The Wild West

Climbing roses, Rose Garden, Regent's Park

Today’s guest picture shows the rose garden in Regents Park.  It was taken by my sister Mary.

Climbing roses, Rose Garden, Regent's Park
Climbing roses, Rose Garden, Regent’s Park

The plan for the day was a visit to Maryport on the west coast of Cumbria following a suggestion from our friend Sue that we might enjoy a day out with a wild flower expert who runs courses for those interested in such things.

The forecast was for such bad weather that first thing in the morning, Sue rang up to check whether we thought that it was a good idea to go or not but we were in a devil may care mood and laughed at rain and gales so it was decided that we should go.

We picked up Sue and her friend Helen in Longtown and drove to Maryport, grateful that the rain hadn’t started.

There we met up with Stuart, our guide and suitably dressed for the middle of summer in Cumbria…

Flower hunting in Maryport
Sue, Mrs Tootlepedal, Helen and Stuart

…we set off on a flower hunt.

There was a scientific purpose for the walk as well as education for us as Stuart was recording the flowers and plants that we saw for the record.

Although the wind was very strong it had the effect of sweeping the clouds away and the weather was not too bad as we set out.

Maryport dunes

We were in an area of grassy dunes immediately behind the shoreline and it wasn’t long before the first sightings were made and the first records written down.

flower hunt maryport

Stuart was an excellent guide and we had seen more wild flowers in ten minutes than I would have seen in a whole day if I had been left to myself.

I would say at this point that if any reader doesn’t care for wild flowers at all, the best thing to do would be to skip to the bottom of the post now, click the LIKE button and find something better to do.

There was silverweed and rattle and a host of vetches, grasses, hawkweeds, clovers, umbellifers and plaintains to discover.  Who knew that there were so many different sorts of these, sometimes only identifiable by the tiniest difference in a sepal of a petal formation.

I learned all the names but somehow they didn’t stick as well as I would have wished.

one of themany dandelion like flowers and wild carrot

There turned out to be a lot of wild carrot about.  That’s it on the right above.  I would never have known that the wild carrot has a tiny dark flower in the centre of the circle of white but once seen, it was easy to pick them out as we went round.

Readers are lucky that the wind was so strong that taking pictures was always hard work and often impossible, otherwise there would have been hundreds of pictures in today’s post.

The recorders were hard at work, checking for smooth or rough stems, paired or alternate leaves, green or glaucous colouring and many other details.

Maryport plant hunt

Magnifying glasses were produced to show tiny glands on the end of leaves and petals splitting into two.  I would never have noticed that some grasses don’t have ears on the back of the stem….

grass and kidney vetch

…or that there were such things as kidney vetches so it was a continuously interesting excursion.

There were even passing trains along the coastal line to spot.


Even I can recognise an orchid…

pyramid orchid

…though I don’t think that I have ever knowingly seen a pyramidal orchid like this one before.  The photo doesn’t do justice to the very rich colour of these flowers.

Once we had got our orchid eye in, we saw these all over the place.  There were more common orchids too…

wild parsnip and spotted orchid

….and there were wild parsnips nearby which were new to me.

As well as flowers, we saw a lot of six spot burnet moths…

burnet moth

Stuart held this one up for me to snap.  His record book (with waterproof paper!) forms the background.  There were sometimes several on the same plant and Stuart thinks that they were newly emerged.  This one went safely back onto a flower.

I had never met goats beard before…

goats beard

…which have little yellow flowers and produce striking seed clocks.

After about two hours of fun, the call of lunch became strong and the clouds looked a bit threatening down the coast…

Maryport sea view

…so stopping only to admire some wild radish and two red soldier beetles on an umbellifer….

wild radish soldier beetles

..we headed for our cars and got there just in time to avoid a thorough soaking from an intense rain shower.   This conveniently lasted for as long as our lunch and after lunch, we set out again, this time sticking closer to the shore for the first part of our walk.

This meant that the wind was even stronger than when we had been behind the dunes before lunch but the reward was a very handsome sea holly.  It was one of a pair of prickly things that we met along with a fine spear thistle.

thistle and sea holly

The sea holly was beautiful.

sea holly

…and would have been worth the journey on its own.

Still, there was lots more to see beside the sea, including this very structural little plant…

sea plant

…whose name I learned and forgot.

Although the weather was often threatening to south and north along the coast…

South from maryport
I could quite see why they thought that this was a good place for windmills!

….we were very lucky and showers passed us by and for much of the time, we walked and searched in sunshine.

We found colourful patches of wild thyme and lady’s bedstraw, many more pyramidal  and spotted orchids and dozens more wild flowers and grasses.

flowers and grasses

I particularly enjoyed seeing two of the highlights of the day in one place.

six spot burnet and pyramidal orchid

Our walk took us up to the edge of the harbour at Maryport….

Maryport harbour

… and the clouds cleared enough to let us see the Solway Array of windmills planted in the middle of the firth.

Solway Array

You can see the Scottish side in the background.

Nevertheless, an increasing build up of black clouds hastened our footsteps back to the car and once again we got back just as the rain started.  We had been exceptionally lucky with the weather as the combination of wind and rain when it came would have discouraged me from spending more than two minutes looking at wild flowers let alone the four hours that we actually spent.

It was a great tribute to Stuart that ignorant as I am about nature, I found the whole outing interesting from first to last.  I just wish that I still had the capacity to remember things that I learn.  I found it so easy to remember things when I was young that it is rather galling to find out how hard it is now.  All the same, my eyes will be a lot more open the next time I walk among some sea side grasslands.

We had a lovely drive home, taking the longer route along the coast back to Carlisle and the sun came out as we went along so that the Solway plain looked at its best.

We dropped Sue and Helen off at Longtown and got home very tired and very happy.

This being the first Saturday of the month, our trip meant that I had had to miss the producers’ market in the Buccleuch Centre which was a blow.  Very fortunately for me, my Friday night Orchestra, Alison did some shopping for me and she procured me very satisfactory supplies of meat, fish, honey and cheese.  I picked them up when we got back and what with that and a quick look round our garden in the evening sunlight…

rose and bee on astrantia
Alison told me that it had been a very wet day in Langholm

…it was the end of one of those days which is emphatically entered on the credit side of the great ledger of life.

The flying bird of the day is several sparrows. (I didn’t have any time for better.)





Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

38 thoughts on “The Wild West

  1. I love wildflowers so I thoroughly enjoy your post. You were so lucky to have the expert on your walk. So many beautiful findings, the orchids are gorgeous.

  2. You’re so lucky to have gone around with an expert to point things out to you, even if you don’t remember the names. Despite the wind, your photos were exquisite! The landscapes were very good as well. I’d love to have spent the day there even under the threat of rain.

  3. The whole day was a gift, particularly the moth – and that sea holly. Your closeup is particularly beautiful – it looks to me as if a tiny fish is swimming about at the top.

    It is such a pleasure to go for a walk with someone like Stuart who shows us things we wouldn’t see if we were on our own, and helps us understand what we’re seeing. Thank you for taking us along.

  4. I’ve never heard of kidney vetch but I like it.
    The sea holly is very beautiful and I also like the pyramidal plat after it.
    It must have been cool there but you’d never know it by the puffy clouds and blue skies. It’s a beautiful place with much to offer and it isn’t often you get to be shown around by a botanist.

  5. Walks with experts are always an adventure to be treasured. Glad you got to go on one!

    Grasses are beautiful in their own right. The county where Rick and I live is known as the “Grass seed capital of the world”, and is one of the major agricultural crops, for better and for worse. They are right, I have never encountered so many types of grasses as we have here. They present a problem with gardens, having such a strong life force of their own, but I have learned their habits, and can work around them. Still, they are beautiful.

    1. Mrs T enjoys ornamental grasses in the garden but she has to keep a sharp eye on them to stop them getting out of hand. I hadn’t imagined that anywhere would be the grass seed capital of the world but it must be an honour to live there.

  6. What a great day! I’d love to learn plant and flower names and would too forget them later. I have never seen a sea holly, it is gorgeous and I understand why it alone was worth the trip to learn and explore!

  7. when we were in Holland , there was a profusion of wild flowers , very few of which I knew names for, I too have difficulty in remembering names now- age!!!!
    great that you could go out with an expert.

  8. Sounds like a very well spent day, so pleased that you were lucky with the weather. Thanks for all those beautiful closeups, a treat for someone who couldn’t see the detail otherwise.

  9. It was a great day out! Very glad you came along and that you enjoyed it. The nameless plant was sea sandwort I think (as identified in my notes as spiky pointy, though I am not sure that is the correct botanical term)

  10. I often wish I had someone to teach me the different Australian tree, flower and grass types on my walks. I’m glad you had a most enjoyable day. I think wildflowers are beautiful and often unappreciated. They my not be as showy as many large vibrant garden flowers but they can make up for it with their delicate features and subtle colours. Often a magnifying glass or macro shots show their hidden beauty. Thank you for sharing these excellent photos of your day during windy conditions. It certainly doesn’t look like mid summer with the way you’re all dressed! 🙂

    1. It certainly didn’t feel like it either. You always seem very well informed about the things that you see on your walks so you don’t need an expert half as much as I do. 🙂

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