Meeting date: 9 July 2015
(Leaders: Dick Potts & Frances Abraham)
We had a very special treat when the Norfolk Estate invited us to visit their chalky arable on the Downs above Burpham. This was at the instigation of Dr Dick Potts, whom some members may remember giving a fascinating talk at our Autumn Get-together a few years ago. Dick has been recording arable weeds on downland between the Arun and the Adur for many years, and is working with the Estate to restore wildlife-friendly habitats. The primary aim is to benefit Grey Partridge, but there are magnificent spinoffs for the flora. Meeting at Peppering Farm, we were driven in 4 x 4s along the chalky tracks, tumbling out at intervals to enjoy the flora. We started with Orobanche elatior (Knapweed Broomrape), parasitic on Centaurea scabiosa (Greater Knapweed), in one of its few Sussex sites on a chalky bank. We saw a wonderful collection of arable weeds, including Legousia hybrida (Venus’s-looking-glass), Valerianella dentata (Narrow-fruited Cornsalad), Thlaspi arvense (Field Penny-cress), Silene noctiflora (Night-flowering Catchfly), Lamium amplexicaule (Henbit Deadnettle) and L. hybridum (Cut-leaved Deadnettle). Best of all were a few plants of Polygonum rurivagum (Cornfield Knotgrass). Other interesting species were present on headlands where seed mixtures had been sown for game birds. These included Camelina sativa (Gold-of-pleasure). Rapistrum rugosum (Bastard Cabbage) has long been known in this area, and is fairly widespread. Last stop was a newly created dewpond, where we lingered to enjoy linnets, swallows and corn buntings. We offer our thanks to Dick and to the Norfolk Estate for a most enjoyable and interesting afternoon.