Christmas day walk
We've had some severe frosts over the past week, to -6C during the day and colder at night, so have stuck by the stove as walking up our long steep drive (no 4x4!) was enough! Christmas day was mild and bright, so we did a 5 mile walk around the South Tyne valley. From our house you can walk along the disused railway or on open moorland. The Pennine Way crosses Lambley Common , about 1/4 mile westwards up the fellside from our driveway, via a black grouse lek, although we've not seen this spectacle yet as I don't like early mornings!
I don't think we have said where we are on this blog. Railway Cottages, near the hamlet of Lambley, are two mid-Victorian former railway signalman's cottages on the disused railway between Alston and Haltwhistle. Our only close neighbour is Waughold Holme farm, now a holiday home, although a local farmer rents the fields, so we are surrounded by sheep and (too many) rabbits.
On Christmas morning we walked to Lambley viaduct (below), about 5 minutes from our cottage, and crossed the River South Tyne on the little footbridge below the arches -today the river was fast-flowing with milky taupe water, but it actually froze over last week.
There is a disused quarry, I think for milstone grit for roadstone on the north bank below Castle Hill, which we searched for bryophytes but found mainly swathes of Eurynchium striatum.
The footpath cuts up the hill towards Ashholme and then back along the eastern fringe of the mixed conifier and oak woodland that is a feature of South Tynedale. Most of the North Pennines is unwooded - the trees disappearing long ago, replaced by cones of lead mine spoil or in-by pastures. The woods here are planted through with conifers, which is a shame, but it does provide habitat for red squirrels. We have had a red squirrel a couple of times near the house, and you do see them regularly around Slaggyford, but sadly I think their days are numbered in South Tynedale due to the ever expanding numbers of grey squirrel.
View westwards from Ashholme farm towards Lambley village with iconic dry stone wall
Oakeyside Wood is aptly named, being Quercus petraea, with thousands of common cowwheat plants in early Summer, which reminds me of Devon, where these yellow flowers are a feature of the acidic woodland soils near Dartmoor. The understory was sparse, mostly holly, and there was one female holly shrub, which had been disfigured by walkers breaking branches for its berries.
At Towsbank Wood the footpath cuts down to the river floodplain beside some river cliffs.
Species on the millstone grit river cliff included Amphidium mougeotii; Lejeunea c.f. lamacerina (the first Northumberland record since 1956, if it's right, and the second vcr); Conocephalum conicum (the shiny one with conspicuous pores); C. salebrosum (the dull one); Cephalozia bicuspidata - If you have excellent eyesight (like John - see photo) to the naked eye this tiny liverwort appears as very short sections of fine green thread. If you don't have excellent eyesight (like me), you miss it altogether! So it's often something discovered in the packet once you are back home. We found over 20 species in a small area on these rocks as this is a specialist bryophyte habitat.
We crossed back over the river at Glendue Burn - about 15 minutes south of our house - walking back along the disused railway. As the light dimmed, a party of siskins fed noisily on alder cone seeds and we also saw long-tailed tits and goldcrests. And a (wooden) black grouse...