A return to Lincolnshire after just less than one week and we parked up outside Ancaster Church where a plaque draws attention to the Roman origins of this village at the crossing of Ermine Street (which I heard of when I was at school) and King Street (which I’d never previously heard of).

I had also heard of the Ancaster Gap, indeed it probably cropped up in some 1968 geography exam as being the place where the River Trent once flowed until a glacier blocked the passage and the mighty river had to find a new course to the sea – northwards to the Humber, which it subsequently found to its liking and has followed ever since.

The Ancaster Valley is another thing altogether. It is dry and its origins seem bathed in the mystery of ancient history, though melting glaciers may have played a part.

It is now an attractive nature reserve and SSSI that hosts a good selection of calcicolous plants; many that a botanist might predict and a few that a Nottinghamshire one might not be accustomed to.

Thus Dwarf Thistle, Common Centaury, Saw-wort and Agrimony were on the scene but Squinancywort (Asperula cynanchica) almost evaded us and Horseshoe Vetch (Hippocrepis comosa) (which evaded us last week) appeared readily once we had been enlightened.

Horseshoe Vetch

Horseshoe Vetch is a favoured food-plant of both Adonis and Chalkhill Blue and Ancaster is the last known site in Lincolnshire for the latter species of butterfly. With the good management of the grasslands around Ancaster, might this species return?

Meadow Grasshopper

This one became quite a companion and continued to enjoy the valley from its elevated position during an interesting and prolonged discussion with an Ancaster resident and her Border Terrier (the latter contributed little to the conversation).

Some of that discussion related to bush-crickets, of which I have a working knowledge but it is rusty when it goes beyond coneheads and Roesel’s. So this one, I have only seen once or twice before and I’ve always understood it to be an inhabitant of shrubs and trees – they occur at Rushcliffe Country Park; this one was in the hot grassland.

Speckled Bush-cricket

Apparently quite common, its call is an ultrasonic, intermittent click; hard to hear and hard to locate from a bat detector.

Ancaster is rightly proud of its Tall Thrift distinction (though BSBI online maps suggest there is at least one other plant just outside Aldershot).

For the last few hours we wandered the nearby Moor Closes nature reserve, which is a wetland site with Ragged Robin, Fen Bedstraw and a range of sedges as well as Devil’s-bit Scabious (Succissa pratensis).

Devil’s-bit Scabious

The final hour of so involved this incapacitated calf in a muddy drain. It had made a couple of attempts to get out but seemed tired and irretrievably stuck. My pulling on its neck and Dave lifting its haunches had no impact at all and following a message to the Lincs Trust we called 911 unsure as to whether we would be convicted for the abuse of public services but within moments Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue were on their way.

Emergency sirens were heard in due course and ultimately 13 personnel, two fire engines and a rescue boat were on the scene.

The calf seemed to know full well that all this commotion would see it freed from the mud and it contentedly chewed the cud like a wallowing water buffalo while beefy firefighters heaved and moved on to plan 2…… and 3…..

I was hoping to capture the moment that the grateful beast was released but tea-time tempted, and on the way back a Roe Deer played chicken on the A52, getting bowled over twice but seemingly getting to the other side with just a few bruises.



I thought Gotham was the ‘village of the goats’ but there are lots of interpretation panels around this attractive village surrounded by glorious hills to the north and west and fen-like moors to the east. One of these panels explains that Gotham was at a junction of routes from Nottingham to Loughborough and a branch off to Kegworth and Derby so the name comes from Danish ‘gata’ or road from which our ‘gate’ is derived.

Shaded Broad-bar

The day started sunny and despite a forecast of cloudy later, it remained largely so and we got a good helping of insects along with the plants that were our principal objective. Shaded Broad-bar is often disturbed during the day and we saw three altogether . Other moths were Mother of Pearl, Six-spot Burnet and lots of ‘crambids’ which are generally too much trouble but Crysoteuchia culmella was among them.

Image of Brimstone nectaring at Teasel.
Brimstone and Teasel

Only one Brimstone was seen but the species was among 13 seen on the day – all of which were predictable and I suppose Essex Skipper would have to be the most notable and Common Blue only just made it, being outnumbered 3 to 1 by Brown Argus.

Dave’s 35 years or so of field botany means that he has a sound knowledge of underlying rocks which so influences the flora and I had a lesson in the geology of these hills. We had elevenses on Jurassic limestone, having just crossed an outcrop of something else where I had found a piece of gypsum. That’s all I can remember. Anyway plants like Wild Thyme like it here, though they would like it more if it wasn’t dominated by Tor Grass and we only managed one little patch of it whilst Stemless Thistle was nowhere to be seen; perhaps its time is up.

Wild Thyme

Other notables loosely associated with the calcareous soil were Common Restharrow, Common Centaury, Burnet Saxifrage, Meadow Oat-grass (Helichtotrichon pratense) and Salad Burnet.

Field Madder

Sherardia arvensis has really tiny flowers and was growing next to the thyme.

Roesel’s Bush-cricket

I can’t resist intimate admiration of one of our most spectacular local insects.

Looking north-east from Cheese Hill with Brian Clough Way and poppies in the mid distance and Eastcroft incinerator stack to the right.
Thirteen species of butterfly on the day included Large White.
Amblyteles armatorius.

Amblyteles armatorius is an ichneumon wasp and a parasitoid of the pupae of noctuid moths. The rotter.

Meadow Grasshopper

I have said before about how the variation in colouring of our common grasshoppers causes me much confusion and my ‘Photographic Guide’ to the orthoptera contains none with this colour combination. It is an adult female because it is ovipositing in the soil there and its short wings support the identification as Chorthippus parallelus because females are normally short-winged (though there is a long-winged form!). The bulge on the costa of the short wing is another sign. The parallelus tag refers to the sutures along the top of the pronontum and these are reasonably parallel in this one but not easy to see.

When Dave stooped for a closer look at this, I thought he was going to tell me the time.

Taraxacum sect. Erythrosperma

There are 248 micro species of Dandelion though no-one in Nottinghamshire at least, can identify them. A simpler solution is to follow Stace who lumps similar ones into 9 sections and those purplish-violet achenes steer this one into section Erythrosperma.

Back off the hills, Dave insisted I’ve seen this before somewhere but I don’t remember it.

Narrow-leaved Pepperwort

Given its situation in the channel of the road, I has assumed that it liked salt but it’s just a generalist of ‘waste places, waysides and tips’. There was some shrivelled Lesser Sea-spurrey, which does like salt (or at least tolerate it) nearby.

Greater Knapweed

This much showier plant, had also been relegated to my memory’s dusty shelves as I know I’ve seen it before in exactly this same place! There is a form of Common Knapweed that has those rayed outer florets but that’s no excuse since everything else about it is quite different.