After my last time censusing, I was acutely aware that this may be my penultimate visit. I was also convalescing from a nasty cold and in need of some fresh air. So on 27th of May I took my time to pack in as much as I could into the day.
Detours and discoveries
In addition to the two sites I included a couple of detours (as well as an extended Ceres visit again).
I took the back road from Strathkinness to Pittscottie via Blebo Mains woodlands (wood 1 and wood 2) which I found on the archived Visit Woods website – in hope that I could add them to the census next year. Disappointingly, both turned out to be fairly feeble scraps of newly planted woodland with no clear access routes. The disappointment was sweetened by a rather picturesque views towards Cupar from one of the hills – framed with a particularly floribund hawthorn at full throttle (known as ‘may flower’ to the locals).
The other serendipitously delightful discovery came from my rummagings online – the Dura Den! This Woodland Trust managed forested gorge, technically known as ‘Long Established Plantation Origin’ in character, sits just north of Pittscottie along the Ceres burn. A very narrow strip of forest with limited public access due to its precipitous nature, it turns out to be a bit of a natural history gem. Not only because it boasts the largest colony of soprano pippistrelles in Fife (as reported by Scottish Wildlife Trust in 2006 – PDF) but mainly because it is a site of the remarkable Yellow Sandstone fossil fish discoveries by Dr Rev John Anderson in early-1800s. This has whetted my appetite for a wee visit sometime – both to the site and the St Andrews University’s Bell Pettigrew museum which is meant to host some of the fossils.
In the meantime, I was rather impressed by the fieldworking style of the dear reverend and his fossil hunting ‘party’ (note that the lowly ‘diggers’ kept working through the lunch break):
“we all lunched on a beautiful grassy bank on pies – chicken, pigeon and ham – and then grapes, peaches, plums, apricots and nectarines – all of which were washed down with plentiful supplies of cider and sherry.”
Source: Dr Rev John Anderson ‘s letter to a family member, cited by Yvonne Boni of Cupar Library in her presentation on local history (available from Blebo Craigs community webpage).
On the way back I could not help myself from stopping to explore the road verge wildflowers before the Fife council takes to them with a mower. Over the last couple of years, Plantlife meadow conservation peeps down in England have been running a campaign to reduce mowing of the verges in order to enhance biodiversity. I was pleased to discover that Scottish Natural Heritage commissioned a report on the matter in 2013 exploring the complexities of the issue (PDF), and I am hoping to discover that the councils will be taking it under consideration shortly. Watch this space;)
This would be my last visit to the site – the wood sorrel flowers were definitely having their last words under my, now very leafy, birch.
The caterpillars seemed to be in full munch here as well as Craighall Den – leaving behind holey leaf canopies. There were also lots of flies – including those busily exploring flowers (much less exciting then bees and butterflies but I am told they are equally important for pollination!). Speedwell and forget-me-nots provided a touch of blue, alongside the buttercup yellows. The less conspicuous nettles, raspberries and sedges were also flowering. So were the wood-edge rowans. The willows, so deceitful on my first visit, were now in full leaf and dropping their tell-tale catkin husks onto the path.
I got a bit over-excited at the car park (seems to be the place where all the action happens at the Muir) as I chased after a pretty white butterfly. I almost dismissed it as a cabbage white, but then noticed the faint vain patterns and flashes of yellow on its wings. I think it might have been a green-veined white instead! That reminds me – the orange-tipped males were dancing around over the road-verge feast on that day too…
Taking a leaf from Rev Andreson’s book, I started my visit with a lush lunch at the Ceres’ Folk Museum caf. It turned out to be run by The Hatters & Co – a mad little outfit under the guide of Stella Collelouri, which I originally encountered at the Rev’s native Newburgh. I am sure that the feast of pulled pork bun with home-made bbq sauce they served me would have easily rivaled the rev’s pigeon pies!
To settle my lunchey tummy, I went for a little stroll around Ceres. On a pleasant note – lots of bird action for such a small place – house sparrows, swift nests, rooks and many more twitterings (just have a listen to the recording!). On a slightly disturbing one – Wemyss Ware painted ceramic cats (claim to fame – Elton John and the Queen Mother have some…hmmm)! Pity, their botanically-themed pieces seem to be rather sweet…
I only popped in briefly at the Den to see the oak – the crown still looked a bit thin. To save myself the indecision, I decided that I will decide on my next visit whether it reached the full leaf or not. The only excitement was provided by the red rash of what seemed to be maple mite gall infestation on some of the trees (that reminds me – I am still to identify the species of this hawthorn-like creature!).
I think this will be my last TrackATree field post this spring. Stand by for descriptions of the woodlands’ histories. Although I can’t promise I will be able to stay away from dabbling in some other #citizenscience:)