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.

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.


dipperdipper10.30 a.m., sunny, cool breeze, 50% small cumulus: Two grey wagtails perch on the rocks above the weir on the River Porter or Little Don at the top end of Langsett Reservoir. A dipper flies downstream and perches on the top edge of the weir, holding a butterfly in its beak – it looks like a meadow brown, orangey brown with a small dot in the centre of the underwing.

dipperA second dipper appears, this one with a wiry stem, probably heather, in its beak. One of them flies to the river bank, where I guess that they’re nesting.

warblersBy the rocky path leading up to the moor, two warblers are flitting about. On stops to sing: a willow warbler? The song doesn’t tail off in the way that I expect it to.

Old gate way at the ruined farm North America.
Old gate way at the ruined farm North America.

Up on the moor there’s a lot of activity amongst the red grouse. A meadow pipit climbs then performs it gently parachuting display flight.

A grey heron flies up from a quiet stretch of the shore of the reservoir. As far as I remember, this is the first time we’ve spotted a heron at Langsett.


Bilberry and Heather

heather and bilberrylichen covered rock11.20 a.m, mid-height stratus, cool breeze: I’m reminded of the piece of childhood writing that I re-read the other day (Blue Remembered Hills):

‘I found a dry bog plant and a stone with water trickling down the middle and green on the stone around it’

That was when I was aged nine and here I am, over half a century later, still fascinated by the plants and rocks of millstone grit moorland. No wonder I feel as if I’ve come back down to earth every time that we get out here.

I add colour using watercolour pencils but, once again, I’ve forgotten to bring my water-brush so I dab it with a finger moistened in a puddle on the moorland track.

club moss fossilGiant Club Moss Fossil

I draw the club moss fossil in the comfort of the Bank View Cafe at the end of the walk. I’ve spotted a few impressions of Carboniferous plants in the millstone grit blocks that make up some stretches of the path at Langsett and someone has brought together a small selection of plant fossils on the windowsill in the cafe. Shouldn’t every cafe should have a collection of local fossils, rocks and minerals?

Langsett Reservoir

Langsettlangsett sketch, crayons‘Doesn’t it make you feel lucky?’ says the woman who walks by as we sit drawing and writing at North America, the ruined farm overlooking Langsett reservoir. That’s just what we were thinking. Yesterday, which was equally sunny we’d been stuck inside, so we didn’t take any persuading to get out into the Peak District today.

As a change from the little wallet of children’s wax crayons that I’ve been slipping into my pocket recently, I’ve brought a selection of Derwent Watercolour pencils which I bought some years ago at the Pencil Factory in Keswick at the top end of Derwentwater. They came in a plastic pod which didn’t survive long in my art bag but they fit equally well into a long thin ArtPen tin.

crayon pod

I haven’t brought my water-brush so, after I’ve added the crayon to my drawing, I crouch by a puddle and use a wet finger to spread the colour about.

Red Grouse, Brown Trout

moor smokeThey’re burning a patch of the moor this morning, to improve the habitat for red grouse by providing a patchwork of heather at different stages of growth.

little don or porterResearchers are sampling the sediment above and below the weir on the River Little Don or Porter at the top end of the reservoir. A study by the University of Hull of tagged brown trout in Langsett Reservoir has revealed that trout attempt to move into the tributary streams from October to January, probably to spawn. Yorkshire Water are considering constructing a fish ladder here to allow the trout to access the suitable habitat upstream.

Link: Movement of brown trout in and between headwater tributaries and reservoirs (PDF), J.D. Bolland, L. Wallace, J.P. Harvey, M. Tinsdeall, J.L. Baxter & I.G. Cowx, University of Hull

Redwings at Langsett

gatepostredwingsAs I’m drawing this old gatepost by the ruins of the farm called North America on the moor above Langsett Reservoir, three small flocks of birds fly across; first jackdaws, next redwings and finally a small flock of meadow pipits.jackdaws

It’s a mild day and, following the rain, there’s plenty of fungus in the plantation; shaggy inkcap, fly agaric and a smoky dove grey fungus which we guess might be blewit.

agaricI’m trying to learn lessons from my work on the Waterton comic strips in my quick sketch of the old gatepost by drawing in a livelier way. Twelve pages of comic strip took me three months to complete. It’s time to speed up a bit.

Back to Langsett

wood sorrelnibbled coneThere are patches and small drifts of wood sorrel alongside the path through the plantation alongside the reservoir at Langsett. On a tree-stump there are discarded scales and the nibbled core of a pine cone, left there by a squirrel.

 willow warblerWe hear our first willow warbler singing as well as a resident wren.

 ducklingsA mallard duck is accompanied by ten ducklings and followed by a second adult female. She gathers her dispersed brood from our shore of the reservoir, where they’re foraging for insects or plant material on the surface of the water and they follow her in single file towards the far shore.

grouseRed grouse are calling on the moor and perching, as they do on rocks and broken walls.

There’s a sandpiper feeding at the water’s edge where the little river enters the reservoir on the southern shore and there more sandpipers on the stone embankment at the dam head.

The Mist in the Mirror

balconyteapotOnly a brief chance to draw the ornate balcony of Matcham’s Opera House in Wakefield before the curtain goes up on Susan Hill’s ghost story The Mist in the Mirror.

You might think that the teapot on the mantlepiece is part of the set but I drew this when we went back for coffee at Richard and Carole’s after the show.

bottleOnce again these are drawn with my new Lamy Safari pen.

Langsett September

A perfect September morning to walk around Langsett Reservoir; through the conifer plantations, across the river Little Don and up onto the moor.

grouseNot such a restful day for the red grouse and the brown trout though. The gamekeepers and beaters were getting in place (you might spot them moving through the trees on one of the shots of the river) to wave flags while walking across the moor whooping and hollering, accompanied by their dogs, driving the grouse towards the guns.

We hurried across the moor before they started and missed out on our coffee stop at the ruined farm known as North America, pausing instead by a lichen-covered rock overlooking the stream on the far side of the moor.

troutA student in full-length waders emerged from the stream. He explained that he was from the University of Hull, setting up a project to monitor the movements of brown trout by tagging them and installing a couple of electronic sensors, one where the stream runs into the lake, the other further upstream.


FujiFilm FinePix S6800Unfortunately my recordings of natural sounds – running water, bird calls and the wind in the heather – were interrupted by the sound of the plastic lens cap, which is attached to the camera by a loop, rattling in the breeze so I’ve added a music track.

My thanks to Silent Partner for making Days are Long available for use on my YouTube video.

If you’ve got a fast connection, Langsett looks good in HD.

Filmed with my FujiFilm FinePix S6800. The shots that I didn’t use my little ‘Spider’ tripod for needed image stabilisation in iMovie.

Link; Silent Partner on YouTube