Saturday, 14 May 2011

The first of the wildflower walks - the Orphir coast

I notice that the last entry was 4th May - that's ten days ago - too long by far - apologies. But it's that time of the year when it's non-stop. Last Monday Anne and I (yes we are still talking) chaperoned Dounby school on the MV Graemsay as it steamed across Scapa Flow and we talked of World War 1 and 2 and the birdlife. Tuesday was seven hours of birdwatching - firstly with two visitors to Orkney from upstate New York, Ann and Joan. We toured the West Mainland - a trip that included Puffins at Marwick and Whimbrel and Scaup at Skaill. This was followed by an evening class on Hunda - a perfect and calm spring evening serenaded by the cooing and purring of Eiders and the creaking of a hundred Arctic Terns.

The Orkneyinga Saga Centre

The Round Kirk at the Bu, Orphir

The Orkneyinga circular walk - coastal heath in July

And today was the first Wildflower class. We went to Orphir and walked the circular route that starts and finishes at the Orkneyinga Saga Centre. It's a good wee walk in that it introduces folk to half a dozen habitats in little more than a mile and a bit. There's wetland adjacent to the Orphir burn, shore plants down in the bay, coastal grassland, coastal heath, hard rock sea cliff, tame woodland and arable. The cliff walk faces south and is sheltered by a sandstone dyke that is covered with Sea Ivory - the wildflowers here have a head start.

Arguably the most noticeable plants along the cliff were Spring Squill and Creeping Willow. The former were not that plentiful (the coastal grassland was probably too lush in places) but the Willow was flowering prolifically.
Spring Squill
Spring Squill

Creeping Willow

Common Dog Violets were in profusion along this stretch of the walk. Red Campion was in flower but not that abundant as was Primrose. Bluebells, Daffodils, Red Poppies and Montbretia had been dumped over the cliff and were thriving. Though colourful, I think the natural cliff vegetation would be better off without them.

The wood at Gyre was blooming. A month ago the understorey barely tickled your ankles. Today the ferns were a metre high and the Butterbur leaves twice as big as dinner plates. But it was probably the Pink Purslane that stole the show. It would be no exaggeration to say that it was the most abundant flowering plant not only in the wood but also along the road past the wood and to the Bu.

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