Plumpton Agricultural College

Field meeting reports

Meeting date: 25 June 2006

(Leader: Rita Hemsley)

This year Plumpton College updated an ecological survey that took place in 1982, and the purpose of this meeting was to record along the original routes taken in 1982/83 by the SBRS. At this time fourteen transects were covered and 259 species recorded. As the College estate covers a very large area it was necessary to split into two groups, some covering the fields, ponds and hedgerows as far as Streat to the north, and others climbing the Downs as far as Beech Wood well to the south of the South Downs Way. Separate recording cards were issued for each transect, and for the four tetrads that would be covered – a large task for one day.

A good number of members assembled and the majority of the group, having looked to the south and seen the steep escarpment to be climbed and recorded, chose to go north. A mature student from Plumpton accompanied this group and they were able to access all areas. This entailed a lot of repetitive recording of hedges and ponds that had become overgrown, leaving little time to reach some of the woods or accomplish any tetrad recording.

Four people went south and recorded steadily along the first transect, the roadside verges. Plumpton Bostal provided a good number of species, including Campanula trachelium (Nettle-leaved Bellflower), Dactylorhiza fuchsii (Common Spotted-orchid), and Chaerophyllum temulentum (Rough Chervil). As we climbed on to open downland, we were rewarded with Briza media (Quaking Grass), Blackstonia perfoliata (Yellow-wort), and Gymnadenia conopsea ssp. conopsea (Fragrant Orchid), and we had our lunch amongst Phyteuma orbiculare (Round-headed Rampion) and other downland flowers. We overlooked Plumpton College but could not see our recording colleagues.

Once on the South Downs Way there were more transects to record, giving us Ophrys apifera (Bee Orchid) and Silene x hampeana (hybrid Campion), plus its parents. We passed arable fields, where Tony found Legousia hybrida (Venus’s-looking-glass). We carved our way through a field where the original path had disappeared, determined to reach Beech Wood on the southernmost perimeter of the Plumpton Estate, only to find that it was heavily grazed by cattle. We did however see Asplenium adiantum-nigrum (Black Spleenwort), and were able to record our second tetrad for the day.

Having agreed to return by 4.00pm in time for members to watch England lose at football, we hurried back while still recording yet another transect.

The results of the surveys were put on a spread sheet with the 1982 survey for comparison by Petra Billings, Head of Higher Education, and we were thanked for our help and issued with an invitation to return next year if we wish to complete the two northern tetrads.