Old Dale field meeting

I have recently joined the New Mills Natural History Society. They hold field meetings to look at wildlife.

We visited Old Dale, a limestone dale managed by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust between Buxton and Bakewell on the Monsal Trail.  This was an enjoyable walk, especially for a botanist, as the slopes of the dale support a rich and varied flora. We saw two different orchids, Jacob's-ladder (Derbyshire's county flower), several species of St John's-wort, Flea Sedge, Mossy Saxifrage, Green Spleenwort and typical grasses of calcareous grasslands such as Meadow Oat-grass.


The first two photographs above are Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata). This orchid is shown in older textbooks as Listera ovata, but more recent molecular phylogenetic studies have shown it is closely related to Bird's-nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis) and the genera have been combined.



Jacob's ladder is (apart from garden escapes) found mainly in the Derbyshire and Yorkshire dales, on fairly moist limestone grassland.

Hairy St John's-wort

Hairy St John's-wort is distinguished from other St John's worts by the hairy stems and leaves (Marsh St John’s-wort also has hairy stems and leaves, but is found in bogs). Another distinguishing feature are the many black dots on the edges of the sepals.

Medium magnification close up of Hairy St John's-wort leaf

Another feature which helps to identify Hairy St John's-wort are the translucent dots which can be seen when a leaf is held up to the light. (Perforate St John's-wort, Hypericum perforatum also has translucent dots, but is not hairy.)

These pictures were shot using a Minolta 3x-1x Macro Zoom, which is effectively a low to medium power microscope which attachs directly to the camera, and I backlit the first two pictures using a lightbox, and the second two photos from the top using a ringflash. Depth of field is very low at these magnifications, so I use a technique known as photo stacking, which involves taking a set of photos at slightly different distances, and then combining all the in focus areas into one picture, discarding all the out of focus areas. (There are a number of programs that can perform this task, the one I use is CombineZP).

(I didn't get round to taking these close ups for a few days, so the leaf isn't fresh.)

For those interested in equipment, there is a good review of the Minolta 3x-1x Macro Zoom on Michael Hohner's Fotografie website.


Old Dale forms a unit of the Wye Valley SSSI. This unit is shown on Natural England's unit details as being in favourable condition.