Spring On The Tees Riverbank – Richard Hockin
Janet and I had a short holiday in the south of the county last week and on March 20 th we cycled to Winston before leaving our bikes and wandering downstream along the Tees towards Gainford. The river was sparkling in the sunshine, with lots of insect activity including a hatch of early-season stoneflies and caddisflies from the water surface. Many birds were calling and singing, including Green Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush and the first Chiffchaffs, confirming that spring was very much in the air. One of the first plants that caught my eye was Common Whitlowgrass, growing on the gravelly trackside at the start of the walk, the brightness of the white flowers being particularly noticeable despite the diminutive size of the plant. There were many plants coming into flower in the riverside woods including Moschatel, Wood Anemone, Lesser Celandine, Primrose, Dog’s Mercury, Red Campion, Great Wood-rush and some lovely patches of Early Dog-violet. Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem put on a good show close to the water’s edge, together with Snowdrop and an occasional Green Hellebore. There was a fine carpet of mosses, one of the prominent ones being Common Feather-moss, Kindbergia praelonga. Many other plants were yet to flower of course, providing a good test of vegetative ID skills, including Wood Sage, Pignut, Ground-elder, Ransoms and Tufted Hair- grass. On the wetter slopes where groundwater had seeped through the sandstone and shale there was Marsh-marigold, Butterbur and Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage in flower, together with Pendulous Sedge, the new shoots of Great Willowherb and the old stems of last year’s Great Horsetail. The sunny south-facing riverside slopes provided ‘hot-spots’ for insect life where there were gaps in the tree canopy. One insect taking advantage of this was a Brimstone butterfly, shown in the attached photo. I don’t take many pictures, but I couldn’t resist one which attempts to show the veins and pointed wings, emulating the veins and tips of a leaf. An unexpected highlight to round off an hour or so on the riverbank.