Staplecross area

Field meeting reports

Meeting date: 8 May 2010

(Leaders: Jacqueline Rose, Judy Clark, Ellen Campbell)

Light showers were forecast and light showers there were, and heavier. However, this is a particularly lovely area, and the late spring flowers, early grasses and newly leaved trees were a joy to see. We split into four pairs, each armed with instructions.

Pair 1: On the wide grass verge beside the lay-by just north of Hollow Wall Farm on the Bodiam road, we found an array of ‘good’ hedgerow species: Stachys officinalis (Betony), Primula vulgaris (Primrose), Viola riviniana (Common Dog-violet) and Carex flacca (Glaucous Sedge) – many already recorded for the tetrad, but nevertheless nice to find. On the high bank beside the road on the way to the Farm footpaths was a glorious display of Polystichum setiferum (Soft Shield-fern) shuttlecocks, a new record. The path to the east was less interesting, although Hyacinthoides non-scriptus (Bluebell) and Silene dioica (Red Campion) made a splash of colour on a recently scraped bank.

Pair 2: Compasses Lane is shady at its lower end, but for most of its length it is of open aspect, with fine sweeping views of the Weald on one side. Despite the open aspect it has an uncompromisingly woodland flora, with large patches of Melampyrum pratense (Common Cow-wheat), Allium ursinum (Ramsons), Veronica montana (Wood Speedwell), Melica uniflora (Wood Melick) and of course Hyacinthoides non-scriptus (Bluebell). Viola reichenbachiana (Early Dog-violet) and V. riviniana (Common Dog-violet) were present in several places, and we found a colony of the hybrid between the two V. x bavarica at one place, without either parent. The banks showed Lathyrus linifolius (Bitter Vetch) and Vicia sepium (Bush Vetch) charmingly entwined in places. The leaves of Stachys officinalis (Betony) and shoots of Hypericum pulchrum ( Slender St John’s-wort) gave promise of glories to come. We wandered away from the lane to a stream which glowed with Chrysosplenium oppositifolium (Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage and Cardamine amara (Large Bitter-cress). We did not find the Medlar which was formerly recorded here, but 46 new records for the tetrad left us well pleased with the morning’s work.

Pair 3: A well-maintained bank had a lovely display of Orchis mascula (Early Purple-orchid). Apparently this is a steadily enlarging colony. Hedgerow banks gave a few common species not so far recorded in the tetrad. Likewise in Bodiam Castle grounds a damp wood on the west side, grassland edges and the moat and pond offered a few more unrecorded species.

Pair 4: The wind was cold, the clouds were murky; what else to do but botanize? Ellen and Judy, assigned an area east of Ewhurst Green in TQ72X, soon abandoned looking for early grasses in the drizzle for the relative shelter of Smutts Wood (West Wood on the OS map). They were rewarded almost instantly by the gold of Ranunculus auricomus (Goldilocks Buttercup) glowing amongst the green, and Adoxa moschatellina (Moschatel). Ellen had had a call from a resident of Staplecross giving us permission to look at some Viscum album (Mistletoe) in her garden, and after lunch we went to look. A new record for TQ72W, it was almost completely enveloping what was almost certainly Crataegus persimilis (syn. C. prunifolia, Broad-leaved Cockspurthorn). This North American species has shorter thorns than the similar C. crus-galli (Cockspurthorn) but they are no less sharp! Then we all braved the showers to look at a nearby field in TQ72W, with large patches of Carex flacca (Glaucous Sedge) and Adoxa moschatellina (Moschatel). Beyond, a bank of apparently recently excavated soil had numbers of Orchis mascula. Grateful thanks to all who joined us on such an uninviting day. We made 120 new records in all, and brought all our three tetrads, TQ72Q, TQ72X and TQ72W, to well over 250 species.