Boulby on a Sunday afternoon at the end of August.

Posted on 1st September 2015

Cloudy, with very little wind.

There were interesting plants almost as soon as we got out of our cars, on the layby opposite the potash mine. Here, verge cutting during the year (the equivalent to the gardener’s Chelsea Chop) had given us some out of season flowers to admire; Meadow Buttercup, Hogweed, Black Medick and Smooth Hawk’s-beard … the latter led us on to look at all the other small yellow flowers that look the same and anyway aren’t they all dandelions? No, they’re not, and we discovered why.


Off up by the road only to find the edge of the pavement had been colonized by salt tolerant plants like Grass-leaved Orache, Common Scurvygrass and Lesser Sea-spurrey no doubt because the steep road here is heavily salted/gritted in winter. Purple flowered Common Mallow and the large yellow flowers of Perennial Sow-thistle were also admired.


On the lane side heading towards the sea were Hedge Bindweed and then large sprawling masses of a particularly attractive form of Field Bindweed and then round the corner a rather pinker version growing next to a small bush of Dogrose on which was an amazing Robin’s Pincushion Gall. Further up the road, growing in a garden, were the huge fat red hips of Japanese Rose.


And so along the path to the cliff edge where some insensitive members of the group wanted to know what the plants growing on sheer precipitous cliffs were but they had no chance because I was looking the other way (#vertigo). Anyway, eventually we got to the safety of some Gorse bushes and pausing to hear if the pods were cracking in the afternoon warmth (nope, sadly) we spotted Heath Groundsel. Round the corner and at the bottom of the steep hill we looked at the pale lemon flowers of Wood Sage and a few Harebells before starting our ascent of the highest cliff on the east coast of England.

We didn’t get very far before I conveniently noticed a rather faded flower of Bitter-vetch, and then we stopped to look at the view back over to Staithes, and then a bit further on there was a patch of Bitter-vetch with slightly narrower leaves, and then another view opportunity stop…before a last push to the top where we sat (okay, I sat) looking into what was a mine 150 years ago but was now covered in gloriously purple Heather and Bell Heather. The history of the alum works is fascinating and this is the place from where Lewis Hunton set rules for the basis of modern stratigraphy (the study of sedimentary rocks in space and time) in 1836.


Onwards and along a bit to the top of the cliff for a panoramic view, easily being able see back to South Gare where our wildflower journey began at the start of the summer, before walking back down the road – pausing for the acrobatics of drinking/pondskater-catching birds and then to admire the small chestnut brown cattle in the fields.