Gait Barrows Two Times

On Thursday night, then again on Saturday afternoon, I was at Gait Barrows. The first was a solo and very late trip, the second a family outing to the Gait Barrows open day as part of the local Wildflower Festival. We were late the second day too, but only because we were using the free bus service laid on for the occasion: the first whizzed past, the second didn’t show at all, so we finally caught one an hour after we had intended.

The stars of the show were the lady’s-slipper orchids, apparently Britain’s rarest flower – there’s just one native surviving example in the wild, at a jealously guarded site somewhere in Yorkshire. Another plant has been flowering near the village since the 1930’s, when it’s thought that somebody planted it there. Now the clever people at Kew Gardens have undertaken a programme to try to reintroduce the flower to the wild. Plants held by orchid collectors and known to be of English origin have been crossed with plants from the continent. Now several orchids have been planted at Gait Barrows. Apparently the orchids need a particular fungi present in the soil in order to thrive and it’s thought that it’s likely that that fungi will be present locally.

Another really noticeable feature of both trips, particularly on Saturday, were the wood ants. There are lots of large nests at Gait Barrows. At present the ants are so busy that if you stand near to a nest you can hear the noise of their combined movements. On Saturday the ants were using one of the main paths through the reserve and one side of the track was a awash with them. I was going to say ‘like a river of ants’ except that the ants were flowing in both directions, so perhaps not the best analogy. I’m always impressed by the things that ants will carry… this dead beetle which dwarfs the ant which is dragging it.

On Thursday night I saw several roe deer – mostly they ran off long before I could photograph them, I did take some photos of one which was in the middle of the damp meadow by Little Haweswater but it was a long way away and it was by then quite dark so the photos weren’t up to much. Near the end of the walk a fox ran past and disappeared into the trees – I know that foxes can be very common in our towns and cities these days but I very rarely see them, so was thrilled. Later still, when I was almost back at the car, another roe deer crossed the track ahead of me and paused to stare before running into the trees when I raised my camera. From the woods I then heard what sounded like the barking of a dog. I knew that roe deer could bark like this – there are film-clips on YouTube – but I’ve never heard it before myself.

There were many moths flying and on Thursday night when I was alone I chased around after one or two without any real success. The best I managed…

…at least enabled me to identify this as the day-flying moth the speckled yellow.

I almost walked into….

…which was hanging by a thread from a tree by the path. It was swinging in the wind and I couldn’t seem to hold it in my viewfinder to take a photo. Then it simply disappeared and it took me a moment or two to realise that it was now sat, rather imperiously I thought, on the top of my lens. So in the end I photographed it sitting on my finger, which gives an idea of how tiny it was. I’ve trawled through the caterpillar pages of my insect field guide but can’t find anything to match – as ever, if anybody knows or has an idea…

The lady’s-slipper orchids like limestone pavement and in the same area there were several other flowers which also seemed to be thriving in that environment:

I’m fairly sure that this is lily-of-the-valley. There were lots of plants, but not many flowers – I think that next year I need to visit in May to see them at their best.

Rock rose which is fairly common locally.

I think that this is biting stonecrop although the flowers aren’t fully opened yet.

Columbine – aquilegia vulgaris – likes lime rich soils too, which is perhaps why they seed so effectively all over our garden. I love them. Some of the plants in our garden have pink flowers rather then white and I had always assumed that this was the result of some commercial cross-breeding but I saw a pink one at Gait Barrows on Thursday and my flower guide says ‘usually violet, but occasionally white or reddish’ so perhaps not. The light wasn’t helping on Thursday night but I can’t resist including this unopened flower, blurred though it is, because of the fabulous colours and shape…


On Saturday TBH and I walked home with her brother Dr A, whilst the kids went on the bus with their grandparents. The stream which flows from Little Haweswater to Haweswater was chock full of big fat tadpoles. In the meadows by the lake the bird’s-eye primroses are flowering…

Gait Barrows Two Times

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