We found this large patch of white sweet violets, with more than 100 blooms, beside the disused railway line near Cotherstone in Teesdale at the weekend.
Sweet violet Viola odorata is the earliest of the violets to bloom and also the species that most often produces white-flowered variants. It spreads via stolons and this patch, which was more than a metre across, must be quite old. Although sweet violet is a native species it's often hard to tell whether plants are genuinely wild or are descendants of plants that have been planted in gardens and have then escaped back into the wild after being dumped with garden waste. This patch is difficult to reach, under a very prickly hawthorn, and grows amongst stinging nettles which must hide it in summer.