Weald and Downland Living Museum, Singleton

Field meeting reports
Picture of Plagiomnium undulatum
Plagiomnium undulatum

Meeting date: 14 May 2017

(Leader: Elisabeth Sturt)

With the prestigious new Gateway Project complete, the Open Air Museum has been relaunched as the Living Museum. For the 13 members attending, the morning’s task was to survey the well-wooded north-facing slopes, starting at the reconstructed Anglo-Saxon Hall house and following a path uphill.  Along this route were set attractive waymarkers depicting some of the trees to be found, perhaps the most noteworthy being Carpinus betulus (Hornbeam), which is not usually associated with the Downs in Sussex. There were quite a number of mature trees and abundant evidence of regeneration, and our President was a little reluctant to rule out the population being native, citing the presence of the species on the chalk in East Kent. Regarding the ground flora, there were some species characteristic of ancient woodland such as Lysimachia nemorum (Yellow Pimpernel), Oxalis acetosella (Wood-sorrel) and Veronica montana (Wood Speedwell).  Visitors from East Sussex enjoyed Galium odoratum (Sweet Woodruff) in quantity, and all appreciated a scattering in one area of Neottia nidus-avis (Bird’s-nest Orchid).  Bryophytes received a degree of attention, mainly as part of the President’s ongoing project of educating the Chairman, who managed to recognise Ctenidium molluscinum, Thuidium tamariscinum and a few more.

Picture of botanists at Weald and Downland Museum

Lunch overlooking the Market Square was followed by a tour of three of the gardens recreated to make historical matches with their houses: Walderton, Poplar Cottage and Bayleaf.  The priority here was to record weed species, but since many of these had their uses in households past it was not always easy to determine which were more crop relic than uninvited guest: this made for an extremely interesting afternoon.  Members were able to compare the fruits of two Valerianella (Cornsalad) species: V. locusta was plentiful and appeared to be in cultivation, whereas the little V. carinata present looked more like a genuine weed.  Had there been a prize it would have been Judith’s for Geranium rotundifolium (Round-leaved Crane’s-bill) – as it was, she merely added to the Brownie points already gained by bringing husband David to his first West Sussex meeting.  Around 90 species were recorded in each of the two sessions, with only a very limited number common to both habitats – the most notable, perhaps, being Galium odoratum. The Museum proved a lovely place in which to wander remote from the cares of the world, full of birdsong, history and the sort of architecture that fits so well into the natural environment.  Our thanks go to the management and to Elisabeth for setting up the meeting.