Levin Down

Field meeting reports

Meeting date: 20 July 2002

(Leader: Ann Griffiths)

Equipped with a Levin Down T-shirt bearing a Round-headed Rampion rampant, Anne Griffiths led 15 members around the reserve which she has looked after for no less than 25 years, providing a fund of information on management and interpreting the landscape setting.

There was much evidence of rabbit activity and it was some time before Frances was able to enter any species of grass on the recording card, but there was a fine selection of chalk downland plants, including large areas of Helianthemum nummularia (Rockrose) and Viola hirta (Hairy Violet), keeping the party interested until lunch. After refreshment we moved onto the eastern side of the reserve where chalk heath has developed – Potentilla erecta (Tormentil) and Teucrium scorodonia (Wood Sage) signalled the change – and soon we were seeing Calluna vulgaris (Ling): old and massive bushes and also, happily, seedlings. Here we found ‘the other thyme’ Thymus pulegioides, but it was Judy who made the discovery of the day in the form of a very small Sagina nodosa (Knotted Pearlwort), a new record for the reserve.

Naturally the junipers received some attention on our ramble; the age structure was mainly mature, old and senile plants; although much fruit was produced and germination in the disturbed ground was successful, the rabbit population eliminated all the seedlings: an ecological problem awaiting a solution. In the summer heat there were plenty of opportunities to pause and discuss such matters; we also considered downland species apparently absent such as Yellow-wort and some of the orchids. The subject of Geranium columbinum (Long-stalked Crane’s-bill) also arose: there used to be a lot of it, surely? And as we left the reserve by the stile, there it was.