The Pools, Henfield

Field meeting reports
Picture of Achillea ptarmica (Sneezewort)
Achillea ptarmica (Sneezewort). Photo: Nick Sturt

Meeting date: 24 June 2017

(Leader: Nick Sturt)

The two meadows at The Pools down the road from Woods Mill had been flagged up by Ben Rainbow some four years ago but for various reasons it had not been possible to arrange a visit until this year.  Mike had been due to lead this but had double-booked himself with a school reunion and so while we pottered pleasantly among Ringlets and Marbled Whites he was doubtless reminiscing about the fragrance of boiled cabbage and the allure of Matron’s comely ankle.  A couple of days earlier Mike and the author had carried out a rather disappointing recce but, even if badly under-grazed, the fields retained some vestiges of their former glory, vestiges which on the day the team of ten were able to refind, notably Achillea ptarmica (Sneezewort – Nevil enthusiastically demonstrated that the plant lived up to its name), Carex caryophyllea and leporina (Spring and Oval Sedge), and Trifolium medium (Zigzag Clover).  Had our own event been school-based it would have been Ady who would have carried off all the Speech Day prizes for she trotted back and forth constantly with samples that we had missed and it was she who pointed out that the odd specimen of Schedonorus pratensis (Meadow Fescue) in our hands was in fact x Schedolium loliaceum, the hybrid with Lolium perenne (Rye-grass).

Picture of botanists at Henfield
Botanists at Henfield

Over lunch Sue D. made a wish to be transported back to Henfield Common… and so we were!  It was an intensive afternoon which benefited from the pooled expertise of the group and, where this failed, the comprehensive resources of Priscilla’s portable reference library.  Three spikes of Ophrys apifera (Bee Orchid) by the roadside provided diversion before a spell of some serious graminology – abundant Danthonia decumbens (Heath Grass), patches of Bromus commutatus (Meadow Brome), some Molinia caerulea (Purple Moor-grass), Schedonorus pratensis and the hybrid with Lolium again and, to Sue’s even greater delight, Agrostis vinealis (Brown Bent).  Then into damper territory with many of the specialities known to Borrer: Anagallis tenella (Bog Pimpernel), Carex disticha (Brown Sedge), Dactylorhiza praetermissa (Southern Marsh-orchid), Epilobium palustre (Marsh Willowherb).  Gareth pounced on a single flowering stem of Hypericum elodes (Marsh St. John’s-wort), Steven drew attention to Rumex x pratensis and all was well with the world… The activity proved so absorbing that it was nearing 5 o’clock when it was felt time to return to the cars.  Sitting in the bar of the White Hart afterwards, Elisabeth and the author reflected on the botany of the day. We may also have speculated just a little about Mike’s school nickname.