Steyning

Field meeting reports
Picture of chalk grassland
Chalk grassland. Photo: Dawn Nelson

Meeting date: 9 August 2009

(Leader: Nick Sturt)

The morning was a tale of three parties.  Frances took eight members to focus on the Adur and its ditches in TQ10Z in the hope of re-finding some of the many species unreported since the Sussex Plant Atlas.  This group encountered a drastic decline in floristic diversity and only one of the ditches, discovered towards the end of the session, was in good heart, yielding Groenlandia densa (Opposite-leaved Pondweed), Berula erecta (Lesser Water-parsnip) and Potamogeton trichoides (Hairlike Pondweed) among others.  Alan’s band of five fared rather better up on the Downs in TQ10N, although good chalk turf was in short supply.  Nevertheless some pleasing species were recorded, notably Fumaria densiflora (Dense-flowered Fumitory).  Nick Sturt, the organiser of the event, took three eager volunteers by forced march into TQ10U, a tetrad whose score of 153 was woefully lower than the Sussex Plant Atlas total of over 300.  This group fared somewhat better, picking up many missing ‘common species’.  Yet here again deterioration of habitat was only too evident, the banks of the track as it rose up onto the down having surrendered to Brachypodium pinnatum (Tor Grass); a long chalky slope nearby was similarly blighted, so that choice calcicoles were few and far between.  It was on the way back that a small sloping field above a farm was noticed.  The owner was happy to allow us to roam on what was our only piece of real chalk turf, sporting a good number of typical species such as Asperula cynanchica (Squinancywort), Reseda lutea (Wild Mignonette) and Scabiosa columbaria (Lesser Scabious), and in profusion also – drawing gasps from Dawn, Helen and Elisabeth – Clinopodium acinos (Basil Thyme)Experiences were exchanged over lunch back in Steyning, and there followed a gentle saunter around the town (TQ11Q), taking in the churchyard with Salvia verbenaca (Wild Clary) noted on the bank outside.  The day was all about gaining as many tetrad records as possible and as such it was very successful: The leader would like to thank Frances and Alan for their own devolved leadership and all the enthusiastic members who worked so hard, not always in rewarding spots.