Sorting out some papers, I came across a dusty looking foolscap envelope and inside was a bundle of Helen Lefevre’s botany reports dating from 1956-7 and ending 1986. Miss Lefevre as I knew her, joined the Society in 1961 and lived at Beckside in Linton, featured above. She became the botany group leader in 1963 and played a large part in the life of the Field Society, being Librarian, Secretary and President. She was a member of the Methodist Church and the photograph is of her celebrating her 90th Birthday in Grassington Methodist Church.
I cannot remember how I came to have these reports except that someone will have given them to me, possibly Bronte Bedford-Payne. I have chosen to use excerpts from 1977-78 because accompanying this one are a few comments from Helen Ward whom I wrote about recently for members articles.
Comments about the weather are frequent, the spring months being cold, wet and windy thus giving ‘a very late start to the spring flowers’ The group did not meet as often as we do now, the sites mentioned for this year – ‘the flora of Elbolton Reef Knoll in May and the grounds of Flasby Hall (by permission) in July.’
This was in search of Baneberry following up an old record, but it wasn’t found. It is a plant of Ash woodland and limestone pavement and only rarely recorded by the present botany group. Another meeting was to the roadside verges between Whitey Nook and Conistone.
Miss Lefevre makes general comments about the early spring flowers – Blackthorn and Primroses were good. There was a lot of ‘Meadow Saxifrage on limestone pastures rather stunted on dry ground. Spring Whitlow Grass ( now just Common WG), Three fingered Saxifrage (now Rue-leaved S)
and Wall Speedwell flowered in great profusion. The Hornbeam in the plantation at Linton which produced very fine catkins the previous year produced none in 1977.’
‘The Hedgerows produced a profusion of flowers especially Vetches and Cow Parsley. A country saying is that a good flowering of this plant foretells a bad winter! It worked last year!’
‘Comments have been made that in many lanes, lorries are damaging verges’ ( there would have been 3 working quarries in the area at that time, and many would not have been sheeted up)’ Verges have received less cutting, as an economy measure, and we shall watch the result of this’. Helen Ward who at this time would be living in Rylstone, also comments on ‘the lorries churning up the grass verges, especially bad in places down from Hetton to Gargrave and on our back lane the tractors and the builders have halved the the grass verge, so it’s the plants that suffer. The lime from the lorries have spoilt the herbage going up Rectory Hill Rylstone. It used to be a treat walking up there, but it isn’t any more’. I think we can all relate to this feeling in one way or another. I walked through Lower Grass Wood the other day, entering from the Grassington bridge side, along the riverbank, which used to have a lovely display of plants throughout the year and is now dominated by the Hawthorn and Blackthorn scrub, planted by the Woodland Trust some years ago to prevent camping. I particularly remember Agrimony.
The group must have been recording for a new plant atlas as Miss Lefevre comments that no new records were made for the Atlas, but local new records were –
One plant Rusty Back Fern in the wall of Great Bank, ( no sign of it now) and one plant of Agrimony by the roadside beyond Grass Wood. She also notes that the number of plants of Yarrow of a deep pink seemed to be a feature of the summer. Recently I was taken up Mastiles lane from Kilnsey on a round walk by Win Clements and one of the features of that walk was the many deep pink plants of Yarrow that we saw! They were really lovely.