A fleeting visit to Alnwick Moor

Hankering for a trip into the uplands, last Saturday, Matt and I set off for Alnwick Moor in North Northumberland. Walking West from Alnwick first through woodland, and then to the boggy, birch strewn outskirts of the moor itself, the trip made for a welcome change to the norm and there was certainly a great deal to see.

Walking west along the outskirts of Hulne Park, a quick search of a mature oak overhanging the park’s boundary wall resulted in our first exciting encounter of the day: a handsome Common Cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha). Having only spotted this large and impressive insect on one other occasion, quite some time was spent admiring the critter before it was placed back on it’s tree. Matt was certainly quite taken with it…

Passing through a few open areas on route to the moor, an incredible display of English Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) stopped us in our tracks – an entire hillside here, awash with blue flowers, looking particularly beautiful in the midday sun.

Here too, we observed Yellow Pimpernel (Lysimachia nemorum), plenty of Bugle (Ajuga reptans), and a rather lovely white form of Thyme-leaved Speedwell (Veronica serpyllifolia). Common plants, each and all, but still nice to see.

Reaching the outskirts of the moor, beneath the canopy of Downy Birch (Betula pubescens), the striking flowers of Chickweed Wintergreen (Lysimachia europaea) immediately became apparent with a good number of plants strewn throughout the area. A real beauty, it is difficult not to smile while admiring this radiant member of the Primrose family.

Scattered about the area, the round leaves of Marsh Pennywort (Hydrocotyle vulgaris) were seen too alongside Marsh Thistle (Cirsium palustre) and a range of other plants characteristic of such boggy places.

Where spacious woodland gave way to heathland at the edge of the moor and conditions became dryer, it was lovely to stumble across a substantial area of Common Cow-wheat (Melampyrum pratense).

Opting to remain on the moor’s edge instead of moving off into the heather-clad hills, it wasn’t long until we stumbled across a rather nice bog rich with bryophytes and an array of interesting plants. Spending most of our time here, it was nice to encounter the lingering flowers of Marsh Violet (Viola palustris) and the alien-looking blooms of Bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata). The dried vestiges of Bog Asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum) were also spotted and a number of orchid rosettes were likely those of Heath Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata).

Spending some time here admiring the greener, less conspicuous plants, sedges seen included Glaucous Sedge (Carex flacca), Bottle Sedge (Carex rostrata) and Black Sedge (Carex nigra). In wetter areas, Water Horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile) and Marsh Valarian (Valeriana dioica) were found, and a closer look at a pondweed suggested an ID of Bog Pondweed (Potamogeton polygonifolius).

While admiring the aforementioned bog plants, the bee below also caught our eye. Slightly thrown by the upland habitat, I struggled with this at first though it was later confirmed as Chocolate Mining Bee (Andrena scotica). Other bees observed throughout our visit included Early Mining Bee (Andrena haemorrhoa) and Gypsy Cuckoo Bee (Bombus bohemicus), alongside the usual mix of bombus species.

While we had hoped to uncover some potentially interesting ladybird species at Alnwick (cough, Heather ladybird), the best we could manage was a rather lovely melanistic form of 10-Spot Ladybird (Adalia decempunctata) found on oak.

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