Sunday, July 31, 2011

Two Rivers

This is the Arkle Beck above Reeth. Downstream it flows into the river Swale, which is shallow and fast-flowing in summer but has a reputation for rising very rapidly after rain and quickly becoming a  dangerous raging torrent.

The view southwards, across Swaledale, from the beck-side path between Reeth and Langthwaite.

Much of the land around here on the steep valley sides is very rough sheep pasture - where sometimes you find these large puffball toadstools - this might be Lycoperdon utriforme. It's about six inches in diameter and this is an old specimen that's partially disintegrated but still has millions of spores inside.
The most colourful flowers in the pastures at this time of year are the musk thistles Carduus nutans, identifiable by their nodding heads and backward-swept spiny bracts behind the flowers.

Wensleydale, the next Yorkshire dale to the south, and this is the river Ure looking very placid as it flowers through Wensley.
The riverbank footpath that runs westwards from the bridge across the river here has some very fine displays of wild flowers at the moment, including meadowsweet, meadow crane'sbill, yellow loosestrife, giant bellflower, harebells and marjoram.

This is yellow loosestrife Lysimachia vulgaris, leaning over the footpath, almost demanding to be photographed.

The riverside footpath leads out through woodland into pastures and in one we found this magnificent, solitary patch of musk mallow Malva moschata. The whole field was full of dull pasture grasses except for a broad pit in one corner, that might have been excavated for gravel at some point but now acts for a refuge for plants that must have been here before the pasture was 'improved'.

One of the finest patches of musk mallow I've ever seen, at the peak of flowering.

 Musk mallow makes an excellent late-flowering addition to a wild flower garden, that can hold its own amongst showy cultivated plants and doesn't become invasive.

It provides a good supply of pollen and nectar for bees. This one has empty pollen baskets and seemed to be after the nectar, but must have been almost blinded by that dense covering of pollen it's picked up on its head.


  1. Beautiful countryside Phil. I love that second shot, looking over the wall.

  2. Serene and beautiful. Such a delicate colour on the Musk Mallow.

  3. Just the sort of countryside that I enjoy and I'm quite familiar with some of the area you covered.

  4. I have musk mallow in my garden in Vancouver and have noticed the pollen grains seem to stick to the front of the honey bees and even cover their eyes. I saw a bee literally drop down into a hollyhock leaf to groom because it seemed to be flying blind. It would be really interesting to see the mallow pollen under the microscope to see how the grains are shape and how that morphology affects the way it clings to the branched hairs of the bees.



  5. I've always like Swaledale Keith - if I remember correctly it used to feature often in the All Creatures Great and Small series on telly, about vets...

  6. Perfect lanscape photographer's countryside, lotusleaf..

  7. I've got some musk mallow growing in my garden toffeeapple, but it's a poor specimen compared with that wild one...

  8. We might even have passed each other on a footpath down there at some point in the past David!

  9. Hi Lori, I think you're right.... I seem to recall that members of the mallow family have some of the largest pollen grains of all flowering plants. I think I might even have a photo somewhere of one under the microscope - I'll see if I can find it. All the best, Phil

  10. Some plants do 'demand' to be photographed! We had (planted) yellow loosestrife in the garden in London where I grew up. There's a small clump still there near to the kitchen window. I can never quite get it into my head as a wild plant. Mel

  11. I know what you mean Mel - I think I see it more often in gardens that in the wild. There's also a central and southern European species called L. punctata that's often grown in gardens (it's in mine, and rather invasive!) Best wishes, Phil