Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Tinto Hill, South Lanarkshire - SSSI

Tinto Hill (707 metres), is an outlying peak of the Southern Uplands and is a designated SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) due to the presence of subalpine heath and Quaternary geology.

In terms of geology, Tinto Hill is a good example of active periglacial stone stripes (freeze/thaw sorting of stones: resembling a ploughed field) and is composed of volcanic felsite and Old Red Sandstone.

Characteristic flora of the subalpine dry heath on Tinto includes Stiff Sedge (Carex bigelowii), Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) and Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus).

To get to this location, my mum and I got a train from Dalmuir to Lanark (1hr 20mins, £12.30) and then we caught a 191 bus from Lanark to Thankerton (15 mins): the bus station in Lanark is right next to the train station. Also, watch out for the neds: Lanark is teeming with them :(
The path up Tinto Hill is obvious and well-maintained and there is a cafe (Tinto Hill Tearoom) and public toilets at the foot of the hill.

Thankerton is surrounded by fields of cattle, I was glad that these cheeky chaps were behind a fence:

On our way to the top, we could hear Curlews curlew-ing and the squeaky pee-peet-ing of Meadow Pipits. Below the summit, by the side of the path, clumps of Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus) were flowering.

Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)
Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)
Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)
Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)
Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus) with Bilberry flower (Vaccinium myrtillus
Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)

Cloudberry is a dwarfed, mountain-dwelling relative of the Raspberry and produces edible amber coloured berries in autumn. Unusually, this plant is dioecious: individual plants are either male or female and cannot self-pollinate.

The view from the top of Tinto was incredible, particularly if you look towards the bleak Southern Uplands. As we sat and ate our lunch we spotted our first Red Admiral of the year:

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

Most Red Admiral butterflies (Vanessa atalanta) are migrants to our shores from central Europe.

We got lost on our descent of Tinto and began to walk down the rough scree at Pap Craig: we saw a Raven and a pair of Wheatears. When we realized we were heading the wrong way (we were supposed to be following the Scaut Hill path), we turned back.

Just at this point I heard falling scree behind me, looking round I saw a startled Mountain Hare tripping over the loose rocks in its attempt to get away! Its fur was frosty-grey and it had notably shorter ears than the Brown Hare.

As we made our way to the Scaut Hill path we crossed an area of heath which was scattered with clumps of angora-soft, white hair: Mountain Hare hair! I collected the moulted hair to add to my collection, I will photograph it at some point.
Cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) unopened flowers
Cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) is a relative of Cranberry and produces very tart, red berries which can be used in recipes. The leaves contain arbutin, a glycosylated hydroquinone, which inhibits tyrosinase and prevents the production of melanin (it is used in skin whiteners).
Circular Hillfort on Tinto
The circular mound in the middle of the above photo is a circular hillfort with a series of concentric ramparts. At the very summit of Tinto Hill there is also a Bronze Age circular cairn.

The Scaut Hill path crosses a field of cattle which looked docile enough but the nearby strip of fenced-in coniferous plantation allowed us a safer route.

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