Barry Dyson – Greenriggs outing, 3rd of July 2024

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Waitby Greenriggs Nature Reserve

On an overcast day only myself and Howard turned up for the visit to this marvellous 4 hectare grassland reserve overflowing with wild flowers, grasses and sedges. Apologies had been received from Owen and Carole.
The reserve extends far (half a mile) and occupies two railway cuttings and their embankments. It was initially leased by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, but in 1986 British Rail donated the land to the trust. Much more information about the site is available on-line but this short report confines itself to some of what we saw on the day.
During our 3 hour stay we were lucky that the weather stayed dry with occasional spells of sunshine and being largely confined within the cuttings made the visit feel warmer than it was. Our first look over the road bridge where we parked (Grid ref NY757085) revealed an embankment dotted with Common spotted orchids.
Climbing over the stone stile we proceeded along the top of an embankment overlapping with grasses galore interspersed with Meadowsweet, bedstraws, cranesbills, vetches and lots more. Saw-wort, rare in Lancashire, was doing well here, if still only in bud. Further on we came across various St John’s worts and layers of Ox-eye daisies. Salad burnet, Betony, Eyebright, Clovers, Pignut, Self heal, Buttercups, Hawkbits and Yellow rattle were plentiful and just some of over 200 species of flowering plants recorded from here.
Looking out for Fragrant orchids we finally found some though not the Heath fragrant orchid. Close examination of the flower heads did confirm Marsh and Common Fragrant orchids, but the Heath remained elusive and we were too late for the graceful Lesser butterfly orchids for we did not find any. Twayblades were in good numbers but far outnumbered by the attractive Marsh Helleborines which must have easily exceeded a thousand in number as did the Common spotted orchids. A lone Fly orchid was observed but only because it had been drawn to our attention by white sticks that had been placed by it. Northern marsh orchids and their hybrids were also present.
Meadow grasshoppers abounded and would need to be wary of the local frog population which would take them for sure. We saw one but there must be many more lurking about the undergrowth ready to pounce on them. Butterflies, despite the weather, were on the wing. I recorded 1 Large skipper, 3 Common blues, 3 Meadow browns and 50+ Ringlets. Moths were also present with at least 10 Chimney sweepers, 12 Straw dots and a single Blackneck which appears to be a new record for the hectad. Other insects included Rose chafers and Empis tessellata a dance fly.
Down on the marshy lower track bed Butterwort was present but the gorgeous Birds-eye primroses had gone over. Greater birds-foot trefoil trailed over the surrounding vegetation but we were too early for Grass of Parnassus and Autumn gentians that also grow here. The 3 hours had whizzed by, by the time we returned to the car for a late lunch, which with hindsight we should have taken with us. Reflecting on our visit I cannot think of anywhere at that time where I would rather have been. It was just the most wonderful place to unwind and relax.
On our return home we passed verges with Ox-eye daisies and Wood cranesbills swaying in the breeze. A patch of melancholy thistles made us anything but. More uplifting than sad. It had been a great day.

Barry Dyson 6/7/24

Categories: Saturday Walk

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