Monday, September 19, 2011

On The Pinnacle

This morning I wanted to go sit on a high cliff and look at the sea. Then I woke up in Bedfordshire. We don't have cliffs or mountains or the sea here. Bedfordshire is, all in all, remarkably flat. But, there are places one can go to escape and sit, and lose one's self in the view.

Sandy Pinnacle is one such place. It lies just to the east of Sandy, over the railway and is a public recreational area. It's an outcrop of the Lower Greensand. And here is a rather tenuous link with the sea; the sand was laid down over a 100 million years ago on the shores of warm shallow sea. So I can look at the sea from a sort of cliff, but about a 100 million years too late. Hey ho.

Here is the recreation ground at the foot of The Pinnacle. It's a rather nice bit of acid grassland. The Pinnacle is straight ahead.
The East Coast mainline is just to my left.
A few steep steps and I am at the top. Only a little puffed. And here is the vista from the top of The Pinnacle. A view of Sandy. 
Actually that panorama is a bit squished. Sorry about that. Sandy is a small town that sits on the River Ivel in the broad Ivel Valley. The valley was formed during the last ice age. Here is a view of the centre of Sandy.
And here to the left is Sandye Place, now the school. And to the right, the church.
If you look south, you can see the A1; the busy, vital, historic trunk road linking London and Edinburgh via York. Having made the mistake of clicking on the Wikipedia page whilst writing this blog (yes, the A1 has its own page) I find that the A1 is in fact the longest numbered road in the UK at 410 miles long. My day is brighter knowing that fact. More worrying though is that I probably won't forget it.
Further south still the edge of the chalky Chilterns are just discernible on long zoom.
And up in the cloudless blue sky; the moon. 
I am always amazed that there are so few people on The Pinnacle when I go up there. I know it's a work day today, but even at weekends, it's never busy.

Just in front of the bench (there's only one bench now as the other one was removed a short while ago) is a patch of annual nettle (Urtica urens); a much neater plant than the straggly perennial stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).

Black nightshade (Solanum nigrum) is never one to miss an opportunity to colonise bare disturbed ground.
The pale lemon flowers of smooth sow-thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) were enjoying the autumn sunshine.
I'd not noticed the underside of the sow-thistle petals have a pinkish tinge. Nor had I seen, until I downloaded the photos, that there are milky droplets of sap on the bud.
I didn't expect to find a purple Petunia in the nettle patch.
It's a fine place to sit on a sunny day. 
But, the steep sandy slopes are eroding badly.
The typical vegetation here is pedunculate oak (Quercus robur), gorse (Ulex europaeus) and broom (Cytisus scoparius).
On this eroding sandy bank, oak trees somehow manage to get a purchase. Where the sand has been eroded, their exposed gnarled and tangled roots look like sculptures. 
On the wooded bank I found a number of what I believe are parasol mushrooms.
Another unknown mushroom, with amazing markings, was lurking in the shadows under the oaks. UPDATE: Abbey Meadows has suggested this is the sepia bolete Boletus porosporus. Looks good to me.
If you scramble down the bank, you get to the East Coast mainline. 
On the way home I passed some lovely blue fleabane (Erigeron acris) still in flower.
I tried to get a close-up, with less glare from the sun, but messed it up a bit. The little petals, which never fully unfurl, are a deeper purple than I have noticed before.

Further Information
Case Study of Sandy Pinnacle by Bedfordshire RIGS here
The Local Geological Site Designation is here


  1. Hi,
    There are 4 generations of the Wiles family in Sandy cemetery, I am 62 years old and as far as my descendants are concerned and I know the pinnacle is and always has been on the East of Sandy !

  2. :-) Well spotted! My locational dyslexia strikes again. Changed. Thanks for pointing out. M