Bopeep and Firle area

Field meeting reports

Meeting date: 8 June 2008

(Leader: Alan Knapp)

On reaching the meeting point at Bopeep we discovered that the breezy, sunny conditions were ideal for hang-gliding, and the whole area was teeming with people. Once we had managed to find the few remaining spaces in the car park we set off north-westwards for our morning recording in TQ40X. At first we crossed a rather dull area of grassland but soon came to the more interesting scarp slope. In all 61 species new to the tetrad were found, including a number of chalk grassland species such as Arenaria serpyllifolia (Thyme-leaved Sandwort), Euphrasia nemorosa (Eyebright), Gymnadenia conopsea (Fragrant Orchid), Trisetum flavescens (Yellow Oat-grass) and Viola hirta (Hairy Violet). Perhaps the most surprising find, given that it was early June, was a single plant of Gentianella amarella (Autumn Gentian) – we did check that it was not G. anglica.

After lunch we moved westwards to a quieter and rather poorly recorded area on the Downs above Firle and set off towards Blackcap Farm in TQ40S. Despite the unpromising appearance of the area, the tracksides yielded some chalk grassland species, including a single plant of Filipendula vulgaris (Dropwort). More interesting were the surroundings of the farm, where a flourishing colony of Geranium colombinum (Long-stalked Crane’s-bill) was spotted. As we passed the farm we noticed a weedy garden and Ady used her charm on the owner to allow a few of us to go in, adding Euphorbia helioscopia (Sun Spurge), Fumaria officinalis ssp. officinalis (Common Fumitory), Lamium amplexicaule (Henbit), Papaver dubium ssp. lecoqii (Long-headed Poppy) and Viola arvensis (Corn Pansy). The owner was somewhat puzzled by our activities but very friendly, and said that she’d be happy for us to take all the ‘weeds’ away. As the area further south appeared dreary, we returned to the car park and finished the day by recording the small area of chalk grassland within that tetrad. The road verges at the top of the scarp had Anthyllis vulneraria ssp. vulneraria (Kidney Vetch), Dactylorhiza fuchsii (Common Spotted-orchid), Gymnadenia conopsea (Fragrant Orchid), Koeleria macrantha (Crested hair-grass) and Polygala vulgaris (Common Milkwort), completing a very pleasant day by adding a total of 85 new records to the tetrad.