add species list here) in what was a very pleasant and fine evening. I am sure we all wanted to continue further to get to the part of the woods named Elemore Woods but as the light was beginning to fail we had to leave it for another day.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to the species list and to Steve for compiling it and organising the trip. An area of woodland I can thoroughly recommend.