These rather striking alien creatures stopped me in my tracks last week or rather caused himself to bring the car to an abrupt halt, so that I could leap out and take a few photos. There were a few clumps of them growing alongside the road up in the Cumbrian fells. I've done some research and have some thoughts on what they might be but thought that it would be fun to share the photos first. Hopefully somebody will confirm my thoughts on identification or prompt me to reach for the books and explore Google again.
Whatisit - update. Thanks for all your suggestions. Petasites japonicus or butterbur was the most popular. My guesses at identification initially followed the same line of thought. I got off to a head start by accident when catching up with the February edition of 'The Garden', which included an excellent article on 'Scents of the season'. Petasites fragrans was featured as one of the plants which provides scent in winter. The flower looked very similar so from there I looked into the genus further. However I could not reconcile the leaves on the plants I saw with petasites japonicus, the leaves of which looked much bigger, more rounded and a different colour. Even allowing for changes as the plant matures I was not convinced. I've come to the same conclusion as Wellywoman that it is petasites albus or white butterbur. This is a native of mountainous parts of Europe and south west Asia and was introduced to the UK in the late 1600s. It is more commonly found in the north of the UK where grows in woodlands, beside streams and by the side of roads. Google also kindly confirmed that this plant has been sighted near Cartmel which is where we came across it. I most annoyed with myself though for not bending down to detect if there was any scent from these flowers. Will have to persuade himself to return next year.