The Field Naturalists ventured to Clapham in the south west corner of the Yorkshire Dales National Park on their September coach trip. Clapham is a charming Dales village with a wooded beck tumbling through its full length. Ingleborough Hall, now a school outdoor centre, was formerly the home of the Farrer family, the lords of the manor in these parts. The most famous of the family was Reginald Farrer, a Victorian explorer, plantsman and seed collector, who introduced many exotic plants to the Farrer estate, the names of many of which incorporate a Latinised version of his name.
Near the start of the day’s walk the party paused at a spectacular waterfall at the top of the village, before starting a pleasant stroll up the former carriage drive of the Farrer estate woodlands and along the side of a delightful lake. One member of the group enjoyed using a brand new “tramper” electric buggy to carry him through the woods.
The area was full of natural history interest – particularly notable were over a dozen types of fern, such as hard shield, soft shield, rustyback fern, brittle bladder fern, maidenhair spleenwort and harts tongue. Another very notable sighting was of a beautiful Purple Hairstreak butterfly, a species that spends a good deal of its life high in the tree canopy but this particular one was seen closer to the ground. Other butterflies seen during the day were the more familiar Red Admiral and Speckled Wood. The woodlands also provided us with various fungi sightings, such as sulphur tuft, jelly fungus and the attractive amethyst deceiver.
The habitats visited during the day were very varied, so the flora was also a fascinating mixture, including great burnet, hedge woundwort, enchanted nightshade, tormentil, devil’s bit scabious and burdock.
Over 30 species of birds were seen during the day, including very welcome goldcrest, great spotted woodpecker, dipper, grey wagtail and collared dove. Overhead a buzzard and kestrel put in an appearance, and a swallow and house martin were also seen, heading south for their long journey to their wintering grounds.
Our route took us eventually out of the woods and into an open valley, still with Clapham beck gurgling along beside us. We stopped for lunch at the mouth of Ingleborough Cave, into which two members of the party ventured, hard-hatted, on a fascinating tour of its interior. Other members continued up through the rocky defile of Trows Gill, a former glacial meltwater channel, and on up the slopes of Ingleborough to peer down into the gloomy depths of Gaping Gill, the opening to a massive underground chamber larger than St Paul’s.
Other members of the party set off to investigate the “Norber erratics”, one of the finest groups of glacial erratic boulders in Britain. These large lumps of Silurian greywacke were brought down from the dale to the north by glaciers during the last Ice Age and deposited on the underlying limestone as the ice melted and the glaciers retreated. The boulders protected the underlying rocks as general weathering wore down the surrounding landscape, now leaving these boulders standing precariously on pedestals of limestone up to 30 cms high (although current research is now questioning this process, apparently).
The remainder of the party returned to the village via the ancient monastic routes of Long Lane and Thwaite Lane, including venturing through two tunnels built by the Farrers to access their estate over the lanes. Well-deserved and welcome tea and cakes were then enjoyed at the local café.
So, all in all, it had a been fascinating day full of biological, historical and geological interest. And the cakes were pretty good as well.