Sunday, 4 May 2014

At this uplifting time of year, a walk of a few hundred metres by Snowden ghyll yields a profusion of wild flowers, bird song at its richest and, on the first day of May this year, an advance flight of 10 swallows swooping fast and low to feed on airborne insects. Above: primroses bedeck the banks where the footpath crosses the ghyll.
 Above: bluebells carpet the wood upstream from Throup's bridge. 
 Above: dandelions turn the Tar Topping field into a festival of yellow.
 Above: wood anemones are among the first spring plants to flower.
Above: pink purslane is an uncommon plant of damp woods and shady places in the west and north of England but is abundantly present near the ghyll. 
Above: the lesser celandine, about which Wordsworth wrote an admiring poem, closes up in dull weather, unlike the unrelated greater celandine. The lesser celandine was a medicinal herb in the 16th century.
Above: the cuckoo flower, which is also known as 'milkmaid' and 'lady's smock', is a food plant of the orange-tip butterfly. Apparently, the leaves can be eaten in salads as a substitute for water cress.
Above: the daisy's name is derived from 'day's eye', a reference to the plant's sun-like centre. The daisy has been popular with poets through the centuries but sadly less so with gardeners whose lawns it invades.
Above: the stems of greater stitchwort are weak and snap easily, thus leading herbalists of old to believe the plant could help heal broken bones. The common name refers to its use in treating stitches and similar pains, as a remedy for which it was prepared with acorns and taken in wine.
Above: wood-sorrel flowers droop in rain and at night to protect the pollen but despite their abundant nectar attracting bees very little seed is produced. Reproduction is by way of a second sort of self-pollinating flower carried prolifically in summer on a short stalk close to the ground. 
Above: common dog violet is the scentless variety, the 'dog' title being used in wild flowers to distinguish an inferior form from relatives that are superior in some way. 
Above: dog's mercury is extremely poisonous to animals and humans. It grows profusely under hedges and in woods and has a fetid smell to attract midges, which pollinate the female flowers. 
Above: opposite-leaved golden saxifrage colonises the banks of small streams.
Above: marsh marigolds with their brilliant golden flowers and glossy green leaves are not widespread locally but this clump makes a luxuriant spectacle in the shade of a ditch in Hole Lane.  
Above: apple blossom in a Bradley Road hedgerow of predominantly hawthorn, holly, blackthorn and elder.
Above: in Skipton Road a solitary but outstanding whitebeam tree will soon reveal its froth of creamy-white, sweet-scented flowers.