Sunday 14 July 2019

BSBI Summer Meeting 2019: Run-up and Day One

Botanists in the field at the 2019 Summer Meeting
Image: Kelli Imms
You know it's really summer when the week-long BSBI Annual Summer Meeting (ASM) kicks off! This year the ASM is based in FSC Malham Tarn in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and organiser Jonathan Shanklin has organised a week of excursions to sites in the area where interesting wild flowers are likely to be found. 

Jonathan set off from his home county of Cambridgeshire (where he's County Recorder) on Thursday, so he could be ready to greet early arrivals for the ASM, due to start on Saturday. Of course, expecting Jonathan to wear blinkers and not do any botanising en route is ever going to happen, so here is his account of his journey to Malham Tarn and a report of Day One of this year's Summer Meeting:   

House holly-fern Cyrtomium falcatum
One of the area's specialities
Image: Dave Barlow
"Despite threats of thunderstorms, the area south of Skipton remained dry all day, though by the time I finished black clouds hung over the Pennines. I took a walk around a couple of tetrads in south-west Yorkshire that needed coverage for Atlas 2020 - quite a leisurely day for me as I often manage four. Interesting species encountered included smooth lady's-mantle Alchemilla glabra in Sutton-in-Craven churchyard (I wonder how many species we will find around Malham?), sand spurrey Spergularia rubra in an open access area of old mine workings (the farm had a huge scrapyard of old farm vehicles which was worth a visit in its own right), creeping yellow-cress Rorippa sylvestris under a bridge over the River Aire and two-flowered everlasting pea Lathyrus grandiflorus in a couple of places living up to its name.  

"We have the threat of more showers tomorrow afternoon, so I am preparing back-up talks just in case. Clouds are forecast for tonight, so I won't be staying up late - last night there was a display of noctilucent clouds an hour or two after sunset - these clouds form about 80km up in the atmosphere and stay sunlit long after dark. They show a beautiful silvery blue colour due to ozone in the atmosphere - but that will be a subject for one of the back-up talks.

Botanists in the field at the 2019 Summer Meeting
Image: Jerry Clough
"Having stayed locally I had a morning to go out and about, so headed for Skipton Moor. This pretty much lived up to its name, so plenty of Calluna vulgaris, Nardus stricta, Juncus squarrosus and other such plants of acid ground. A beck head and associated flushes provided a bit more interest, with Stellaria alsine, Montia fontana (which sub-species still to be determined) and Ranunculus omiophyllus. Descending back to Skipton there was just time to do a quick circuit of a few urban streets in the tetrad to boost the total species count, before heading to Malham Tarn.

The hawkweed Hieracium eboracense
Another of the area's specialities
Image: Dave Barlow
 "The route through Skipton turned out to be log jammed, but a detour soon put me on the way. In Malham there was a sign saying diversion, but surely the road to Malham Tarn would be open - it wasn't so the diversion needed following, but I safely arrived at the idyllic setting of the Field Studies Council centre. 

"By 3pm sufficient numbers had gathered to start a walk, and we chose to head west, where an old quarry was thought to hold botanical interest. The way took us through a limestone chasm forged to make the road to the centre. Here David Broughton (botanical blogger and County Recorder for both mid-west Yorkshire and Huntingdonshire) noted Sedum stoloniferum, presumably a Victorian introduction. 

"We carried on past the entrance to Tarn Moss to leave that for others, and found the quarry - it did indeed have botanical highlights - Sesleria caerulea, several species of Alchemilla, Carex pulicaris, Helianthemum nummularium and Potentilla erecta growing together and many others. We just made it back to the centre for 6pm.

Botanists in the field at the 2019 Summer Meeting
Image: Kelli Imms
"After dinner Judith Allinson gave two groups a tour of the house from the historical perspective, then we had an introduction from Jim Wright the centre manager, a brief from me and then the evening's talk from Judith on the flowers around Malham Tarn, illustrated with beautiful images of plants that we hope to see over the next few days".

Huge thanks to Jonathan for this report and to Dave Barlow, Jerry Clough and Kelli Imms for very kindly sending through some photos taken on Day One. Jonathan is going to have his hands full in the coming days, organising and leading the various field trips, so we've invited some of the 50 or so botanists attending the meeting to share the load and write up some of the daily reports. Watch this space!

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