Thornham and Prinsted

Field meeting reports

Meeting date: 15 August 2004

(Leader: Nick Sturt)

The leader’s confidence in the meteorologists was misplaced for, despite assurances to the contrary, fine drizzle materialised and even some quite steady and wetting rain. But relatively undeterred, the twenty members who journeyed to this western edge of the county set about the task and even before Thornham Marina had been left there was a good find in the form of Polypogon monspeliensis, happened upon by Anne. Taking the track down to Thornham Point at a botanical pace, there was much to admire, for example a patch of Genista tinctoria (Dyer’s Greenweed), some old bushes of Rhamnus cathartica (Purging Buckthorn), and desiccated skeletons of Lepidium heterophyllum (Smith’s Cress).  Tony frolicked in the brackish ditches and along the foreshore, revelling in the challenge of Glassworts: he pointed out several stands of Sarcocornia europaea and identified some plants of Salicornia pusilla, but the other members of the latter teasing genus were not sufficiently advanced for determination.

The pattern of the morning from the recorder’s point of view was much use of the reverse of the soggy card but not a great number of crossings-off on the obverse.  And so, via the Harbourside path past scattered Limonium humile (Lax-flowered Sea-lavender) and Atriplex littoralis (Grass-leaved Orache), to lunch at Prinsted, by now in more clement weather. Prinsted village provided interest, not only in its attractive cottages and cottage gardens but with a new collection of wild and escaped plants. The most notable of the latter type was Cyperus eragrostis which was naturalised in gutters and by walls practically everywhere.  A brief foray into arable land led to another species new to many, Solanum physalodes; this was growing with its close relation S. nigrum (Black Nightshade).

To round off the proceedings a large and damp meadow was sampled.  Here Ononis repens (Common Restharrow) was growing with its scarcer spiny cousin O. spinosa and it was also possible to compare Oenanthe pimpinelloides (Corky-fruited Water-dropwort) with O. lachenalii (Parsley Water-dropwort).  One final comparison was strictly for the connoisseurs: the contrast between the flamboyance of Alan’s toss of the grapnel and the subtlety of Rod’s application of the walking-stick.  Honours were even in this contest (which surely has claims as a sport of Olympic status) inasmuch as, despite muttered incantations, both were only able to conjure Ruppia maritima from the brackish waters of the pool.

Two expressions of appreciation. Firstly this meeting was rendered all the more profitable and enjoyable by the local knowledge of Anne de Potier who guided the leader discreetly and tactfully to the best sites.  Secondly, as West Sussex Field Convenor, I am ever sincerely appreciative of the work of the leaders of our field meetings for they all deserve our thanks. By one particular Committee member I was blamed for a variety of shortcomings, most particularly the weather and the unyielding nature of the rocks on which we took lunch. Students of ecclesiastical history are apt to remark that saints must have been difficult to live with: I can only extend my sincere sympathy to Mrs Kathryn Knapp.