26 th July 2022
Four of us (Fleur Miles, Steve Gater, Derek Risbey and David Selby) left the Darlington drizzle
traveling west where we were welcomed to the sunny skies of Cumbria above Tebay.
Travelling further down the M6 and then towards Grange-over-Sands we parked near the
hamlet of Mill Side. As we set out to climb the path to the plateau of Whitbarrow Scar, I
remarked that the first time I was here we found a cinnabar moth caterpillar on some
ragwort just after leaving the road and low and behold, there they were again (Figure 1), but
in much greater numbers.
By the time we reached the top, the sun was well-established, and the view opened up to
reveal a stunning sight. Starting in the East, we could see Whernside and Ingleborough in
the Yorkshire Dales, with the Kent estuary below us. Round towards the South was Arnside
with its Knott which the club recently visited and on down the coast past Heysham Power
Station to Blackpool Tower on the far horizon (Figure 2). Further round over the Cartmel
Fells we came to the Lake District with all tops clear and Witherslack Hall (now a school)
standing proud below us. Further round we could see the hills of Scotland to the North, on
to Cross Fell and back to Ingleborough. It is very rare to get such a clear day and we drank in
the view several times as we walked along the top of the plateau towards the West.
The scar is limestone with some low cliffs and lots of areas of limestone pavement
separated by scrubby grassland. The grassland supports a wide variety of flowers along with
small bushes of blackthorn with lots of green sloes, hawthorn, juniper, heather and ling and
a few small birch trees.
There were few birds around although we did inevitably see some crows and sparrows, as
well as a few swallows and a flock of Green Finches.
The butterflies too were disappointing, probably because it was rather cool but there were
plenty of Meadow Browns and a few Common Blues. There was also some red-tailed
bumble bees and a grasshopper.
However, the flowers, rushes, reeds and grasses were the stars of the show. In all 97
different species were identified together with a couple requiring more detailed
Flowers appearing in profusion were Cats Ear, Eye-bright, Self-heal, Tormentil, Wood Sage
and Hare Bells of every hue of blue from deep sky blue to white (Figure 3). Other significant
finds included Knotted Pearlwort, Golden Rod, Carline Thistle (Figure 4), Slender St. John’s
Wort, Yellow Pimpernel, New Zealand Willow Herb, Hemlock Water Dropwort, Travellers
Joy, Biting Stonecrop, Broad-leaved Helliborine and Wall-rue. Wall Lettuce was found hiding
in the grikes of the limestone pavement
The grasses, rushes and sedges included Blue Moor Grass in profusion, Italian Rye, Flea
Sedge, Carnation Sedge, Round-fruited Rush and Sterile Brome.
From the cairn at the top, we turned left (South) to follow a narrow track which led first to
the cliff edge and then along the top of the cliff before descending steeply through a break
in the cliff to the wood beneath and the playing fields of Witherslack Hall school. Finally, we
took a track through Crag Wood back to Beck Head and Mill Side.