Monthly Archives: March 2017

27th March, 2017.

First ones of the season seen recently either beside Middlegate or New Quarry –

periwinkle, buttercup, cowslip (see pic.), speedwell, white deadnettle and single flowering head of cock’s-foot grass. All early, particularly the grass, except for speedwell and white deadnettle, one of the few plants for which flower-heads can be found throughout the year in favourable locations.

(Ongoing thoughts on empirical challenges to traditional ideas to follow.)

26th March, 2017.

Illustration – Mid-19th century lithograph entitled ‘Museum and Cliff Bridge, Scarboro’. The image shows most of the Rotunda (see last blog) with the headland-top Castle in the distance – the Grand Hotel had not then been built.

Charles Darwin, 1809-1882, like Smith was an ardent geologist, but is better remembered as a naturalist following his five-year journey of discovery on HMS Beagle, 1831-1836, his Journals published in the late 1830s becoming best-sellers. After years of thoughtful consideration of the natural world Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859. His explanation of the ‘evolutionary process’, driven by ‘natural selection’ (a term coined elsewhere), and resulting in the ‘diversity of life’ led him to firmly deny a literal interpretation of the story of Creation as told in the Book of Genesis, although in a more ethereal way he retained some elements of the Unitarian faith of his earlier years.

In the face of growing scepticism about a literal interpretation of the Bible (or at least the Old Testament) a Victorian cleric had studied the family trees evidenced in the Old Testament and had come to the conclusion, rational from the perspective of his studies, that the World was c. 4500 years old.

22nd March, 2017.

William Smith, 1769-1839, in 1801 created the first geological map of England, Wales and southern Scotland. In 1815 he published Delineation of Strata of England and three years later Strata Identified by Organized Fossils. His fossil collection is on display at the British Museum. These studies showed clearly that life-forms changed across time, thus heralding the work of Darwin and, by implication, challenging a literal interpretation of the text of the Book of Genesis (the first book of the Old Testament).

Smith spent most of his adult life as an itinerant engineer for canal and mining companies as well as being self supporting while pursuing his studies around the country. This remarkable man was largely self-taught, faced many privations throughout his life and was only credited by academic society towards the end of his life.

(More to Follow).

On Humber bank first cow-parsley seen in flower. Fine display of daffodils in their first season around the ‘Redoubt Copse’ plantation in Baysgarth Park, Barton. All three colours of violet plants, white, light blue and dark blue, in flower beside Middlegate above South Ferriby churchyard an near the big quarry. Last Autumn dug-up all my perennial garden and replanted the flower roots in nice rows for ease of maintenance – very little sign of growth as yet!

21st. March, 2017.

In the booklet Descriptions of East Yorkshire: Leland to Defoe (published by the East Yorkshire Local History Soc. in 1985) Donald Woodward’s extract from Defoe’s Tour (1720s) includes the following phrase when writing of the North Yorkshire coast ‘here are the snake stones, of which nothing can be said but as one observes of them, to see how nature sports her self to amuse us’. Presumably her was referring to fossils (see above – ammonite) found commonly in the limestone strata of the Yorkshire Moors coastal rocks south of Whitby. Whether or not he was glossing over any more rational explanation is not clear, but certainly 100 years later another topographer and resident of Scarborough (although he had been born and had lived most of his life in southern England) had, through his studies alongside his profession of civil engineer, come to much more rational and ground breaking (excuse the pun) conclusions. This was William Smith (1769-1839), originally nicknamed William ‘Strata’ Smith and later distinguished as ‘Father of English Geology’.

The Rotunda museum in Scarborough was originally built in the then contemporary classical style to house Smith’s exhibits. Refurbished early in the 21st century it was re-named ‘Rotunda – The William Smith Museum of Geology. Despite the name it includes other aspects of the history of Scarborough and district as well as evidence of other alumni from Scarborough’s early Literary and Philosophical Society.

Unknown to Smith at the time of his death a young naturalist called Charles Darwin was formulating the theory of ‘natural selection’ following his researches during a voyage on HMS Beagle 1831-1836.

(More to Follow).

19th March, 2017.

Good time of year to walk Middlegate lane, high up the scarp slope above South Ferriby and Horkstow villages. Profusion of primroses in South Ferriby churchyard, especially in the older burial areas – this and Paull churchyard surely the best in Humberside for seeing spring flowering plants. Scattered small colonies of blue and white violets under the shelterbelt of young trees running parallel to Middlegate (see above), although these not as extensive as recent past, presumably violets get pushed-out quite easily by sturdier ground cover grasses and plants.

Panoramic view over Reeds Island shows what seems to be a slowing down of the erosion of the remnant island, probably due to the huge mudflat that has built-up along its north side and which must reduce the force of the waters at high tide.

Quarrying work on-going on a Sunday, very unusual, must be a surge in demand for cement, or maybe one of the other production sites has closed down for repairs, or whatever.

18th March, 2017.

Last night chaired a very interesting talk by Simon Wellock who for the last year has been the Warden for Lincs. Trust at the Far Ings Centre, Barton. He described how reed-bed management could best promote a diverse ecology, although the bittern is often referenced a healthy environment for the bittern is a healthy wetland environment for many other creatures as well. Reed-bed management is costly of labour and equipment and has to be repeated at least every 12 years.

Sadly the warden and his volunteers have to deal with a lot more than the welfare of the nature reserve, fly-tipping in particular.

Reed-beds are always a temporary feature in the natural sequences of wetland ecology, the reeds causing in the medium turn the wetland to dry out, this resulting in the demise of the reeds and their replacement by scrubland and tree types able to tolerate relatively damp top soils. In the linear reed-bed along the south bank of the Humber parallel with Sluice Road this process seems to be happening in places (see above image). Reed-bed management involves halting this process.

Recently noted; marsh marigold in flower, coltsfoot colonising disturbed soil e.g. Ferriby cliff (where some collapse) and beside Humber bank path near Old Tile Works, flowering current, forsythia, all types of daffodil family etc.