Lichens on Langsett Moor

Cladonia, Langsett

This cladonia lichen was growing in the shelter of the roots of a stump amongst a lush growth of polytrichum moss, by the path that leads up onto the moor at Langsett.

The ‘golf-tee’ shape of the fruiting bodies, with their dusting of flour-like powder is typical of Cladonia fimbriata, which is found on rotting wood, disturbed ground and crevices in walls, particularly amongst mosses.

The powder, known as soredia, is a way of dispersing the lichen as it flakes off the fruiting body. An individual soredium contains a few cells of algae and a few strands of the fungus that together make up the lichen.

Langsett moor

The gritstone alongside the track is mainly lichen-free but a few rocks near the edge of the plantation support some crustose lichen species.

‘Pores in a Ring’

lichen with black sporangia

This grey crustose lichen is dotted with black fruiting bodies. Where the gritstone has been chipped away, the fresher surface is stained red with iron. I’m guessing that the gritty crystals in the dark grey weathered surface around the lichens are quartz, so the surface would be acidic.

I think that this might be a species of Porpidia; the name means ‘pores in a ring’. The pores are the fruiting bodies – the apothecia – which have been described as ‘like wine gums with margins not the same colour as crust’, distinguishing them from other lichens which have fruiting bodies that resemble small ‘jam tarts with margins the same colour as crust’ (quoted from the FSC Guide to Lichens of Heaths and Moors).

Porpidia crustulata is very common on siliceous rocks, such as this millstone grit, but there are similar species, in fact I think that there might be two species in this photograph, as the larger lichen in the top left corner is different in colour and in the pattern of the pores.


crottle on wall

crottle frondThere’s a lush growth of what looks to me like a Parmelia lichen, and I think this is the one known as Crottle, Parmelia saxtalis, a species which has been used to produce a reddish-brown dye.

Grey Crusty Lichen

grey lichen

grey lichenFinally, growing alongside the crottle but not as lushly is this plain grey crustose lichen. I can’t make out any apothecia on its surface, so no ‘wine gums’, ‘jam tarts’ or ‘golf tees’ to help me here.

I should have gone in closer with the macro setting.

Bonfire Moss

moss on wall top

Also on the top of the wall, this moss has white, wiry outgrowths and its reddish-brown sporangia have screwed up, curly stems.

In mosses the stems of the spore capsules are called seta. The bonfire moss, Funaria hygrometrica, is distinctive, with its abundant, swan-neck seta. The British Bryological Society field guide says that this is a common plant that beginners will soon learn to recognise, so I’m pleased to have made a start by identifying it.

Although it is characteristic of old bonfire sites, it will colonise any patch of bare, disturbed nutrient-rich soil. Perhaps here it has colonised a bare patch of the wall top which had initially been colonised by the crottle.

Yellow Brain

orange fungus

orange fungusThis small orange fungus was growing from a conifer stump near the cladonia lichen. I think that this is Yellow Brain, Tremella mesenterica, a common jelly fungus, which appears as knobbly outgrowths before it grows into a brain-like mass. The field guide tells me that it’s commonly found on gorse, hazel, birch, ash,

beech and other woody species.

Langsett in October

Langsett woods

Original size of drawing: 1.8 inches, 4.5 cm across.

So good to be back at Langsett, walking around the reservoir, across the more and back up through the woods where larch and beech are now in their autumn colours.


March Hare

Lakeside path, pencil and watercolour, from a photograph taken at lunchtime.

10.15 a.m.: It’s almost a year since we walked the circuit of Langsett Reservoir. We always go anticlockwise as the lakeside path through the pines gets us off to a brisk start; we prefer to leave picking our way through the mud at the far corner of the lake until later.

coal tit flits about, investigating the branches of a lakeside pine.

As we climb the rocky path up to the moor, a robin perches in a shrub on the heathy slope.

On the moor, red grouse are calling: a repeated phrase, with the rhythm of several unsuccessful attempts to start a one-cylinder petrol mower.

curlew repeats its bubbling call over an expanse of heather. Down by the lake we hear a shrill piping, which we guess is a sandpiper.

On our way out here, near Cawthorne, we briefly spotted a brown hare running alongside a fence. On the moor, a dead hare, lying by the track, looks like a grisly image from a Ted Hughes poem.

2 p.m.: Close to the bank by The Island at Horbury Bridge, a dabchick is diving.

30 Minute Landscapes

‘Sometimes working in a different medium can add that all-important spark of excitement’, writes Paul Talbot-Greaves in Collins 30 minute Landscapes in Watercolour. As a new year refresher, I’m trying out one of his half-hour demos.

I’m stepping out of my comfort zone because my habitual way of working is to start with a pen and ink drawing, then add a wash of colour but here, after a minimal pencil outline, it’s blocks of colour first and any suggestion of detail, such as the pattern of stones, is left until you add the final touches.

I’ve noticed recently that my brushes are looking the worse for wear, so before starting I bought two sable brushes.

Daler Rowney Aquafine Sable Round, 10 and 6.

Ready Mades

I’m interested in Talbot-Greaves’ choice of colours; I try and keep things simple by sticking to a couple of versions of each of the primaries in the pocket-sized watercolour box that I use on my travels but he suggests some useful shortcuts:

“There are a number of ready-mixed colour, such as Raw Sienna, Sap Green and French Ultramarine, which have been developed to make colour selection easier for the artist. Each one is like a shortcut to a popular colour that is found in the landscape – for example, Sap Green can be used to paint grass, Cobalt Blue is a good match for sky blue, and Cadmium Red is ideal for suggesting the warm glow of a sunset.”

The colours in my version of the demo aren’t as subtle as they are in the book and I think that could be due to having a brighter, yellower version of Sap Green in my range of watercolours and having to use Lemon Yellow and Indian Red as substitutes for two of his recommended colours: Naples Yellow and Light Red.

For the purpose of the exercise, all the colours are mixed on the paper, blended into each other, as you paint, not mixed in the palette beforehand. I need more practice at this; the wash-backs in the sky and on the road are caused by adding a bit too much water to my wash as I blended it with a still damp colour on the page.

I’ve learned a lot from trying another approach and look forward to trying another of the 30 minute demos in the book.


Paul Talbot-Greaves

Collins 30 minute Landscapes in Watercolour is currently out of print.


hawkerhawker10.30 a.m.: A dragonfly lands on the wall of the bridge over the River Porter at Langsett Reservoir giving me the chance to take a quick blurred snapshot before it flies off again. I draw from the photograph to try and fix the details in my mind before attempting to identify it.

It’s a hawker, possibly a male common hawker, Aeshna juncea. The male has a slender ‘waist’ at the top of the abdomen, which I’ve thickened up a bit in my drawing. Its colours are muted; it can take a few days for the bright colours to develop. It’s larvae develop in bog pools and on the coast they can tolerate brackish water.


dipperThe dippers that we spotted building a nest alongside the weir are now feeding young, which we can hear calling for food. They sound hungry enough to eat a dragonfly.

Oak Eggar Caterpillar

oak eggar caterpillarUp on the moor at Hingcliff Common, the caterpillar of the oak eggar moth, Lasiocampa quercus, is crawling along at the side of the path. Despite the name, the caterpillar doesn’t feed on oak; here on the moor it is likely to be feeding on heather or bilberry plants. The red-brown male moths fly on sunny days during the summer but the paler female is nocturnal.

The Riverside Hide

juvenile siskinwoodpecker sketch12.28 p.m.: The male great spotted woodpecker arrives but he’s out of luck: five crows have just been down to the feeding station and they’ve knocked the fat ball feeder off the post.

A young siskin, so streaky that I wondered if it was a redpoll, joins the adult males on the niger feeder. In their bright, neat plumage the males look as if they’re in uniform and ready to be assertive, in contrast the juvenile fades into the background and appears innocuous and inoffensive. The wing stripes and a hint of green in the tail give a hint of the neater adult plumage to come.

Waterfall in Watercolour

oughtbeck2.20 – 4 p.m.: I finish the pen drawing and start adding watercolour to my drawing of the little waterfall where Oughtershaw Beck crosses and exposure of limestone. I start with the lightest colour which is the pale ochre grey of the limestone then I add the brighter yellow green of the moss before going on to the water, the face of the rock that is in the shade and the darker green patches of moss.

I try to give some impression of the solidity of the rock but realise that if I take things too far I will lose the sparkle of the water so on my third top left to bottom right progress across the drawing with my series of watercolour washes, I decide that is enough and anyway it’s time to go back to Nethergill for a pot of tea and some homemade flapjack. Wish I had more time for this kind of drawing!

The wood avens that I spotted the other day in the turf on the river bank at my feet as I sat in this same spot appears to have been washed away but birdsfoot trefoil is still in flower and there are leaves of lady’s mantle, also plantain and at least one species of sedge.

Walk to Swarthghyll

The late afternoon thunderstorm isn’t as heavy as those we’ve had on previous days so we take a walk across the moor to the next farm up the valley on a calm pearly evening. The buzzard sits calling on the same post that it was on the other day.

reed buntingIt’s impossible to do this walk without seeing several meadow pipits sitting on fence posts or on the power lines but it’s worth checking out every bird on a post. One of them turns out to be a male reed bunting, a new bird for our Nethergill list. I don’t remember seeing it in previous years.

curlewThe curlews are calling over the buttercup meadows by the beck. A pied wagtail perches on the power line at Swarthghyll. Northern marsh orchids are in fresh flower on the tree-lined track to the farm. There’s a reminder of more everyday scenes: wood pigeon and mallard in the field by the bird hide.

Bilberry Wood

bilberry wood
Rushes and common cotton-grass growing amongst the bilberries at the edge of the wood.
Milkwort, growing by a small tributary stream running into Oughtershaw Beck.
Milkwort, growing by a small tributary stream running into Oughtershaw Beck.

The hummocky ground layer of Bilberry Wood is carpeted, as its name suggests, with bilberry which is dripping with globular pink flowers, a few of which are beginning to set berries. It has flourished in the years since the wood was fenced off to prevent sheep grazing here.

Recently red squirrels have moved into the wood. They have been caught on camera attracted to feeding boxes (see link below).

green-veined whiteBumble bees are busy in the wood but on the strips of acid grassland around it small heath butterflies are the most conspicuous insects, flitting about over damp sedgey ground pockmarked with the hoof-prints of sheep and cattle. Two green-veined whites have paired up and come to rest among the grasses, giving us a chance to take some close-up macro shots.

red damselflies

In a calm section of Oughtershaw beck, large red damselflies, Pyrrhosoma nymphula, are laying their eggs, perching on a leaf of pondweed, Potamogeton.

Link: Red Squirrels in Bilberry Wood

Red squirrels at a nut feeder in Bilberry Wood, Nethergill.


Nethergill Farm, Langstrothdale
Nethergill Farm, Langstrothdale, yesterday morning as the sun failed to clear the low cloud.

Nethergill Farm, 1.10 p.m.: Cumulus clouds are towering over Langstrothdale and the thunderstorms that the forecast suggested were a possibility would now be welcome as even here in the shade of the old barn the temperature is climbing into the high seventies Fahrenheit, 25 C.

A cuckoo is calling on the far side of the valley. Meadow pipits are the birds we see most often on the road across the moor to Hawes, so it will have plenty of nesting pairs in its territory.

The farm’s resident blackbird sings from the ash tree, which is covered in sprays of blossom, which is now going over, and freshly sprouted bright green fronds of leaves.

Goldfinches chatter excitedly in its canopy. A gentle breeze sighs as it passes across the valley ahead of the gathering cloud but does nothing to freshen the atmosphere.

A pheasant explodes in a brief grockle of indignation, flies murmur, a cockerel crows: a strangulated wail. The hens here at Nethergill farm ‘are still learning’ so Fiona added an extra egg to the small but deep yellow yoked half dozen that she gave us in our welcome pack for our self-catering apartment, the Hay Mew. Also included, slices of her homemade flapjack which has been enticing Dales Way walkers to take a break here for the last five years.


buzzard2.45 p.m., Bilberry Wood, Langstrothdale: We could hear a buzzard mewing but couldn’t spot one circling or perching in the pines on the far side of the beck; it was on the moorland edge on the slope beyond, perching on a fence-post. It was still there and still calling when we walked back, half an hour later.

starling3 p.m.: Starlings nest beneath the roof tiles at Swarthghyll Farm, Langstrothdale. House martin and swallow fly in at the barn window below.

green-veined white3.20 p.m.: A green-veined white is sunning itself on a bank by the track across the moor, after a brief chase with a rival. It has fine dark veins on its upper wings but lacks the spots and borders that you see on many white butterflies (including most green-veined whites). A brief glimpse of the veins of its underwing helps confirm that it really is a green-veined.

pied wagtail5 p.m. riverside hide, Nethergill Farm: A pied wagtail feeds amongst the rocks on the beck, which is running low. It flies vertically to snap an insect in mid-air, then switches its attention to the beck-side pasture, darting to pick up insects from the clumps of rushes.

Moor Birds

pipitpipit11.15 a.m., Peak District, South Yorkshire: A meadow pipit perches on one of the old walls at the ruined farm known as North America overlooking Langsett Reservoir.

wheatearbuzzardA wheatear, the first we’ve seen this spring, perches on a gate post nearby.

As we’re watching a buzzard cruising along down the valley over the reservoir, a red grouse hurries away further up onto the moor, flying almost directly over us. grouseIt’s this rapid, low flight away from perceived danger that makes them so popular as a game bird. I wouldn’t want to shoot them myself, but I realise how much work goes into ensuring that there’s always fresh heather shoots on the moor to bring up the numbers to make shooting viable.

sandpiper sandpiperAs we cross the dam wall a sandpiper touches down on the boulders at the waters edge.

The Jewel of the Moor

Crottle lichen on gritstone block.
Crottle lichen on gritstone block.

buzzardLangsett: There’s an alarmed mewing call of a buzzard as we walk up onto the moor. Over the conifers a pair are circling, seeing off a third which circles higher then disappears in the direction of Holme Moss. The resident pair do a lap of honour, spiralling high up over the plantation of Crookland Wood, while below a heron flies sedately over the treetops towards the reservoir.

green tiger beetleA green tiger beetle trundles along the edge of the path over the moor, iridescent in the morning sunlight.

queen waspNorth America, Hingcliff Common, 11.30 a.m., breeze from the west, high cirrus over the moor, enormous bank of cumulus (a weather front) looms along the horizon to the northwest.

queen waspAs I draw the crottle lichen a queen wasp flies to the corner of the gritstone block and sits in the sun. She then flies to my knee and cosies down in a fold of material. I guide her on to my sketchbook then persuade her to sit on the ruined wall beside me to sketch her.

dancin gnatsTwenty or thirty gnats dance over a small mossy hollow between the gritstone blocks.

red grouseRed grouse and curlew call occasionally; willow warblers have now arrived and are singing along the edge of the cleared slopes at Mauk Royd on the south side of the reservoir.

dabchickA dabchick dives alongside a pair of Canada geese at the edge of the inlet where Thickwoods Brook enters the reservoir.