WFV, Bastow Wood, Grassington, 25th July 2017

Dark Green Fritillary, freshly emergedDark Green Fritillary, freshly emergedThe main interests of today's visit were the butterflies and flowers of this open limestone pasture; so not really a wood at all?

The forecast promised a dry day with periods of sunshine and our party of ten were not to be disappointed. After a toilet stop at the National Park Centre we parked on Wood Lane at the bottom of Grass Wood. We then proceeded slowly uphill all the way. Many plants were seen such as Enchanter's Nightshade,which was prolific, Valerian, Herb Bennet, St John's Wort & delightfully a couple of Common Fragrant Orchids. The only butterflies seen inside Grass Wood were Ringlets.

After we had climbed over the impressive stile that leads out of the wood and into Bastow Wood the flora changed instantly. Suddenly we were looking at swathes of Betony, Rockrose, Wood Sage and the occasional Bloody Cranesbill.  Lunch was immediately taken on a nearby hillside carpeted with eyebright, trefoil & Wild Thyme. An Antler Moth was soon spotted and many more Ringlets.  The temperature was now rising as we walked along the main path that eventually leads out of Bastow and meets up with the Dales Way. Many more plants were now being sighted; Milkwort,Common Spotted and Heath Spotted Orchids, Hoary Plantain and Lorna found the only Birds Eye of the day. It was very small and right in the middle of the path, so very lucky to still be intact!

There were numerous grasses and sedges but alas without our botanical specialists we struggled to name many. A few fungi were noticed; Suede Bolete and several Clitocybes, most likely 'gibba' the Common Funnel. Birds were few and far between though every now and then a small flock of finches? would fly from tree to tree. We were undecided if they were Linnets or Redpolls. A solitary Green Woodpecker was seen by Robert and Stuart sighted a distant Redstart.

With the warmth came the butterflies; Meadow Browns, more Ringlets, Small Heaths, Small Skippers, a white, a single Common Blue and best of all several usually fast flying Dark Green Fritillaries. I was fortunate enough to see a freshly emerged one still drying its wings so most of the group were able to view this magnificent insect at very close quarters. Not all the group managed however to get there in time as we had earlier scattered when a herd of brown cows padded along the path in our direction. They soon passed by and vanished from sight however.

It is most pleasing to see that grazing has been re-introduced after a gap of many years. The site had become more and more overgrown with birch scrub so hopefully the decline will now have been arrested and the site can return to its former condition to the benefit of the plants and butterflies. Unfortunately no Scotch Argus were seen, possibly we were to early in the season?  

Grass moths abounded as did Antler Moths which were to be found on almost every Ragwort. I captured and identified a micro moth Eana osseana. On the way back through Grass Woods several Common Hawker Dragonflies were on the wing.

Many thanks to our driver Stuart and to Robert for bringing his 8 year old Grand daughter Eden who was a delight throughout the day and a added a different dimension to our experience.  We departed the wood just before 16:00. A most enjoyable day.

There are more pictures in the gallery.

John Gavaghan

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