Berwick Common

Field meeting reports
Picture of Dactylorhiza praetermissa
Dactylorhiza praetermissa. Photo: Helen Proctor

Meeting date: 23 June 2018

(Leader: Helen Proctor)

Access to Berwick Common SSSI was through a cattle–grazed field. The potential hazards determined the signing of a risk assessment by our eight participants and the carrying of pipe lagging and matting to enable safe passage under the barbed wire fence and secateurs to cut low branches. Most of the site is covered by tall vegetation. However, there was evidence that a few of the livestock had found an easier way in than us and their trampling created paths for us.

In the centre of the site, tall rushes were interspersed with Silene flos-cuculi (Ragged-robin), Hypericum tetrapterum (Square-stalked St. John’s-wort), Mentha aquatica (Water Mint), Eriophorum angustifolium (Common Cottongrass), Eleocharis palustris (Common Spike-rush), three sedge species and many other wetland plants. We were honoured with the presence of our President who gave us useful tuition on several taxa including comparison of the characters of Berula erecta (Lesser Water-parsnip) and Apium nodiflorum (Fool’s-water-cress). Scattered through the site were 79 flower spikes of Dactylorhiza praetermissa (Southern Marsh-orchid). The leader wished she had scheduled the meeting for the previous week when the orchids had been at their best. Lower down, standing water under willow trees was the habitat of 35 plants of Menyanthes trifoliata (Bogbean). A search was made for Comarum palustre (Marsh Cinquefoil) but it was not found. The three bryologists present recorded fourteen bryophytes, including the less common but increasing species Ulota phyllantha and lots of Cololejeunea minutissima. Some of the party continued to Berwick Pond where nineteen plants of Rumex maritimus (Golden Dock) proved that this species was flourishing. The afternoon was spent at Arlington Reservoir. Lunch was followed by ‘President’s Question Time’ when our President was bombarded with ID queries ranging from British to Sardinian species!  Following the top path, we photographed Oenanthe pimpinelloides (Corky-fruited Water-dropwort), which had extended its range considerably in recent years. Numerous flowering plants of Dactylorhiza fuchsii (Common Spotted-orchid) and c.22 plants of Anacamptis pyramidalis (Pyramidal Orchid) were recorded. A scrape was covered in Crassula helmsii (New Zealand Pygmy-weed) but also hosted Ranunculus lingua (Greater Spearwort) and other wetland plants. Further on, the mown path at the top of the hill produced Potentilla anglica (Trailing Tormentil). A total of 91 species was recorded.