Ashberry and Ellerburn Bank, YWT sites and SSSI’s, 27th June 2018
13 enthusiastic would-be botanists were punctual at the visitor centre on Sutton Bank, where the temperature was already in the 20s. Shared out into 4 cars, we parked in the restricted space at YWT Ashberry and set off through the tall vegetation to the crystal clear stream fed by calcium rich springs which runs through the reserve. There were many plants typical of limestone marsh and grassland, the first we noticed being extensive patches of Marsh Lousewort; Marsh Valerian, Marsh Pennywort and Marsh Bedstraw were also found – it was marshy! There were abundant sedges such as Glaucous, Carnation, Hairy and Bottle and at least four species of rush, all providing useful practice for those of us who were trying to improve our identification skills. Butterwort was plentiful but most not flowering; similarly the Bird’s-eye Primroses had more or less finished. A full plant list is attached.
We were charmed by the beauty of the location and the variety of plants, although full exploration of the site was rather beyond our botanical skills and time allowance.
So after a couple of hours we headed off to Ellerburn Bank where we were met by the YWT site manager Kate Yates. This reserve is a small but stunning meadow which has never been interfered with by agriculture. We were impressed before we even went through the gate by the enormous and exotic looking Woolly Thistles which guarded the entrance. Kate described the management strategies, which included chasing the butterfly orchids around the meadow with anti-rabbit corrals, and showed us the Fly Orchids, slightly past their peak flowering. A huge list of other plants was accumulating – see attached list – highlights included Dropwort, Pyramidal orchids, Musk Thistle and many beautiful grasses which were at their best, particularly Purple Moor grass and Yellow Oat grass.
The hot sunshine brought out a bonanza of butterflies – blues, skippers, marbled whites, a beautiful dark green fritillary and many others (see attached list.) The site is also notable for reptiles but to see adders and slowworms we would have needed to search the dry stone wall and once again our time was limited. Many of us felt we would like to return to these sites again with more time!
Thoroughly sunned and overloaded with new plant names we set off on the long drive back after what felt like a quite intensive day. Many thanks to Kate and the YWT, they do a fantastic job in saving and maintaining these important sites.