Meeting date: 24 July 2019
(Leader: Elisabeth Sturt)
This perfect summer day unfolded against the background of the coastal plain with Chichester cathedral spire and views across the Solent to the Isle of White. As usual, Richard was in historical mode and as the party of nine worked their way through a field towards the top of St Roche’s Hill those Iron Age men who created The Trundle earthworks were conjured up with their antler picks… and indeed Elisabeth, our leader, with her sturdy staff and eccentric hat, could almost have passed as one of their number. The three essential woody plants of the chalk were ticked off early – Sorbus aria (Whitebeam), Rhamnus cathartica (Purging Buckthorn) and Viburnum lantana (Wayfaring-tree) – as the turf became more interesting with quite plentiful Campanula glomerata (Clustered Bellflower) a highlight. Working around the ramparts in a clockwise direction soon filled the card with many other of the desired calcicoles but it was Dawn who bagged the best plant in the form of Coeloglossum viride (Frog Orchid) – all of 5cm tall – and then Frances pointed out next to it Carex caryophyllea (Spring Sedge), even smaller.
As lunchtime approached the species which had not been seen became the subject of discussion – Blackstonia perfoliata (Yellow-wort), Carlina vulgaris (Carline Thistle) and Gentianella amarella (Autumn Gentian). In fact the first two of these were found later in relative abundance on the banks which line the top of Chalkpit Lane but the third somehow remained incognito; it was too early to locate the Eyebright Euphrasia pseudokerneri which is known there. Finally, attention was given to arable weeds in adjoining fields. These had supported some very special plants in the past and Mike’s view was that several years of Flax cultivation was responsible for the disappearance of some. Nevertheless a good number of species was still present, including Euphorbia exigua (Least Spurge), Kickxia elatine (Sharp-leaved Fluellen) and Anisantha diandra (Great Brome).It was nearly the hottest day of the year and after this last prize thoughts turned towards shade and long, cool drinks. Most had time to repair to the Weald and Downland café to review the day and enjoy the sort of random conversation that springs up on such occasions. Those Iron Age men may well have laid down their antler picks and done something similar.