Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul, Sturton le Steeple

For around six centuries, Sturton’s C14th steeple was the tallest thing around, then in the early 1970s, West Burton power station was built and along came the pylons that dwarf it.

We were back up near Gainsborough for the final time to add some plants to tetrad 88C and our eight hours in the field achieved something like 200 taxa. Road closures, public highways becoming restricted byways and maps that are out of date caused some confusion but it all turned out nice again and we found some inexplicable topsoil strips that pulled in the likes of Common Cudweed Filago vulgaris, Common Centaury Centaureum erythraea and Slender Pearlwort Sagina filiformis that boosted the total somewhat.

Then, apart from a free-range wander about a land drainage compound which also added some variety including Buck’s-horn Plantain Plantago coronopus, Annual Beard-grass Polypogon monspeliensis and Slender Sandwort Arenaria leptoclados, the plants of interest were all aquatics; with the scarcest of these being the undesirable introduction, Water Fern Azolla filiculoides.

Water Fern (with Lemna minor)

For an illustrated blog, the plant pictures weren’t up to much so it’s fortunate that pristine Painted Ladies were out on the tiles.

Painted Lady

I do the East Midlands branch of Butterfly Conservation’s website as well (or as badly some might say) as this one and as such I get regular email updates from the Derbyshire recorder Ken Orpe, who today (Derbyshire News and Blogs; Update No 32, 2019) suggested that these pristine Painted Ladies now being seen, are immigrants from Europe. I think they are newly emerged, local provenance from the immigrants that arrived several weeks back and I shall enquire about this – when I’ve got a minute.

12 species of butterfly were out and about at Sturton le Steeple, though they did not include Small Skipper so far as I can tell, for every one of the little skippers I looked at carefully were from Essex (so to speak).

Quite a few Silver Y moths were busying themselves among the low vegetation too though birds were unexciting; Yellowhammers called for some cheese and no bread and a Raven ‘cronked’.

I probably go on too much about bush-crickets and I will probably continue to do when critters like this show up.

Roesel’s Bush-cricket

We also found a Lesser Marsh Grasshopper Chorthippus albomarginatus and were it not for the pressures of botany, we might have seen more orthoptera though I allowed my concentration to lapse into the more visible odonata too, and I am happy to record Broad-bodied Chaser, Common Darter, Banded Agrion, Brown Hawker, Blue-tailed and Common Blue Damselfly; though in the process of becoming happy, I learned that there is a blue form of the female, of which I believe this to be an example:

If I’m wrong I will be even happier to be corrected; there is a comment facility below:



During the 1990s, I helped out in the management of this stretch of disused canal – the bit in the borough of Broxtowe but this is the first time I’ve seen it since then. It all looked very familiar, though in those days, I think I knew my odonata better and there was an active, artificial ski-slope nearby, rather than a hilly and botanically diverse piece of former colliery spoil; the canal still holds water (always a difficulty then) and there are lots of aquatic plants to be seen. At least I know them better now, than I did then.

I recalled seeing Arrowhead here, though the ever reliable Dave suggested that Sagittaria sagitifolia was only ever found on the stretch nearer Trowell.

Then I remembered the leaflets that I wrote back then and I found some on a dusty shelf; sure enough there is an ink drawing of Arrowhead in one of the leaflets but it is in the Awsworth and Eastwood edition, and the text relates to the Erewash Canal – in Derbyshire of all places!

I probably knew Branched Bur-reed Sparganium erectum then, but I don’t recall Marsh Woundwort Stachys palustris despite these being quite dominant today, with the latter adding a contrasting colour to the dominant greens.

Branched Bur-reed
Marsh Woundwort

Wood Wednesdays are about botany and we all learned something from our guru, but warmth and water provided other attractions and I was notably deficient in naming them. However perusal of the adequate photos enabled these:

Ruddy Darter

It’s not clear from this image but they definitely had a waist on the abdomen and I don’t think there were any Common Darters present.

Banded Demoiselle

Male Banded Demoiselle are easy but we were a bit mixed up between this and Emerald Damselfy, however the white pterostigma clinches this as a female Calopteryx splendens and the broader wings, clasped whilst perched would give a regular odonatist no problem at all.

Emperor Dragonfly

This one didn’t occur on the canal in the 1990’s; it has moved in since – first to larger bodies of open water and now, to my surprise to sites such as this. I need to spend more time observing these beautiful creatures. All I need is time and sunshine.

Brown Hawker

An easy one; big, brown and the females don’t look too different.

My first Holly Blue of the second generation was the only real notable among the nine species of butterfly that came our way and plants not already mentioned include Greater Spearwort Ranunculus lingua, Water Dock Rumex hydrolapathum, Marsh Bedstraw Galium palustre, Hemp Agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum, Lady Fern Athyrium filix-femina and Sweet Flag Acorus calamus.

Sweet Flag would definitely have gone unnoticed but for Dave’s prior experience and detection of the wrinkly leaves that otherwise looked so much like Branched Bur-reed, it would never have been picked out – at least, not by me. Any doubting Thomas’s were satisfied by the pleasant but seemingly indescribable scent from a crushed leaf.

And finally, the jizz of two sedges:

Juncus acutiflorus
Juncus articulatus

Well, Dave and Rob never looked in the book.



I met up with 8 lepidopterists keen to see what the forest could muster and in general we weren’t disappointed. There were many species that we should have seen but didn’t but this was compensated for by typical views of Purple Hairstreak, a fleeting view of Silver-washed Fritillary and prolonged views of a tatty male Purple Emperor.

Two or three Ravens added to the interest and several people enjoyed the plants too: The ones I pointed out included Hedge Woundwort, Wild Basil, Agrimony, Upright Hedge-parsley, Tor-grass, Perforate St.-John’s-wort and Black Bryony.


Bole with DCW

Bole? “Bole is a village and civil parish in the Bassetlaw district of Nottinghashire…” Population 247 at the last count. We spent the day around Bole Ings (and I kept remembering England winning the cricket world cup the previous day for some reason).

We began the day in the cool of a ‘tall-herb fen’ dominated by Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria with splashes of Purple-loosestrife Lythrum salicaria and Reedmace Typha latifolia with Yellow Loosestrife Lysimachia vulgaris a speciality. It was also home to a lot of hungry mosquitoes.

Yellow Loosestrife

And then it was out into the sunny and rather warm, post-industrial land associated with the West Burton power station where Common Centaury and Yellow-wort were present with Juncus compressus in the wetter areas.

Juncus compressus

Dave’s thorough investigation along a drain resulted in a further good selection of aquatics that included Marsh Horsetail Equisetum palustre and Glyceria notata.

All but one of the dozen or so skippers we saw were Essex. I saw one Large and one probable Small.

Essex Skipper

The genus Helophilus and its close relatives are easy to pick out with their striped thorax. This is a male H. pendulus. The generic name is appropriate as they seem to enjoy a spot of sun-bathing, often near water.

Helophilus pendulus

Scarcest plant of the day was Opposite-leaved Pondweed Groenlandia densa which Dave knew was there. No matter where we go in the county, Dave has been before and pretty much knows what we will find. This is an RPR species known from just a couple of localities in Notts in the vicinity of Bole and it is declining nationally due to eutrophication and falling water tables.

Opposite-leaved Pondweed (with Callitriche)



Nottinghamshire is not as big as it once was; boundary changes have annexed bits into neighbouring counties and south of Willoughby, a tongue of land between Kingston Brook and the A46 was once in Nottinghamshire and remains in the vice county of Nottinghamshire aka VC56. For such a small area we managed a decent list which included notables such as Thorn-apple Datura stramonium, Water Forget-me-not Myosotis scorpioides, , Common Hemp-nettle Galeopsis tetrahit, and the alien bramble Rubus laciniatus.

Thread-leaved Water-crowfoot

Thread-leaved Water-crowfoot R. trichophyllus, I learned, has smallish flowers with petals that don’t overlap and has only capillary leaves – so no floating laminar ones. It was in a pond that had several interesting aquatics. including this Jointed Rush Juncus articulatus.

Jointed Rush
Marsh Foxtail

Marsh Foxtail Alopecurus geniculatus is quite common nationally but I don’t seem to come across it very often. It looks rather like Black-grass A. myosuroides but the habitat is quite different and if you search among the stems you will find that they are ‘kneed’. (I recently found some Black-grass in a crack in my yard).

One more grass – they are at their best now –Silver Hair-grass Trisetum flavescens was scattered around the tetrad with this plant in a gutter of the A6006.

Silver Hair-grass

Rarity of the day was an equal first to Dropwort Filipendula vulgaris and Strawberry Clover Trifolium fragiferum but the former was not in flower and its photo turned out to be unexciting so the clover gets the award.

Strawberry Clover

I would have walked straight past it. Dave didn’t though because although he had never walked along Occupation Lane before, his years of experience told him to look out for it. Not just anywhere along it, but in the middle of the rutted track.

We finished the day off with a look along Kingston Brook which is a near to natural a stream here than you are ever likely to find; wending, undercutting the bank, deep and wide in places and narrow enough to step across it in others.



A trek to the far east and mid north of Nottinghamshire and we were accompanied by Mags and Sally who made the day more fun even than usual. With four pairs of eyes one can assume that very little was overlooked but the coverage was not reflected in the species list so it is fair to conclude that SK88B, 5 km south of Gainsborough is species poor.

Star plant was Lady Fern Athyrium filix-femina, but I’d wandered off for a butterfly excursion whilst the others searched a wood, hence I dipped out on that, so the notables for me were a couple of grasses:

Phalaris aquatica

Bulbous Canary-grass Phalaris aquatica has an odd specific name for an arable weed but we found it in what appeared to be a ley of Yorkshire-fog; an oddity of itself.

And, at a couple of locations this rather attractive and distinctive species was found;

Bromus secalinus

Rye Brome Bromus secalinus, has a scattered distribution throughout Nottinghamshire with a minor stronghold in this vicinity.

Well, that’s it for plants; I scored around 170 taxa but Dave may have kept a few more to himself. Luckily it was a warm and sunny day and butterflies were on the wing; 8 species put in an appearance including my first Essex Skipper of the year and a few Painted Ladies represented Sturton le Steeple’s contingency of the current influx. Some had seen better days!

Crane flies seem to be getting my attention lately – perhaps because they are obligingly photogenic. Here is a Nephrotoma flavescens.

Nephrotoma flavescens

Earlier we saw a couple in-cop, so there should be more next year. Shield Bugs too are cropping up regularly and I hadn’t realised that the three pairs of raised ‘lumps’ on the ‘elytra’ (more strictly the hemelytra, because in the heteroptera, the forewings are not fully hardened) is a nymph character.

Pentatoma rufipes

So this is a Forest Bug (or Yellow-legged Shieldbug) nymph – I think final instar – and this is a larva of a Dusky Sallow moth.

Dusky Sallow

I don’t know all these things at a glance you realise. The beauty of digital photography is that I can appear to know things when all I have done is plodded through the literature and the internet for the best part of a day following these outings. It helped to know that lepidoptera have three pairs of true legs and four pairs of prolegs (ruling out sawflies and others) but thereafter it was a thumb through Porter 1997.

And now for some local history. Since very few people visit this part of the world and there is only one house in the entire tetrad (even that appeared to be unoccupied during extension works) you might be interested to know that the Romans built the road and a causeway across the Trent nearby, which King Harold crossed on his way to get featured in the Bayeux Tapestry, William the Conqueror crossed two years later to ravage the Saxons and which enabled Oliver Cromwell to relocate during the battle for Gainsborough.

For around 1,600 years, everybody who was anybody passed along this road but yesterday there were just four botanists, six cyclists and a car.

Even the ‘three-penny bit’ toll house has shut up shop.