I've walked around Fineshade Woods many times over the last 30 years and seen a number of orchids, picked a lot of blackberries but I had no idea how many different flowers there were in the wood until....
Jan and I met up with Brian Laney and some other Friends of Fineshade to see what flowers we could find. Brian is an expert botanist as we soon discovered. We found at least ten species of flower in the first 20 yards of our stroll. Brian had said at the beginning that we wouldn’t go very fast, there was too much to see, and he was right, over and over again.
He was also careful to explain the sort of soil that various plants were suited to, how some of them were similar to common garden plants and how common or rare they might be in this part of Northamptonshire. He could see things that I hadn’t noticed. I suppose his eyes were tuned into finding plants.
We walked along the bridle path from Top Lodge towards King’s Cliffe, then into Westhay and down one of the rides back towards the main forest road south, then along the old railway cutting and finally through the field below and back to the entrance road to the woods.
What did we see? Overall I recorded 88 species of flowers, not all blooming at the moment, and including some grasses and sedges. (If you are interested you can download a list of the species here). I am sure I missed several. Some of the stars include the large spectacular Woolly Thistle, Horseradish, lots of Common Knapweed and Common Ragwort, which is poisonous to horses but only when it is dried into hay and the horses don’t know what they are eating.
We found Hemlock too, another poisonous plant from which Socrates died. The picture on the left shows its seeds.
There was quite a bit of Black Bryony with its heart-shaped leaves: it is supposed to have been a villain and have stolen the heart of the White Bryony.
Some things were a bit unusual like the Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil, Betony with its small pretty mauve flowers, Nettle-leaved Bellflower and Meadow Cranesbill, both with lovely bluey-purple flowers, and the scarlet berries of the wayfarer tree. There were other fruits as well as blackberries – sloes and wild plums.
Betony and Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil (Photos by Roger Eads)
Brian was particularly interested in Small Teasel (photo below, left) which is uncommon in Northamptonshire, whilst when we went out into the field which takes us back to the road he found many little plants such as the pretty Field Pansy, and the remains of Small-flowered Buttercup which really is uncommon.
It wasn't just flowers, there were other things too – a total of 16 species of butterflies including a Purple Hairstreak seen flying at the top of an oak tree, several Dark Bush Crickets, some galls on thistles and of course the usual Red Kites and Buzzards. There were numerous little birds but we didn’t pay much attention to them as our eyes were mainly fixed on the ground looking for flora.
What a morning! In fact the walk went on well into the afternoon. Three and a half hours sped by. It was a thoroughly interesting, absorbing occasion, but it would have been nothing without Brian whom we were very lucky to have been able to meet.
We’ll have to come again soon to find more of Fineshade’s secrets.
More of Rogers Ead's photos taken during the walk are below.
Brown Argus Butterfly feeding on Ragwort
Goldenrod Spider, the UK's only crab spider which can change its colour from white to yellow to match its background.
A rather tatty Silver-washed Fritillary - they have been flying for weeks - and a recent arrival, a pristine Painted Lady
Dark Bush Cricket