Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Trawling Caddis fly, a Hot Climb and a Railway Revival

This is Philopotamus montanus, aka the dark-spotted sedge, a caddis fly that we found on this morning's walk along Shittlehope burn, that flows down from the moorland above Stanhope in Weardale to the river Wear in the valley bottom. Most caddis fly larva live in a tube that they construct from plant material or grit, but this beautiful little caddis has an even more remarkable life cycle. The larva spends its formative years below waterfalls, where it spins a silken net that resembles a trawl net, attached to a rock with the mouth facing upstream, filtering out food particles that the current delivers.
The adult, more or a flutterer than an accomplished flier, is beautifully camouflaged against the dead leaves that still persist along the edge of the burn at this time of year.
And here's the dark-spotted sedge's preferred habitat, one of the many small waterfalls that punctuate Shittlehope burn's route to the river. The burn has carved out a steep-sided gorge whose banks are currently dominated by wild garlic, but other elements of the flora here include primroses, violets and globe flower - although it's a few years now since I've seen the latter here; it's much less often seen in Weardale than it is in Teesdale, the next dale south from here.
This is the middle section of the burn, before it cascades downhill. By the time we reached here we were pretty breathless - I'd forgotten what it was like to be too hot when out walking and today's soaring temperatures had us labouring a little as we headed uphill, but it was worth it because we reached the high pastures just in time to see...
... the 10.45am from Wolsingham chuffing into Stanhope station.
After a bit of a financial struggle the Weardale Railway is running regular steam-hauled services at weekends and the sight and sound of a steam train puffing up the dale marks the welcome return of a branch of the rural rail network that many believed had vanished for ever...


  1. Phil, another smashing post, thanks for Alston. It's on my list as is Weardale and the mine at Nenthead.

  2. What a fantastic walk that was Phil.
    And the sight of the steam train at the end; perfect.

  3. Yes, lovely photos! I have pleasant memories of travelling on the steam train with my mum going into Glasgow on a Saturday. Well, they were all steam in those days! :D

    We regularly visit Stanhope, but a trip on the Weardale railway would be really special.