Local bits and bobs, late July 2020

Having travelled all the way to Lakenheath for them I just knew the 'known' Large-flowered Hemp Nettles at Billingford Common would pop up  - and they have! I originally checked about 3 weeks ago which was obviously too early. Also on the common were Common Hemp Nettle, a profusion of Water Mint and several Musk Thistles.

Leaving there I had a quick look at Dickleburgh Moor where 3 Little Ringed Plovers, Yellow Wagtail and 17 Little Egrets were the highlights. Back at home I discovered we have plenty of Stone Parsley popping up in the back garden - a speciality umbellifer of the boulder clay with leaves that smell curiously of petrol! Some Fox and Cubs in the lawn were also new for the garden.
Popping into Jus's on 27th he produced 2 nice moths he'd trapped - Poplar Kitten and Coronet.

Large-flowered Hemp Nettle

Common Hemp Nettle

Water Mint 

 Stone Parsley

Poplar Kitten


A long weekend in Shropshire, 24 - 26 July 2020

We managed our first weekend away since lockdown this past weekend. Staying at a lovely Airbnb in Ludlow.

On the Friday we opted to start with a walk up the Carding Mill Valley on the Long Mynd. Avoiding the ridiculous NT carpark fee of GBP7 we walked up from Church Stretton as far as a small waterfall. There were far too many people for my liking but the further we walked the quieter it became. Things of note included some nice patches of Monkeyflower along the stream, Wild Thyme, Tormentil, a lovely Golden-ringed Dragonfly, Stonechats, Willow Warbler and 2 Ravens.


After lunch on the top of the Long Mynd with plenty of Ravens for company we drove over to the Stiperstones for an afternoon walk and scramble on the rocks. Here we picked Bilberries, and enjoyed being able to identify Western Gorse. Ravens were again in evidence. Nearby an old mining area known as The Bog gave me Grayling, Small Copper, Small Heath and Emerald Damselflies plus some quite robust Eyebrights and plenty of Harebells.



 Western Gorse

A quick walk to the Mitchell's Fold stone circle and a beer and wander around the quirky Bishops Castle rounded the day off. Back in Ludlow a Red Kite and a Peregrine were circling together over our accommodation.

We spent Saturday walking again - initially at Downton Gorge near Ludlow. Unfortunately there were loads of English Nature 'private, no public access' signs in evidence so exploration was curtailed a bit. Nevertheless we saw Dipper, Common Sandpiper, Red Kite, Common Buzzard and a couple of Southern Hawkers from the bridge. On the walk back I was pleased to connect with Feverfew, Enchanter's Nightshade and Broad-leaved Willowherb.

Broad-leaved Willowherb

Enchanter's Nightshade


After a brief stop in Leintwardine for lunch we had a wander around Clun where I identified Pignut, Upright Hedge Parsley and Rock Stonecrop by the castle plus Trailing Bellflower in the village. Later, a walk along a nicely intact section of the Offa's Dyke had us picking Wild Raspberries. A couple of Bifid Hemp Nettle plants were also along the path. Tansy, Marsh Woundwort and Redshank were also seen during the day.

Bifid Hemp Nettle



Rock Stonecrop


Trailing Bellflower

Upright Hedge Parsley

      Marsh Woundwort

Living the Botanists Dream! Brecks & Fens, 17 & 18 July 2020

After blagging the use of the car for the day on Friday I hatched a plan to do some dirty botanical twitching. I'd been kindly given some sites and gleaned other information to make it a full day.

First up was a drive to Cambridge, and specifically Cherry Hinton on the eastern edge of the city. A short walk here and I found my main target - the superbly named Moon Carrot which grows on the chalk here and hardly anywhere else. If ever there was a plant whose name is better than it's looks then this is it. A member of the umbellifer family with subtle differences from Wild Carrot which I was sure to scrutinise! Also in the same small area I had Wild Parsnip, Wild Basil (both also new for me), Wild Marjoram and a couple of Common Blues.

Moon Carrot

Wild Basil

Wild Marjoram

 Wild Parsnip

My second port of call was the less than attractive surroundings of a layby (complete with burger van) by a busy A road near Ely. Here I crossed the busy road to feast my eyes on the only UK specimens of Fen Ragwort in a rubbish-strewn ditch. With justhalf a dozen plants this is one of the rarest plants in the country and despite the site they are big, attractive and distinctive things. The ditch also had some Common Fleabane.

 Fen Ragwort

 Common Fleabane

I then made my way further north and into Breckland. A quick stop and dash later and I'd seen a plant that was very close to the top of my 'most wanted' list - the rare Brecks speciality Spiked Speedwell. Some Breckland Thyme at the same site was also most welcome and allowed me to examine it closely under a hand lens.

   Spiked Speedwell

The site I wanted to spend a decent amount of time at was Santon Downham. Here, along some managed strips I spent ages working backwards and forwards scrutinising the ground. All of the things I was looking for are small/tiny but luckily I managed to find Annual Knawel and Small Cudweed in good numbers plus the 'vulnerable' Corn Spurrey, Sand Spurrey and the diminutive Birdsfoot. Beside a nearby track a single Hoary Cinquefoil plant caught my eye and the Viper's Bugloss there held Essex Skipper, Small Skipper, Large Skipper and Small Copper.

Annual Knawel


Corn Spurrey

Hoary Cinquefoil

Sand Spurrey

 Small Cudweed

My final stop was at Barnhamcross Common where I quickly found my quarry - the local speciality of Tower Mustard. Although it was less towering than I had imagined it would be!

 Tower Mustard

On Saturday night I received a tip-off from a mate which meant I was very keen to head back in the same direction on Sunday! This time Belinda came with me with the promise of a good walk. Lakenheath Fen was to be our destination and a walk around the whole reserve circuit was very entertaining and enjoyable. My main aim was to see Large-flowered Hemp Nettle which I managed to do quite easily and was surprised to find some decent sized patches in one small area. These are absolutely gorgeous looking plants and they were in pristine condition too. Into the bargain I also found Bifid Hemp Nettle, Common Hemp Nettle, Dwarf Mallow, Lesser Burdock, Lesser Water Parsnip and Sticky Groundsel. Birdwise a flying Bittern was very welcome but apart from Black-tailed Godwits on the scrape I rued not having my scope with me as everything was too distant.

It was back to the knawel site at Santon Downham for a further look on the way home. With a bit more info I was finally able to locate the one remaining target Perennial Knawel and also had a Crossbill fly over. Several Broad-leaved Helleborines are now in flower nearby together with several spikes of Dark Mullein.

Large-flowered Hemp Nettle

Lesser Burdock

Lesser Water Parsnip

Bifid Hemp Nettle

Common Hemp Nettle

       Perennial Knawel