Interview on BBC Radio Derby – Wild flowers, folklore and their uses!

Did a live radio interview this afternoon on BBC Radio Derby. The idea was to plug a course I’m doing for Derbyshire Wildlife Trust in a few weeks time. But it’s not often I get a chance to talk about a number of my favourite topics – so managed to squeeze in wildflowers, nostalgia, my family and Monty Python (ie what have the Romans wild flowers ever done for us?)! Its on the BBC Radio Derby website for another 30 days if you want to catch it. Wind forward to 2hrs 13mins

The wildflowers folklore and uses course is on Saturday 16th May 10am – 1pm at Carsington Water Price £10. Call DWT  on 01773 881188 to book a place.DSCF9156


Spring has sprung at Carsington Water

Finally I had a chance to go experience spring in Derbyshire today at Carsington Water. Plenty of birds around including my first willow warbler and blackcap of the year. Lots of flowers out today – opposite-leaved golden saxifrage, colts foot, gorse, strawberry, cowslip, wood anemone, and my first bluebell of the year. The trees are beginning to burst into leaf and flower, with the blackthorn being the most impressive. A number of butterflies were seen around the reservoir, including Peacocks, small tortoiseshell, comas and a single Brimstone. We also caught sight of two toads who seemed to be preoccupied, but sadly the path wasn’t the most appropriate place and they were heading away from the water!

New Year flowers

Had a walk along the Cromford Canal today to blow away the excess of Christmas and the New Year. Lots of birds about, evidence and mammals and plants in flower.

I am a member of the BSBI and they have had a New Year Plant Hunt for the last 4 years. I recorded nine different flowering plants in flower along our walk – daisy, dandelion, lesser celandine, hogweed, butterbur, white dead nettle, ivy leaved toadflax, annual meadow grass and the fabulous Stinking Hellebore (at Scarthin Rock). Not bad for the second day of the year and 36 hours previously it had been all under snow! All records have now been sent off to the BSBI.

Plenty of evidence of mammals around too – moles (lots of molehills), grey squirrels, fox, field vole and the spot of the day was an otter spraint under a canal bridge. It was also great to see a kingfisher and hear great spotted woodpeckers, nuthatches and see the cheeky looking little grebes.

Otter spraint

Otter spraint

Parrots and Ballerinas!

We have just spent a fascinating weekend learning all about Waxcaps on the National Trust’s Longshaw Estate. Longshaw has been known for its waxcaps for some time and in a 2003 report was listed as the top site in England. A total of 34 different species of waxcaps have been recorded on the grasslands at Longshaw.

When you actually start to look at them closely, it is possible to work out which is which. I was shown a number of different features to look at, including:

Colour of the cap (the top part) – red/yellow/pink/white/orange/green etc

The overall shape and size of the fungi – does it have a pointed top?

The smell – some smell of honey when bruised, others of garlic, cedar wood or bed bugs (don’t ask!)

Gill detail – do the gills run down the stipe (stem)?

Is the cap and or stem sticky?

Waxcaps look so colourful and have some wonderful names – for example Parrot waxcap, pink ballerina, Snowy waxcap.. see photos below.

There is a excellent blog run by the group of individuals recording the waxcaps (and other fungi) from the Longshaw estate

Debbie’s April – August course, walks and talk brochure available

My new course brochure is available to download – click the cover picture to download the pdf.

April - Aug 2014 coverThe programme includes a variety of courses, family activities and walks for a number of different organisations:

  • WEA Alfreton branch
  • WEA Lowdham branch
  • DACES – Limestone Journeys  (Bolsover)
  • DACES – Dronfield
  • DACES – Eco Centre (Wirksworth)
  • Derbyshire Wildlife Trust – Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Walking Festival
  • Derby City Council – Walks programme

I have also added three of my own courses which I am running under my own trading name, booking for these courses can be made directly from the booking form my website  :

  • An introduction to grasses – 17th July
  • Wild flower identification for Improvers – 1st August
  • Wild flower identification for improvers – 2nd August

I hope you find something which will appeal to you!

Sightings from the walks and courses will be posted on this blog -so if you have not done so already, sign up to follow the blog to see what has been seen on the walks and courses.


Wildlife and Walls talk

Tonight I gave a bespoke talk to the Derbyshire branch of the Dry Stone Walling Association. The talk was on the legal wildlife responsibilities of dry stone wallers, making sure they understood wildlife law and how it relates to them, including the Wildlife and Countryside Act, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and how to recognise a great crested newt. The talk also dispelled some issues over which species are legally protected and which are not.

Bluebells and my first damselfly of the year at Renishaw Hall

Today we visited Renishaw Hall near Eckington. The bluebells were at their peak today and looked stunning. The sunshine brought out the butterflies too and we saw brimstones, orange tips, peacocks and small tortoiseshells. We also saw our first damselfly of the year – large red damselfly.