Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Botanising in Scotland

A few days again the Gnome family made a sortie north of the border to Glasgow so that our younger daughter B could take a look around Strathclyde University which she's hoping to attend this autumn. This was a strictly family affair with no real birding opportunities and despite a very tempting White-winged Scoter just a few hours away in Aberdeen it was made very clear that any attempts to sneak a visit in would be severely frowned upon. 

We headed off on Wednesday afternoon after B finished her shift at work and stopped over at some relatives who live in Cockermouth in Cumbria overnight before making the push north of the border the next day. We have some good friends who live in Glasgow but unfortunately the timing wasn't right as they were away on holiday. Still, they generously let us stay in their house which made an idea base to explore the area. It being suburban Glasgow, there weren't any real opportunities to do any birding en passant but at least I was able to indulge in my new-found interest of looking at all the weeds that were growing in the area. I even found a new plant for me in the garden, a tiny and invasive foreigner called New Zealand Willowherb, that apparently is spreading rapidly though it hasn't reached Oxfordshire as yet (that I know of).

New Zealand Willowherb
The next day was spent exploring Glasgow in the morning before attending an open day at Strathclyde University in the afternoon which was very helpful for B.  After that we had a pizza in the town centre before heading back to base.

The following day we decided to do some hill walking, a pastime that my VLW and I used to be rather fond of in our younger days. Indeed our two daughters have been up Snowdon in Wales a number of times though we seemed to fall out of the habit when our son L came along so he'd not really experienced much of it. We decided to climb Ben Lomond, a relatively easy Munro (Scottish peak over three thousand feet) that wasn't too far from Glasgow next to Loch Lomond. We arrived at around midday to find the car park virtually full though we managed to grab a spot when someone left, already up and back down the mountain no doubt. We took it nice and slowly, being passed regularly by younger and fitter walkers as we made our way through the woodland area and up through a boggy region before emerging onto the hillside proper. Naturally I kept my eyes open for any unusual plant life and found a few things of interest.

Small Cow-wheat in the wood, a cousin of the Common Cow-wheat that I saw at Blean Woods recently
Common Spotted-orchid
Heath Spotted-orchid

Once out in the open we stopped to have our packed lunch and to enjoy the view.

Our packed-lunch view
Out on the hillside proper, the plant life changed to more heathland ones with lots of Tormentil, Eyebright, Heath Bedstraw, some Common and Heath Milkwort and a small pink thing that was new to me which turned out to be Lousewort.

We made slow but steady progress up the hillside. A Peregrine flew right over our heads and there were several cronking Ravens and a few Meadow Pipits but that was about it on the bird front. Eventually we made it up to the summit where on the top I found a plant that I didn't recognise and which turned out to be Alpine Lady's Mantle. It was quite exciting to find something new in such a remote and relatively inaccessible place!

Unfortunately it was rather gloomy on the summit which rather obscured the view
Alpine Lady's Mantle
Team summit photo

After taking some photos and admiring the view we started the long decent. Whilst it's much easier going down in terms of how much effort is required, both my VLW and I have in the past suffered from knee problems when going down hill in our hillwalking days and sure enough both of us started to get knee gyp again on this descent. Progress was slow and painful but eventually we made it down again some time after 7 p.m. We headed off back to Glasgow, stopping en route to grab some take-away fish and chips which we ate hungrily in the car park. That night we slept very soundly!

The next day it was time to head on home. Sunday is of course not the best day to travel down the M6 and sure enough we hit quite a few jams so it took a good hour and a half longer than it should have done. Still, we all agreed that it had been a most enjoyable few days away and I'd even managed a few new plant ticks to boot.


Steve Gale said...

Gnome, when I saw the title of your post I couldn't wait to read it. Botanising in Scotland - particularly looking for alpine plants - is one of my favourite pastimes. It reminded me that I need to return very soon!

Adam Hartley (Gnome) said...

Hi Steve, as can no doubt tell from my post, due to family constraints I didn't really get the chance to do it justice and I will need to return and do it properly at some point in the near future. To that end, I really hope that B gets in to Strathclyde as it will give me a good excuse!