Leader - Margaret Webster.
Walks are held usually on the fourth Thursday of the month at 2.0p.m. Details of walks are circulated to group members mainly by e-mail.
WILDFLOWER WALKS 2018
Some of us found ourselves free around New Year so for the first time we took part in the annual BSBI New Year Plant Hunt. This takes place on any of 4 designated days around New Year and involves doing a walk of not more than 3 hours while recording which wild plants can be found in flower. Our walk of about one and a half hours (which recorded 30+ plants in flower) took place around Burrington and Rickford. We relaxed with a welcome hot drink afterwards at the Burrington Inn.
Our February “snowdrop” walk started from Compton Martin and went up the Coombe and through the woods. There we saw a naturalised (probably bird sown) shrub of Cotoneaster x watereri which still retained a few leaves and berries. Further on we came to the Snowdrops, Galantus nivalis, in drifts on both sides of the path. The wood was an almost magical place at that time of year, with trees and fallen branches covered in bright green moss and dotted with little fungi called scarlet elf cups. It was so lovely that we just kept on walking and ended up doing a longer walk than originally intended!
In March we returned to daffodil valley in Shipham, a firm favourite, with our native Wild Daffodil Narcissus pseudonarcissus in abundance. Afterwards we gathered in the Swan Inn, Rowberrow, for coffee and chat.
In April we had a mixed walk through fields and woodland. Besides the common woodland plants we also found Toothwort, Lathraea squamaria. This parasitic plant with no green pigment was growing on the roots of Hazel, Corylus avellana, a common host plant for the species. We had seen it last year at a different location.
Our May walk went up and around Cadbury Camp where we saw an abundance of meadow flowers at the top with woodland species on the way up. The “orchid slope” on the way down was not at its best this year, but a few Common Spotted Orchids, Dactylorhiza fuchsii, were coming into bloom.
Sand Point was our June venue. It is a lovely site with a number of rarities such as e.g. Honewort, Trinia glauca, a little annual umbellifer that is pollinated by ants. The large clump of Cheddar Pink, Dianthus gratianopolitanus, on the rock edge was still in bloom too.
In July we had a rather hot day for our Ubley Warren visit. There were a surprisingly large number of plants still flowering despite the heat – but not as many as would be seen in a normal British summer! The rare Hieracium, Hieracium angustisquamum was one that still sported a few flowers in the shade of the rakes, but down on the lead spoil the Sea Campion Silene maritima had finished (the illustration is from a previous year).
We don’t have a walk in August; too many people are away or have visitors so the next meeting was at Sand Bay in early September. This is another site which never disappoints. We saw a range of plants from strandline species to salt marsh and sand dune species, along with some garden escapes such as the Yucca recurvifolia in the photo. The Marsh Mallow, Althea officinalis, was mainly in seed but one smaller plant still had flowers. The Tree Mallows Lavatera arborea, were not in flower. This is not the Tree Mallow of gardens, although both are Lavatera, the latter has several different cultivars in a range of pinks and bicolours and has much larger flowers. We also admired the seed heads of Allium ampleoprasum var ampleoprasum,Wild Leek. While we were doing this someone spotted an odd flask shaped web full of baby spiders. I sent a photograph of this to Ray Barnett of the Bristol Naturalists Entomology section (with a GPS grid reference and the date) only to discover that we had just sent in the very first record for the wasp spider in the old county of Avon area!
Our final walk of the year was on Burrington Ham as far as the limestone outcrop. There was not much in flower by this time, apart from e.g. a few Harebells, Campanula rotundifolia, and Small Scabious Scabiosa columbaria, but the views were lovely and afterwards we gathered for coffee down at the Burrington Inn. It was a suitably social end to what has been another good year.
WILDFLOWER WALKS 2017
This is but a brief snapshot of our 2017 meetings and a few of the very many species that we saw on them!
Our first walks were to see the usual early flowers, snowdrops, Galantus nivalis, in early February, and native wild daffodils Narcissus pseudonarcissus, in March. The snowdrops made a spectacular display where they are naturalised along the river Chew, the daffodils were dotted around beside the paths and under the trees in Lords wood.
Late in April we had a walk through West Tanpit Woods, near Failand, where the bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scriptus were already in full bloom along with an array of common woodland plants. One that we see less often, Toothwort, Lathraea squamaria was found in abundance near the stream where the small tufa formations occur. This parasitic plant with no green pigment was growing on the roots of Hazel, Corylus avellana, a common host plant for the species. Behind the church where we had parked we looked at a primitive plant not often seen growing wild. Selaginella kraussiana is a member of the Lycopodiopsida commonly known as Mossy Clubmoss. This is one of only three sites in VC6 where it has been recorded.
May was our only cancellation – was it the weather?
In June we visited East Harptree Woods where the rides in places had numerous common spotted orchids, Dactylorhizza fuchsii and the little yellow starry flowers of yellow pimpernel, Lysimacha nemorum. In a damp spot there was some marsh speedwell, Veronica scutellaria and lesser spearwort, Ranunculus flammula. We had the bonus of briefly seeing a large number of newts in the pond – until they were rapidly dispersed by a dog jumping in amongst them!
In the middle of July we looked at flowers in the meadows at Shoreditch, near Chew Stoke. This meeting date was a week earlier than usual in order to have it before the school holidays. The largest meadow we visited is in stewardship and is not cut until late in the season. It was a sea of colour with e.g. Knapweed, Centaurea nigra, Meadow Buttercup, Ranunculus acris, Tufted Vetch, Vicia cracca and Yellowrattle, Rhinanthus minor, the latter mostly in seed. Two members of the umbrelliferae, Burnet Saxifrage, Pimpinella saxifrage and the less common Pepper saxifrage, Silaum silaus were also seen. Despite the common names neither plant is related to Saxifrages! The grazed fields had four different species of thistle, including the Dwarf Thistle, Cirsium acaule which was new to a few people. We also saw a fine large specimen of Vervain, Verbena officinalis by the footpath. Afterwards Hazel very kindly treated us to tea and scones in her garden. It was a lovely end to the meeting. Some of us took the opportunity to buy some delicious home produced Chew Stoke honey before setting off for home.
We don’t have a meeting in August and it seems to work well altering the autumn meetings of September and October to a week early in the month as for both meetings we got fine weather and things were still in bloom. Some of what we saw in September included the Autumn crocuses, Colchicum autumnale, and Knotted Pearlwort, Sagina nodosa in Velvet Bottom, and the English Eyebright, Euphrasia anglica in the field above. The latter is the only Eyebright in Somerset to have long glandular hairs.
Our final meeting of the year was a visit to Sand Bay which is an extremely rich site botanically. First we had a look at the strand line plants, grasses adapted to cope with accreting sand and annuals that thrive in the fore dunes e.g. Prickly Saltwort, Salsola kali and Sea rocket, Cakile maritima, the latter still in full flower in many places. In the saltmarsh area the greater and lesser Sea Spurrey, Spergularia media and S. marina were still in bloom, the latter mainly on the paths nearer the shore. Here and there we found an occasional late flower of Sea Lavender Limonium vulgare and Sea aster Aster Tripoli but the nationally scarce Marsh Mallow, Althaea officinalis was in seed by this time. We had planned to finish the meeting with coffee in the local café, but it had just closed when we got back – it seems that they close early out of season.
Looking forward to 2018.
WILDFLOWER WALKS 2016
At the end of January we had our first walk of the season starting and finishing from the car park of the café at Burrington Coombe. Besides the Snowdrops, Galantus nivalis, naturalised in the woods and also around Rickford we saw the early flowering Winter Heliotrope, Petasites fragrans, a few early Celandines, Ficaria verna, and some ferns. It was a cold afternoon and we were glad to relax with a warm coffee in the café afterwards. We didn’t meet in February so the next walk was in March, from the Swan Inn at Rowberrow down to Daffodil Valley near Shipham, to see our native wild Daffodils Narcissus pseudonarcissus and other early spring flowers. These included Wood Anemones, Anemone nemorosa, Dog’s Mercury, Mercurialis perennis, and Primrose, Primula vulgaris. Afterwards we enjoyed tea or coffee at the Inn.
For our April walk we went to Bithams Wood, which is an ancient woodland owned by the Woodland Trust. Typical flora of the wood included Goldilocks Buttercup, Ranunculus auricomus, Sweet Woodruff, Galium odoratum, Early Purple orchid, Orchis mascula, Sanicle, Sanicula europaea and of course the native Bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scriptus. At the lower end of the wood we saw what remains of the old Winford parish boundary bank.
In May the display of Southern Marsh orchids, Dactylorhiza praetermissa in Ubley meadows was spectacular. Other meadow flowers included Knapweed, Centaurea nigra, Meadow Buttercup, Ranunculus acris, and a few clumps of Sawwort, Serratula tinctoria. In one meadow there were a few Heath Spotted orchids, Dactylorhiza maculata and two others that were possible hybrids. On the way there we had looked at a colony of Euphorbia corallioides, a garden escape, naturalised on a piece of derelict land. This is an unusual escape, but it may not endure as the land will probably be built upon in the future. Afterwards Diana very kindly treated us to refreshments on the patio of her lovely garden!
Berrow reserve was delightful in June; the many plants in flower included Soapwort, Saponaria officinalis, Ladys Bedstraw, Galium odoratum, Common Century, Centaurium erythraea, Common Storksbill, Erodium cicutarium, and Evening Primroses, Oenothera species. In bloom was the Cotton Thistle, Onopordum Acanthium, rare in our region, and the also rare Linaria arenaria, Sand Toadflax. This is a European plant that grows only in one other site in Britain! We walked back along the beach where a large dune blow out was under restoration.
In July we had a walk around folly Farm to see the flower rich meadows. Among the many species we saw was Dyers Greenweed, Genista tinctoria, Betony, Betonica officinalis, Wooley Thistle, Cirsium eriophorum, and Yellow rattle, Rhinanthus minor. We had no meeting in August as most people were not free that month.
By September many plants had finished blooming but on Middle Hope we were able to see Autumn Lady's Tresses, Spiranthes spiralis and Small Scabious, Scabiosa columbaria in bloom, Henbane, Hyoscamus niger and Fiddle Dock, Rumex pulcher in seed, and also a small patch of Cheddar Pink, Dianthus gratianopolitanus, (not in bloom). It was a nice walk with views as well as plants.
Our last walk of the season was along the northern shore of Blagdon lake to look mainly at plants of the drawdown zone. Some of these were seen last year at Chew Valley Lake, e.g. Mares Tail, Hippuris vulgaris, Water Mint, Mentha aquatic, and Marsh Yellowcress, Rorippa palustris. At Blagdon Lake we also saw Juncus compressus, a rush which is on the Somerset Rare Plant Register and a few unexpected casuals such as Sunflower and Tomato! On the way back along the path the brightly coloured berries of Spindle, Euonymus europaeus attracted attention – especially as one member of the group had never seen them before.
This is only a very small snapshot of the many plants we enjoyed; I haven’t even mentioned any grasses! We look forward to another good year in 2017.
Click on a picture below to see it full-size with more details.