Thursday 12th June - Woodhead Pass and Howden Moors


Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)
Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)
 On reaching the top of the Woodhead Pass (A628 - Manchester to Sheffield Road), I was surprised to see a small colony of the impressive Giant Hogweed. I do not recall seeing it there before, although the old stems make it clear that it was there in at least one previous year. It frequently grows to about 3 metres, but supposedly up to about 5 metres! It is frequently seen by waterways, which help in seed dispersal - there are vast numbers by the river Bollin.  It is a phototoxic plant - the sap can cause severe skin blisters, when exposed to sunlight or UV. It was introduced from the Caucasus in the 19th century primarily for ornamental reasons, but is now widespread. As a result of its toxicity and its ability to spread it has been an offence of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 to plant or otherwise encourage it to grow in the wild. It is now frequently removed. (Ref: Wikipedia and Flora Britannica)

Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)
Pond Water Crowfoot (Ranunculus peltatus)
In the marshy area nearby was a marsh orchid, and this Water Crowfoot (a member of the Buttercup family) - probably Pond Water Crowfoot.
Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)
Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)
Walking up on to the moors at this time of year, you are quite likely to see the distinctive leaf and solitary flower of the Cloudberry (the Rose family, like the Strawberry and Blackberry). Hunt around and you may also find the fruit - a clearly recognisable berry.
Cloudberry - the berry
The berry
Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus)
Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus)
Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus)
Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus)
However the main reason for this short walk was to look for the Mountain Hare. I frequently search for it in winter when it has turned white, and is easy to spot in mild winters without snow. It is certainly better camouflaged in summer, although now still showing some of the pale winter coat. They do have a habit of sitting upright to gain a good view of potential dangers, such as the buzzard not too far away, but are most obvious, if only briefly, when startled and speeding away. I was pleasantly surprised how many I saw - perhaps a dozen, in quite a short time, and that they did allow a couple of photos....

Mike Pettipher

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