Meeting date: 9 May 2015
(Leader: Peter Jones)
Such was the faith in the forecast of the possibility of the merest brush with a light shower that when at the start a few drops fell the party moved off confidently into Binsted Woods. A decidedly soggy hour or two later we were ticking off plants on a disintegrating recording card, but at least the bluebells were uplifting. Peter further enhanced the proceedings by recalling Lorna Wishart, the wife of the former owner, and her romance with Laurie Lee. He also took us to the remains of her secret garden – a Camellia or two and some low stone balustrades sequestered deep in the trees. All this was nearly as poignant as the thought that the part of the woodland complex we had just recorded – Spinningwheel Copse – could be bulldozed as one of the potential routes for the A27 Arundel bypass. Amongst a fine assemblage of ancient woodland indicators there were Orchis mascula (Early Purple-orchid) in profusion, Conopodium majus (Pignut) and the delicately waving culms of Milium effusum (Wood Millet). Having been averted in the 1990s, the threat of the bypass has returned and some members of the SBRS are helping to record the flora of the area between Binsted and Lyminster for MAVES (Mid Arun Valley Ecological Surveys). Everyone we encountered was interested in and supportive of our mission, and after lunch – when the sun had thankfully evaporated most of the accumulated damp on clothes and cards – we were invited into a parcel of land on Tortington Common to survey it for the owner. The SBRS is not a campaigning organisation but it can through gathering data help to identify which areas are most botanically rich, so informing decision-making. Woodland on the coastal plain of Sussex is scarce after the steady clearance of centuries past, and so the Binsted-Tortington complex is especially precious.
This field meeting brought back a useful collection of records, from the ancient woodland of the western portion through to the lighter and heathier east. There was no time on this occasion to investigate the damp and sedgy rides of the part nearer to the A27. An interesting collection of plants was appreciated by the twelve members, however, including Callitriche obtusangula (Blunt-fruited Water-starwort), C. platycarpa (Various-leaved Water-starwort), Lathyrus linifolius (Bitter-vetch) and Luzula x borreri, the hybrid between L. forsteri (Southern Wood-rush) and L. pilosa (Hairy Wood-rush).
Back at the cars the thoughts of at least one person turned to where one might ask Peter to lead next year, assuming he can take time off from his new career as artisan baker and confectioner.