Lochwinnoch Parish I

Through the kindness of Mr. J. W. Shand-Harvey, the proprietor of Castle Semple, the fine policies there have twice been the scene of excursions of the Society. On both occasions the approach has been from Howwood. On the Black Cart, which has its origin in Castle Semple Loch, many yellow lilies (Nuphar luteum) may be seen, and on the banks of the same stream Mimulus luteus has established itself. The sides of the loch, which are not much frequented, have become a veritable preserve of wild flowers, many of them deserving of notice. In early autumn particularly, the beautiful racemes of the giant bell-flower (Campanula latifolia), the tall spires of the purple loosestrife (Lythrum Salicaria), with the golden-rod (Solidago Virgaurea), monk’s-hood (Aconitum Napellus), and great patches of meadow-sweet, all in profusion, form a picture of the most exquisite beauty. One of the archaeological features of interest within the policies is the Collegiate Church of Lochwinnoch, which has served for a long period as a burial place for the members of the Semple family. This rather dilapidated ruin is overshadowed by a number of tall hornbeams, and the walls both inside and outside are festooned with the ivy-leaved toad-flax (Linaria Cymbalaria). In and about some ponds adjacent to the Collegiate Church some rare plants were noted, including the great reed-mace (Typha latifolia), Claytonia alsinoides, and a large patch of the great yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris). Other water plants occurring were the white water-lily (Nympæa alba), Ranunculus heterophyllus and R. hederaceus. The maidenhair spleenwort (Asplenium Trichomanes) was found on the walls of the grotto and on the boundary wall near Lochwinnoch in fine condition. On the occasion of the second visit to Castle Semple (28th June, 1890) the following fungi were collected:— Agaricus rubescens, A. semi-orbicularis A. mutabilis, A. cervinus, A. appendiculatus, Marasmius peronatus, Russula cyanoxantha, R. heterophylla, Polyporus squamosus, P. annosus (and the resupinate form of this species), Stereum puppureum, Psalliota semi-globatus, Phallus impudicus. On the same occasion the grass between the loch and the large cedar of Lebanon was swarming with the ‘sweep’, as Tanagra chærophyllata is called, a moth too striking to be overlooked even by those uninterested in Lepidoptera. In the gardens and greenhouses the two plants which engaged most attention were a very old citron loaded with fruit, and a fine clump of Gaultheria Shallon, a beautiful North American shrub, the white flowers of which, flushed with delicate pink, are borne on secund racemes.

Castle Semple Loch is much frequented by waterfowl, and within the mansion house is a case containing birds shot on the Estate, including the common bittern (Botaurus stellaris) and the Eygptian goose (Anser egyptiacus). There are many fine trees in the policies, beeches being probably the most conspicuous number and size. Near the house may be seen large examples the variegated form of the great maple, a large tree of the common maple (Acer campestre), and an ailantus or tree of heaven (Ailantus glandulosa). Not far from the loch and west of the house stands a cedar of Lebanon, of which a reproduction om a photograph, taken on the occasion of our second visit by Mr. John Stewart, of Largs, is given in this volume—Plate IV. This tree has the reputation of being one of the largest of its kind in Scotland, but though it dwarfs all others as yet visited by the Society in the West of Scotland, it is much less than the examples at Hopetoun. It measured on the day the photograph was taken 12 feet 8 inches at 3 feet. It is now, unfortunately, getting ‘thin’ on the west side. Near it stands a large hornbeam. From the hermitage in the deer park a fine view of the valley with its chain of lochs and the surrounding heights is obtained.