Ditches nr. Winchelsea

Field meeting reports

Meeting date: 16 August 2003

(Leader: Alan Knapp)

A group, consisting mainly of members from the far east of the county, gathered in Winchelsea and moved north to Station Road. A few minutes spent delving into a ditch by our parking place produced Spirodela polyrhiza (Greater Duckweed) and Hydrocharis morsus-ranae (Frogbit) – a species which, despite being rather scarce nationally, is abundant in this area. We soon moved on to the River Brede. Here, despite making a promising start by finding a fine colony of Potamogeton lucens (Shining Pondweed) and some flowering plants of Sagittaria sagittifolia (Arrowhead), the river proved disappointingly uniform with few new species becoming apparent as we progressed along it. Most often our grapnels returned only a mass of Elodea nuttallii (Nuttall’s Waterweed). On our return, ditches near the road proved more interesting with one ditch producing a few plants of the nationally scarce species, Potamogeton trichoides (Hair-like Pondweed), among a mass of Potamogeton pectinatus (Fennel Pondweed) and another a good colony of Potamogeton natans (Broad-leaved Pondweed) in flower.

In the afternoon we returned to Winchelsea and took a circular route to the south along the Royal Military Canal. Here our access to the water was impeded for much of the time by dense stands of Phragmites australis (Common Reed). Once again Hydrocharis morsus-ranae was common, and in one place we found a good stand of the hybrid Typha x glauca. An eagle-eyed member spotted a single plant of Butomus umbellatus (Flowering-rush) amongst the dense waterside vegetation, and an almost dried up ditch yielded a few plants of Rancunculus sceleratus (Celery-leaved Buttercup).

The main purpose of the meeting was to check the status of aquatics in this area because, although the Sussex Plant Atlas indicates the presence of a number of interesting species, we have had few recent records of interest. Unfortunately, this meeting indicated that the reason may be a real decline in the diversity of aquatic species rather than under-recording, as we had hoped (although the optimists among us may hope that the very dry summer could mean that this year was atypical).