Levin Down

Field meeting reports
Picture of Large Thyme (Thymus pulegioides)
Thymus pulegioides (Large Thyme). Photo: Nick Sturt

Meeting date: 18 July 2015

(Leader: Nick Sturt)

The tour of this Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve was greatly enhanced by the presence of Ann Griffiths, who has looked after it for so many years and not only knows it inside out as it is today, but understands the historic and indeed the prehistoric context.  Thus the eight members’ botanical journey was punctuated with all sorts of interesting information, including the theory that it takes its name from the Anglo-Saxon for ‘Leave-alone’ owing to its steep sides being unsuitable for cultivation.  The eastern side, where the loess soil supports a community of acid-loving plants such as Calluna vulgaris (Heather) and Potentilla erecta (Tormentil), is under restoration and progressing splendidly; in one area there was an abundance of Thymus pulegioides (Large Thyme).  On the chalk itself there was exquisite turf offering almost all the species that could be desired, notably much Asperula cynanchica (Squinancywort) and Campanula glomerata (Clustered Bellflower).  The party saw different patches of the county’s two commonest Eyebrights (Euphrasia nemorosa and E. anglica). Here and there Cuscuta epithymum (Common Dodder) rampaged and the article in the recent Newsletter by Rosalind was recalled: on this site she had traced the stems back to no less than 22 different hosts.  Meanwhile Ann was multi-tasking by doing her butterfly survey, with Brimstones, Marbled Whites, Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns and Small Skippers in quantity.  The sun shone down, Yellowhammers repeatedly declined cheese, a Red Kite swept overhead, and all seemed well with the world.  Members dispersed in the afternoon mellowed by the experience: it was especially good to be in the company of Steven and Sue C. from over the border in Surrey, to have the grass expertise of Sue D. on hand, and to welcome Colin to his first meeting.

A group of botanists at Levin Down