The Sill to Whinshields

Recently, NHSN’s Friday Botany Group set out on a trip to upland Northumberland in search of wildflowers at the Sill

Recently, eleven members of NHSN’s Friday Botany Group took part in an enjoyable botany excursion at Midsummer, led by Lesley Acton. The day was warm and humid, with thunder clouds looming around us, but thankfully, the promised rain never materialised. Lesley, who with her family farms the fields next to the Sill, gave us some background to the farm before we set off. She also circulated a species list compiled by the NHSN Wednesday Botany Group in 2009, challenging us to find all 73 species on that list. The walk took us across the whin grassland, in the area between East Bog Farm and Hadrian’s Wall, across a slightly boggy area and up towards some crags with views over Crag Loch – the perfect spot for lunch.

The area is botanically surprisingly diverse, particularly when it comes to sedges and grasses. We found all nine sedges on the 2009 list, but agreed that a further excursion focusing on grasses would be helpful. Having the 2009 list was useful and we found most of the species listed.

In addition to plant species on the 2009 list we also found: Dove’s-foot Crane’s-bill, Fragrant Orchid, Slender St John’s-wort, Jointed Rush, Meadow Vetchling; Salad Burnet; Sheep’s Sorrel; Annual Knawel; Common Figwort; Lesser Stitchwort and Lesser Trefoil. Group member, Mike also relocated the lichen Lasallia pustulata.

Some of us finished the day by visiting The Sill, the National Park Centre, to look at the Whin Sill roof, which NHSN Course Tutor, Janet Simkin, had been involved in creating.

The most exciting moment of the walk was going through a gate blocked by a horse! Lesley saved the day by simply pushing the horse to the side, while the rest of us took shelter behind the gate before venturing across the field.

Mima Cattan
Friday Botany Group Member