This Blog covers nature sightings and related news in the Calderdale area.
It includes all groups - Plants, animals and fungi with links to specialist sites.
Anyone wishing to become a member of this Blog and post sightings please contact us.
If you would like to join the Halifax Scientific Society either email me or come along to the next meeting.
All welcome:
Please contact us about any sensitive records before posting on the blog

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

July 2nd walk to Middlefold (Hill Farm Garden and Hay Meadow) Colden

Halifax Scientific Society walk, Saturday 2nd July: Middlefold
A walk and visit to a garden, wild flower meadow and wildlife haven created at 1000ft in Colden

Please meet outside the New Delight Inn, Jack Bridge, Blackshaw Head, Hebden Bridge, HX7 7HT.   There is roadside parking, but please make sure that your cars are not causing an obstruction on this twisty road, and are not in the New Delight’s car park!
We will be walking up to Middlefold, home of Jim and Elaine, which will take approx. 40 minutes.  For those who are fascinated by historical architecture, we will pass spots of great interest.   We will be shown round the extensive garden they have created, including the vegetable garden,  woodland area and the hay meadow, which will take approx. an hour.
The return journey is via a different, longer route and can, if desired, take in the 6 acre upland garden of Land Farm, Edge Lane, Colden (, one of the National Gardens Scheme’s Yorkshire gardens, which is dog friendly, offers teas and charges an admission charge.  Alternatively, folk can return by the same path we took at the beginning.


Please note:
Depending on which route you wish to take, this walk will take anything from 3 hours to much longer.
·         No dogs in Middlefold gardens and meadow please
·         Children welcome
·         Bring a packed lunch/drink etc.
·         The New Delight will be open if you’d like to have a drink at the end of the walk!

Walk Leader Charlotte Weightman: 07801 968404

July 6th Walk to view Hay Meadow Restoration at Widdop Road

Halifax Scientific Society walk, Wednesday 6th July: Hay Meadow Restoration
A walk and visit to the National Trust Hay Meadows

Please meet at the National Trust Clough Foot Car Park, Widdop Road. There is a charge for non-National Trust members.
We will be walking for about 20 minutes along the road to the National Trust hay meadows where we will meet Drew Marsh, National Trust Ranger who will explain the methods used by the National Trust and the RSPB for restoring the hay meadows.  We will then have the opportunity to walk through the meadows to try and ID plant species.
Afterwards, you can spend more time in Hardcastle Crags or alternatively, folk can return by the same path we took at the beginning.


Please note:
The walk will be approximately a couple of hours, but longer if you wish to stay in the Hardcastle Crags area.
·         Dogs are welcome, as are children
·         Bring a packed lunch/drink etc.
·         There is a carparking charge for non-National Trust members at Clough Foot

Walk Leader Charlotte Weightman: 07801 968404

Monday, 20 June 2016

A trio of rare Grasses and a lost Rock Outcrop

Walking in Hardcastle Crags on Saturday we were admiring the hazy effect of hundreds of Wood Melick flower heads, on the track side just above Gibson Mill. This is a fairly widespread grass in Calderdale.

I mentioned the much rarer Mountain Melick that we had been unable to find at Hardcastle Crags since the days of our late President, Frank Murgatroyd. He wrote in his Flora of the Halifax Parish that "It is very rare and known only in the Hebden valley on a calcareous outcrop, where it has persisted for many years". However he was not able to find it for us on many visits since my time in the Society. Since we sadly lost him, several people have kept visiting the spot, but no sign of it was seen.
However, on Saturday 18th June, Annie Honjo found it! I persuaded Peachysteve and Philip Marshall to come and confirm it on Sunday, and they were satisfied it is Mountain Melick, Melica nutans. Charles Flynn also added his opinion that we had relocated it after seeing the photo.

So we are really pleased that it is still in existence there. The National Trust have kept the tree cover off the rocks for the sake of the special assemblage of plants that grows there.

Mountain Melick, Melica nutans

 Also on the Sunday I tried to lead the group to the other calcareous rock outcrop in the Colden Valley, but among the gloomy wet foliage (it had started to rain) I was unable to find the great boulder I had been to several times. Since then I've checked in Murgatroyd and he does list records for the Mountain Melick also being there on the Colden outcrop during the 19thC. 

Last week Philip found a grass with no previous records in Calderdale. Growing in a crack at the bottom of a wall at Mytholmroyd, he identified Water Bent from his seat on the bus! That shows a thorough knowledge of grasses, much greater than mine.

Tonight I visited the new bridge in the Copley Valley. I thought I had seen some Sand Martins among the Swifts over the Calder. There was a handful of them. On the ground I noticed a few fine rosettes of the stiff, bristly Fern Grass, or Hard Poa, Catapodium rigidum, which we had seen there before the development started. They are on the bare area on the left before the bridge going in the Sowerby Bridge direction.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Oak Biceps

Here is an Oak tree in the New Forest exhibiting its amazing strength.

The tonnage of wood on this horizontal branch is supported by the special cells which produce the interlocked grain at the junction with the main trunk. Also the branch will have tension wood growing above its centre to act like a bicep in an arm.

This junction is one of the strongest places on a tree and branches rarely fail at this point. The spiral grain on this particular branch also gives it greater bending strength.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Grass Flower

Who says grasses aren't colourful. This Meadow Foxtail is showing the lovely purple anthers and their attachment by a delicate filament, allowing them to vibrate in the wind and shed pollen.

Before this event the whole of the grass 'flower' envelope is tightly shut. At the base of this envelope of protective outer and inner scales are another 2 tiny scales (lodicules) which are attached to the ovary.

These Lodicules become turgid and expand, generating the considerable force needed to prise apart the outer scales, which allows the anthers and stigmas to emerge. Many grass species have their own time of day allotted for this to happen.

Anyone trying to 'name' the grasses will realise how different they look before the inflorescence is open.

The expanding of the individual florets is determined by the amount of light and when this is adequate the floret can open and exert anthers in just a few minutes. Mechanical disturbance can also initiate this and perhaps the grass is programmed to 'know' it might be windy enough to spread pollen.

Meadow Foxtail was probably the first forage species to be sown in Britain and prizes offered for quality as early as 1766.

      Illustration below is highly enlarged and a representation of one flower structure. Meadow Foxtail (above) has innumerable of these.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Incongruous Grafted Tree

This tree is a striking example of a Manna Ash--Fraxinus ornus, which has lovely creamy-white flowers in spring. It is grafted onto our more vigorous common ash, resulting in the strange mismatch at the graft union. Introduced to Britain in 1700.

The Manna ash is cultivated in Italy and Sicily for its gum, procured by making shallow cuts in the branches and allowing the yellow gum to harden in the air. It is then made into a syrup and used as a mild laxative.

Photos taken in Stanley Park, Preston.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

June's Monthly Meeting and Presentation in a different venue (see poster)


We have had to book the Fire Station Community Room as our usual rooms with our library in the basement of Halifax Central Library are needed for secure storage of the Referendum postal votes.

Dr. Dave has given us some absolutely fascinating insights into his work in archaeology round the world and locally, and this one looks to be equally interesting.

It's a nice room, and we can have hot drinks/cakes. No need to bring anything. The HSS Council has got it organised.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Curious Elder bush

On the HSS walk to Sun Wood today, an Elder with linear cut leaves was noticed on the woodland edge .

It seems to be a combination of Sambucus nigra var. 'Laciniata' (Parsley -Leaved Elder) and 'Linearis'; not quite fitting the description of either. Laciniata has been known since the 16th century and does occur occasionally in the wild.

I suspect it is quite a rare tree, even in local gardens. Note the bifid and trifid, as well as entire linear leaves.

Monday, 6 June 2016

One or Three Sycamores?

How's this for a curious arrangement of Sycamore trunks at Downham? Presumably all from the same rootstock. Nothing like open-grown trees for character.

Don't look for Ancient trees in Ancient woodland---you won't find them there.


Beech Trees

In a field at Downham is this wonderful veteran Beech. It has fallen over many years ago and is now resting on its massive boughs on the ground. Never give up on a fallen tree if the roots are still in the ground. This lapsed pollard is growing and adapting itself to a retirement of leisure sprawled out in the sun.

Trees can often walk across the landscape in this fashion. The major threat being people who live in a different time-frame, think the tree is a gonner and reach for the saw!

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Lime tree -- but not as we know it

In Clitheroe today I was intrigued to see a Lime tree that didn't look quite right. The flower bracts and the immature flower buds were obviously those of a Lime (Tilia) but the leaves looked odd.

On looking closer, I saw leaves which I had not seen before on this Genus. As you can see from the photos they are a puzzle. On looking in my tree book, the only one which seems to match up is Tilia miqueliana, named after Frederich Miquel (1811-1871) professor of botany in Utrecht.

One book says---"This species is unknown in the wild state and only occurs in Japan as a planted tree, most often seen in the courts of Buddhist temples, where it is regarded as sacred. It is reported to have been introduced from China (to Japan) about 1190AD but has not yet been found anywhere in that country. Its extreme variability points to a hybrid origin."

Introduced to the West between 1900 and 1904.

I've not seen one before. If anyone knows for certain whether my identification is correct, or whether I am barking up the wrong Lime tree, I would love to know.

                                   Upper side of leaf
                                      Underside of leaf