Wednesday, 31 December 2014

VC55 group and New Year Plant Hunt 2015: Part One

Will we find this plant in flower on Sunday?
Image: C. Ferguson-Smyth
Thanks to everybody who voted in the Doodle poll for their preferred date for this year's New Year Plant Hunt in VC55. 

14 of you have voted for us to go out at noon on Sunday 4th January. 

Lovely to see that John and Monika, VC Recorders for Warks, will be joining us, and so will our Secret Weapon from last year: Brian "Eagle Eyes" Laney is coming over for the afternoon! 

Many other local groups are going out recording tomorrow and Friday - you can follow how they get on here and here and here.

See you on Sunday at the end of Soar Lane, postcode LE3 5DE, grid ref SK 579 048.

Happy New Year, botanists :-)

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

New Year Plant Hunt 2015

Last year's Plant Hunt team
Image: L. Marsh
This year's BSBI New Year Plant Hunt, where we try to find as many wild plants in flower as possible within a three-hour period, starts on 1st January. Last year, it was a dead heat with the Leicester team and Tim Rich's team in Cardiff both finding 63 species. 

Tim is not accepting records from individuals around the county - we have to record in one group. The city centre route we took last year worked well so I suggest we again start at the end of Soar Lane, Leicester, near the Rally Bank at grid ref SK 579 048 and work our way past some brownfield sites to All Saints Church.

Lamium purpureum in flower last New Year
Image: T. Havenith
So, here is the Doodle poll so that you can see where to park and vote on which of the four days you would like us to go out Plant Hunting this New Year. 

More info about this year's Plant Hunt here and about last year's here on the BSBI News & Views page, where national results will be reported as they come in. Last year we had records from across Britain - it's interesting to compare which plants are in bloom where, and see how this changes across the years. 

You can also vote now for the second local group meeting of 2015 - a talk by Ian Denholm who is both BSBI's President and one of two Orchid Referees. His talk is called 'From orchids to agriculture and back again' and he has offered us a choice of dates so please vote here on this Doodle poll for which one you prefer.  

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Meeting at Rutland Water

Botanists at Rutland Water, September 2012
Uta has arranged a meeting at Rutland Water on Saturday 4th October and says "We will look at a pond and maybe a lagoon. It's an area not open to the public. Andy Lear is planning to come which will be helpful because he knows Rutland Water well.  

"I have set up a doodle for us to decide on a time and to arrange car sharing. Grid reference is SK88310850 and we meet on the road from Oakham to Hambleton. Here is a map. We will have to be let in to the site by a member of staff from Rutland Water, so we should try hard to be there on time. And wellington boots might be a good idea.

*Thanks for voting in the Doodle poll for your preferred start time - the meeting will start at 10am this Saturday.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Last field meetings of the season

Uta (right) helps Richard & Rosemary with ID
A reminder that tonight's (Wednesday) meeting is now at Asfordby Lakes, starting at 6.30pm

Meet at SK70471863 and our route follows a footpath along the canal, a stretch of the River Wreake and the Lakes themselves. 

Uta has organised this meeting and sent details to all of you on the mailing lists (and the meeting is on the VC55 calendar). Everybody is welcome to join us!

Maggie and Chris look at leaf-galls
Last week's visit to Washbrook Nature Reserve attracted 13 of you to a less picturesque site - see images on this page! The weather looks just as nice for this final evening meeting of the season. 

 But we may also have the chance to see some nice "drawdown zone" wildflowers on 20th September. 

Brian Laney is hoping to lead a guided walk around the shoreline at Daventry Country Park, Northants. to see Golden Dock, Marsh Dock, Mudwort, Orange foxtail, Trifid bur-marigold and Nodding bur-marigold. 

Brian says "I am also keeping my eyes open for Six-stamened water-wort which has not been found in Northamptonshire -  well, not yet!!"

The best thing about going to a meeting held over the county line is that we can take a break from recording what we see (nice though that is, and essential for the next BSBI Atlas) and just focus on the plants. 

The meeting is going to be open to the public as well as the country park wardens and helpers. So everybody is welcome, especially beginner botanists who haven't seen these species yet. 

Dorothy helps Jean, Liz & Richard with ID
Apparently the date should be finalised soon, so watch this space for confirmation or any changes. 

Brian adds "I checked the car park price at Daventry Country Park the other day and it was £2 for the day. The car park is at SP57646411 SP576 641. The entrance to the car park is off the A425 Northern Way at  SP 5755 6410"

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Field meeting 27/8/2014 to Washbrook LNR

Devil's-bit Scabious
Image: C. Ferguson-Smyth
We are visiting Washbrook LNR this Wednesday, hoping to see Pepper Saxifrage, Devil's-bit Scabious and Goat's-beard. Here is some more info:

A species list for the site, last surveyed in 2012.

A map of the site. Grid ref for the reserve is SK 591013.

A map of the area. Park on Whittier Road LE2 6LR, walk down to Knighton Lane, turn eastwards under the railway bridge, where the road becomes Knighton Lane East and you should see the reserve's northern entrance on the righthand side of the road. 

Hope to see you at 6.30 on Wednesday!
Posted by Louise

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Ulverscroft and Fineshade

Fineshade Wood, VC32
Image: A. Freeman
Two impromptu local botany meetings for you during the coming week, the first in VC55 and the second over the border in VC32.

We can visit Ulverscroft on Friday evening or on Saturday afternoon to look at some wet woodland (Alder carr) and the adjacent Herbert's Meadow, a LRWT site which is one of the most species-rich meadows in Leics. 

Both of these sites have been surveyed, so this meeting will focus on helping beginners see and identify plants typical of such habitats, rather than on recording. 

We can also look for Carex x sooi, the hybrid between Greater and Lesser Pond Sedge, see what its ligule looks like and consider why the hybrid is present here but not the parents. And there is no pond! 

The path past Fineshade Abbey
Image: A. Freeman
Nerdy but fun, and click on the plant name to see where it is recorded growing in Britain - that black dot in the middle of the country is Ulverscroft :-)

The Doodle link, so you can vote on which day you prefer for this meeting, is here. THIS MEETING HAS NOW BEEN CANCELLED, SORRY!

Alyson Freeman, who runs the recently-formed North Northants group aimed at beginner botanists, has invited us all to join her next Wednesday for a survey of Fineshade Wood, a Forestry Commission site in VC32 which I know supports some interesting species of fungi. 

Path through Fineshade Wood
Image: A. Freeman
Alyson says "As you probably know, Fineshade Woods are threatened by a proposal to erect 70 holiday cabins, affecting a large part of the woods. An ecological survey has been done, but we can probably add to the species recorded and to evidence that this is an important place for wildlife. Please meet at the main car park at Top Lodge – I think it’s £3 unless you have a permit. The Doodle poll is here - only one option, sorry!"

Hope to see you at one or both of these meetings and if you have botanist friends in VC32, please feel free to pass on details about the survey at Fineshade. Knowing which species grow at and around the proposed development site should give everyone the essential evidence so they can decide: is this a wildlife haven which should be conserved, or a nice place for some holiday cabins?  

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Next VC55 meeting 2/7/2014 to Bittesby Wood

Our next local group meeting is this Wednesday 2nd July, starting at 6.30 and has been co-ordinated by Uta. We will be visiting Bittesby Wood which is in an under-recorded hectad SP48.

Anthyllis vulneraria
Image courtesy of John Crellin
Uta says "This is a relatively new plantation along a dismantled railway line which is apparently good for butterflies and the Small Blue butterfly was found there. One of our tasks will be to try and find its food plant Anthyllis vulneraria Kidney Vetch.

"The meeting point is at SP 496 854, just off the A5 on the road to the village of Willey. From there we will have to cross the A5 to walk along a public footpath to the site at SP 499 858.

Please use this link to access the doodle poll and let us know if you would like to come and also if you would like to carshare".

Uta's mobile number is 07852 682790.

Posted by Uta and Louise. The image is from this website run by BSBI botanist John Crellin which has lots of excellent photographs - very useful when you are just learning to identify plants.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Field Meeting: SK8236 and Muston Meadows NNR/SSSI

Location and Access

The site is 1 km south of Muston village, 3 km south east of Bottesford and 10 km west of Grantham. The Grantham Canal passes the southern boundary of the reserve close to Longore Bridge.

By car, access to the reserve is via minor roads from the A52. The minor road from Muston to Stenwith (1 km to the east) passes near the eastern boundary of the reserve.

Parking: In Muston Village and walk to the start, or in a couple of spaces off Woolsthorpe Lane (SK83093714), marked on the map below, and walk to the start.

Car Sharing: Please use this Doodle poll to arrange.

Meeting Point and Recording Plan

Meet at the entrance to the reserve on the byway to the west (SK82673710) at 11:00 a.m. We will record to the west of the monad first, turn east along the Grantham Canal, then cross Longore Bridge before returning via the meadows, using public footpaths etc. Natural England has kindly given us permission to visit and record in the fields in the NNR/SSI and have asked us to record information according to the fields in the reserve. A map showing the location of these will be available on the day.

It is intended to record from 11:00 am until 3:00 pm and then have tea at the Old Forge Tearooms in Muston (open 10 am unto 4 pm), so bring lunch and a drink with you.

Mobile: 0774 548 7766 on the day

Some Notes on Muston Meadows from Natural England's Website

The meadows are remarkably rich in plant life, which includes 33 types of grass and over 100 other species of flowering plant and is notable for its colony of over 10,000 green-winged orchids

The meadows contain a wealth of wildlife, including invertebrates, amphibians and birds. The site supports a variety of insects, including many butterflies and moths. Ponds - originally dug to provide water for grazing animals - are now home to dragonflies, frogs and the rare great-crested newt.

Skylarks and meadow pipits build their nests in the long grass, while yellowhammers, linnets and whitethroats nest in hedgerows.

There are large numbers of small mammals such as bank and field voles, and on summer evenings bats can be seen hunting for insects over the site.

The reserve has recently been extended, and 32ha of former arable land is being reverted back into haymeadow using seed collected from the flower rich meadows of the original reserve.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Leicester Bioblitz 2014

Helen O'Brien, Nature Conservation Officer at LCC, has been in touch about next weekend's annual Leicester Bioblitz, which this year is being held at Western Park. The Bioblitz runs from 5pm on Friday 13th June to 5pm on Saturday 14th June.  The local group intends to meet at the EcoHouse at 6.30 on Friday to start recording, and Helen promises us access to parts of the park not usually accessible to the public. 

Helen also says "We are organising a number of guided walks again this year and I wondered if I could put BSBI down for Wildflower/Botany walks at 11.00 a.m. and 3.00 p.m. on Saturday 14th June?  We will ask people to book on and to be at the Bioblitz Basecamp which will be set up in the main marquee near to “Old Major” – the veteran oak tree opposite the main driveway within the Park.   Maximum numbers per walk will be 20".

Would anyone be interested in leading one of these walks? If so, please email us at to arrange. Here are the details for parking provision and arrangements:

Friday 13th June 2014
Park in the Mencap car park on the left of the driveway. There will be park officers at the main gate to greet and direct you to the car park which will be locked up after the park is closed. 
Staff will be in the Ecohouse to take information on species identified, provide light refreshments etc.  Toilet facilities are also available within the Ecohouse on Friday evening.

Saturday 14th June 2014
Parking will be available on the main driveway and also at the turning circle/car park at the end of the driveway. 
Refreshments will be available at the Mencap building (hot and cold drinks)
A packed lunch is available for guided walk leaders/activity stall holders and volunteers
Toilet facilities are available within Mencap and also on the main park

Posted by Louise; thanks to Helen for the sharp images of Western Park ;-)

Next meeting: Old Dalby

Here are the details for our next VC55 meeting, arranged once again by Uta, who says:

"This meeting will be at Old Dalby, in an underrecorderd area of the county at the border with Notts. I don't know the area at all and chose the tetrad on the attached map where the footpaths seem to cross different habitats such as parkland, woodland and fields. And the village.

Meeting is at 6.30pm at SK67372357 by the church. 

Please use doodle if you would like to come and to organise car sharing".

To access the map Uta mentions, go to and type in the grid reference for the meeting. 

No mention of which pub to visit afterwards, for that all-important debrief and examination of specimens over a pint, but I understand there are some nice ones in the area. Hope to see you on Wednesday!

Posted by Louise

Thursday, 5 June 2014

VC55 botanists cross a few boundaries...

County boundaries, that is! We passed a few "Welcome to ...shire" signs when we ventured over the VC55 county line [cue theme to 'Deliverance'] last Sunday for a visit to Breckland with Tim Pankhurst

Warks VC Recorders John & Monika Walton joined us for the day and it was also great to meet up again with Catherine, who forsook VC55 for Cambridgeshire last year. 

But the plants: Tim (pic on left) showed us some lovely things and I'm hoping that those of you with snazzy cameras who were snapping away on the day will send in your images to replace my pathetic attempts on this page. You know who you are and I know where you live. Just saying.

First Tim told us a bit about the history of Cranwich Camp, our first location, and about the geology and what makes the Brecks so special and important for plants. More info about this on Plantlife's excellent page here. Scroll down to check out the Info on Breckland plants booklet.
He showed us the most amazing ditch and yes, I know that sounds nerdy and yes, the ditch was right next to the car park and yes, we spent at least an hour in it. But before you laugh, consider just a few of the plants growing on the sides of the ditch, just at waist height so you didn't even have to bend down to see:

Petrorhagia prolifera Proliferous Pink
Medicago minima Bur Medick
Two Clovers which keyed out as Trifolium striatum. and T. scabrum - thanks to Andy Lear for correcting my earlier error here! And for offering more pix - link to follow.

Then into the grassland for Silene otites Spanish Catchfly and Astragalus danicus

Then on to a second site for Dianthus deltoides Maiden Pink (on left) and Festuca glauca Blue Fescue, which we examined to the song of a nightingale in a nearby bit of scrub. Apparently most visitors to this site bring binoculars but not a handlens. How odd. 

All drooping a bit in the heat by now (botanists and plants) but some of us just had to visit a final site, recommended by Tim. 

We soon found our quarry: lovely bluish clumps of Artemisia campestris and growing with it we saw Carex arenaria and a lovely Rosa rubiginosa of which I will only say that one of the day's delights - nearly as good as the hour in the ditch - was seeing the red glands on the calyx of Rosa rubiginosa.

If you don't have a live plant to hand, get to a Herbarium pronto and peer at a specimen. Those glands are quite something. 

Many thanks to Uta for organising the meeting and to Tim Pankhurst for sacrificing Sunday afternoon pub time to show us some lovely Breckland plants. Return visit next Spring to see/help monitor the Veronicas?

Posted by Louise, all blurry images by me and more about the outing to follow if/when I receive some better photos!

Friday, 30 May 2014

Identifying plants is a hard-won skill.

Most people think identifying plants is easy- "It's not hard, anyone can do it", they glibly say. An excellent quote below from Dr. M. (aka Jonathan Mitchley from Reading University) talking about teaching botany debunks the myth. To do it, you need:

"Skills such as looking carefully at plants, taking in all the vegetative and floral details using the hand lens, practicing keying using the veg key and the Book of Stace and checking the results carefully by reading the descriptions and making sure the plant fits the description. Important skills these, and skills which can be taught, but which can only really be learned through botanical dedication, concentration and love!"

How very true! 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Sedge mayhem

After the group's last visit to Fosse Meadows, I was checking the characters of some waterside sedges and noticed a glaring discrepancy in the literature. The ligule shape is a distinctive feature in some species, for example, it is obtuse in Carex riparia (Greater Pond-sedge), but acute in Carex acutiformis (Lesser Pond-sedge). Both of these species have 3 stigmas and produce 3-sided nuts, so the ligule character aids identification. Another, more infrequently found species, is Carex acuta (Slender Tufted-sedge) which has 2 stigmas, and produces 2-sided, biconvex nuts, and so, can be easily separated from the previous two species. But, if you haven't got stigmas and ripe nuts, you are forced to rely on vegetative characters. The BSBI handbook Sedges of the British Isles and The Vegetative Key to the British Flora agree that the ligule of C. riparia is obtuse, and that the ligule of C. acutiformis is acute, but they differ about C. acuta. The Sedge Book says its ligule is obtuse, whereas The Vegetative Key says it is acute. The 'Book of Stace' doesn't use ligule characters, so is no help. What to do? Who is right? How does this happen? Perhaps someone out there on the Plant ID course or the Botany for Beginners course can help.


Ligule of Carex acutiformis

Ligule of Carex riparia

Monday, 26 May 2014

Volunteering opportunity for botanists

Working on specimens
Image courtesy of Birmingham Museums Trust
Alex Nicholson-Evans, Volunteer Development Officer for Birmingham Museums Trust, has been in touch with details of an interesting opportunity.

Alex says "I’m on the look out for some volunteers to join a unique project with us, working on our botany collections at the Museums Collections Centre in Birmingham for a few months. It’s a one day a week role just until September, but it’s a really special chance to get hands-on time with our 50,000 botanical specimens! 

One of the storerooms
Image courtesy of Birmingham Museums Trust
"I’m trying to get the word out to specialists and people with a real interest, in the hope we can find someone who will really get a lot out of the role, as well as helping us with a pretty sizeable project! The successful applicant will be working solely on the botany collection, unless they particularly enjoy the work and want to stay on beyond September!"

You can see details of the role on their website and I've uploaded the role profile and application form to the VC55 Google Drive page - just click on the links. Many thanks to Alex for also sending the images shown here.
Posted by Louise

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Fosse Meadows

Lovely weather for our visit to Fosse Meadows on Wednesday. 

There were twelve of us, including Raita and Ann from the Friends of Fosse Meadows. 

More details to follow once Russell has typed up the species list, although we did spot a few nice things, like Pulicaria dysenterica, spotted by Graham Calow. 

For now, you'll have to be happy with a couple of my photographs!

Posted by Louise

Muston Meadows Green-winged orchid count

Steve shows us where to go!
Image: L. Marsh
We repeated the Green-winged orchid count at Muston Meadows NNR on Wednesday 21st May. 

Five members of the BSBI VC55 group, including Chris Hill from LRWT, joined Steve Hall and Roger Briggs (Natural England) to survey four fields on the reserve. Steve and Roger brought their clickers with them. Which was nice. Many thanks to them both for inviting us to do the count for the second year.

You could see the pattern of the 'ridge and furrow' and we surveyed by each walking along the top of a ridge and noting what was growing on it and in the adjacent furrow. 

From left: Meadow Buttercup, GWO, Russell and clicker.
Image: L. Marsh
Cue lots of pointing and calls of "you have that patch, I'll take this one" "did you see that one there in the grass?" etc.

Although we did the count at the same time of year as in 2013, the grass was a lot longer this time and the orchids more advanced.

But you just want to know the grand total, don't you? So you can compare it with last year

Drum-roll please....

Chris displays the grand total: 26,081 flowering spikes
Image: S. Hall
Posted by Louise

Thursday, 15 May 2014

More Sanicle than you could shake a stick at...

It's so nice when a field meeting coincides with a golden May evening - the sunlight was just lovely as we assembled this evening... and so we went into the deep dark woods!

Piper Wood is an ancient woodland scraplet (records dating back to  C14th apparently) so it was hardly surprising that we found no fewer than 9 Ancient Woodland criterion species (from this Local Wildlife Sites list for Leics.).

Hannah, Jerry & Lamiastrum galeobdolon
Russell (co-ordinating this evening's meeting) did a great job getting us all into the woodland and not side-tracked by plants on the verge where we parked! We spent about 2 hours walking the circular track through the woods. Public access via a footpath so feel free to try the same walk yourself and see which plants you can spot from the path.  

Galium odoratum
Russell also filled in the recording card tonight and is typing it up for us - thanks Russell! - but from memory, we had a good 80 species including these criterion species: 

Anemone nemorosa Wood Anemone
Galium odoratum Sweet Woodruff
Lamiastrum galeobdolon Yellow Archangel (the real thing, not the garden escape/cultivar with those silver blotches)
Luzula sylvatica Great Wood-rush
Lysimachia nemorum Yellow Pimpernel
Millium effusum Wood Melick
Oxalis acetosella Wood Sorrel
Veronica montana Wood Speedwell
And we all agreed that we had never seen so much Sanicula europaea Sanicle in one wood. 

Dryopteris affinis
A couple of other nice finds were Carex remota and Dryopteris affinis - we had to look at last year's fronds to see the distinctive "black spot" where the pinna joins the rachis. 

Eleven of us out this evening - 10 botanists and Graham Finch, who did his own thing for most of the evening and will report back soon on his non-plant findings. Always good to hear what the Finches find. 

Nice to see Jerry and Richard again - I love the way we can all drop in to meetings as we please, even if it's been a year or two! Jerry pointed out some galls and has sent us this nice link, so we can compare old maps of Piper Wood.

Richard & Sam
Also great to meet new people - Sam has been on our mailing list for ages, but all the meetings have clashed until tonight. Lovely to put a name to a face at last! 

A very pleasant evening altogether :-) 

Posted by Louise and all pix by me. Bit less blurry than usual? 

Monday, 12 May 2014

Botany for Beginners gets off to a great start

Ian sets out our specimens for ID
Image: L. Marsh
The first module of Botany for Beginners kicked off this weekend with a tuition session on 'Wild Flowers of Woodlands and Glades'. 

The weather forecast was dreadful, so we made sure that there were lots of specimens available for the new students to look at. 

Here is Ian arranging some of the plants that he brought in from our list of ~80 woodland species recorded as occasional, frequent or abundant in VC55 in the recent Flora of Leicestershire &; Rutland by our BSBI County Recorder Mike Jeeves. 

Sally recording the flora of the Shiant Islands
Image L. Marsh 2013
Ian completed all five modules of Botany for Beginners in 2013, so he has come back this year as a Botanical Buddy to help people who are keying out plants for the first time. 

Sally Peacock also came down from Notts. With her teaching skills and considerable botanical expertise, she is an ideal co-tutor for this course. Sally really helped people find out how you go about identifying a wild flower. 
And we were delighted that plant-finder extraordinaire Brian Laney, from Northants., responded to our invitation for regional expert botanists to come along and share a few ID tips. Many thanks to all three of them for making it such a successful day! 

It's too late for you to join this module, but there are still a few spaces available on each of the other four modules. The next one is on 'Summer Meadow Flowers' - more info here

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Next BSBI55 meeting

Farm track by Piper Wood
Image: Wiki Commons
The next BSBI meeting will be held this Wednesday 14th May starting at 6.30 pm. 

We are visiting Piper Wood, the last remaining trace of a deer park first recorded in 1339. There are scant records in recent years, so this visit promises to be an exciting voyage of discovery.

Meet at SK475221, Ashby Road, B5324 on verge near Smithy Lane between Long Whatton & Shepshed. Here is a map and here is the link to the Doodle poll so that you can register if you wish to attend.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

VC55 group is off on a jaunt!

Uta has been liaising with the lovely Tim Pankhurst to arrange a rare visit for the group outside the county. So if you would like to see some of the iconic Breckland plants in the company of possibly the botanist who knows them best, please use this Doodle poll to register your interest in coming to Thetford Heath (Breckland) on 1st June. Once we know who wants to go, we can sort out car-sharing and lifts.

Petrorhagia prolifera
Image: J. Crellin
Uta says: "The Breckland is a unique landscape of sandy unstable heaths with continental climate and calcareous flora, and is one of the three most important botanical “hotspots” in England. Tim Pankhurst (Plantlife Regional Conservation Manager) has kindly offered to lead us to areas where Plantlife is carrying out a management and research project to restore and maintain populations of rare Breckland plant specialities such as Silene otites Spanish catchfly, Petrorhagia prolifera Proliferous pink  and Medicago minima Bur medick, to name but a few. Detailed information is provided on the Plantlife website.
Assembly point: Cranwich Camp (Car park at TL775 941 on north side of road).

The meeting starts at 11 and we will need at least 2 hours to get there. So, Uta suggests leaving at about 8.30 from Leicester. I'm not sure if Tim will put a limit on how many of us can attend - he may not realise that there are almost 300 of us in the local group! - so please register quickly if you are interested. We may have to operate a first-come, first-served, policy if everybody wants to come!

Posted by Louise

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Green-winged orchid count 2014

Green-winged Orchid
Image: I. Denholm
Last year, we carried out a count of the Green-winged Orchids at Muston Meadows National Nature Reserve, at the request of Natural England. Eleven members of the local BSBI group counted more than 26,000 flowering spikes on 22nd May 2013. Click here to see the photo of us at Muston.

Natural England have asked us to repeat the count: it's really helpful to see how populations of plants are faring from year to year. The Orchids are a little more advanced this year, so Steve at Natural England has suggested 3 suitable dates when some of their staff could join us and bring their snazzy clickers which make orchid-counting so easy.

Here is the Doodle link so you can vote on which date would be best for you. UPDATE: THIS MEETING HAS NOW BEEN FIXED FOR WEDS 21/5/2014 Assuming the thought of walking across a meadow full of orchids and simultaneously making a useful contribution to scientific research is something that might appeal to you :-)

PS Alyson Freeman (North Northants BSBI group) sends this invitation for orchid-lovers: 
"Would anyone like to join the Friends of Barnack Hills and Holes at the reserve on Saturday 24th May? We will be attempting to find and count Man Orchids, Orchis anthropomorpha.
Meet at the main car park at 10 am. Please let me know if you intend to come, so that we have an idea of how many to expect and can plan the work accordingly".

Posted by Louise

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Surveying Knighton Spinney

Clive, Russell & Goldilocks Buttercup
A very enjoyable field meeting at Knighton Spinney last weekend. Sixteen of us turned out for the survey and it was particularly nice that Brian Laney came over from Northants. to join us for the day.

Clive Forty of TCV joined us (and Graham - hi, Graham!) and a reminder here that if anybody is considering conservation volunteering in VC55, they can contact both Clive at TCV or one of the LRWT Team. Lots of opportunities in this county :-) 

Brian Laney (on his knees!) and the VC55 group
Neill Talbot and Chris Hill from LRWT were also present. Neill has probably surveyed more LWSs (Local Wildlife Sites) than... somebody who has surveyed a lot of LWSs, so he and Clive were able to chat about management of the spinney. 

We noted the relative abundance of some of the typical woodland plants. although there is only one LWS woodland criterion species present, the Wood Anemone. 

Unfortunately, the Bluebells at Knighton Spinney are not native English Bluebells, but Spanish Bluebells and/or hybrids (planted in error during the 1980's). We all felt that they've got such a hold that it would probably be impossible to eradicate them. 

Diane admiring Arum maculatum
We paced out a patch of Snowberry that Clive might want to clear, and spotted a few (presumably bird-sown) non-native species which might also be for the chop, like a Cherry Laurel just getting established in a clearing.

None of us knew of any wildlife that relies on Cherry Laurel - do you? I've seen flies on it but not much else!  

Everybody made a contribution to our species list and many thanks to Pouran, who is typing it up for us this time. Maggie Frankum came along and identified the bees we saw and a gall or two. We might not have noticed the bees in a wet bit if Maggie hadn't been looking out for them. She also told us about the spinney 30 years ago, before the adjacent distributor road. More on Maggie and bees once the species list is typed up. 

Maggie spots bees!
Russell kept his ears open while botanising and so we also have a nice bird list from the day. Thanks, Russell!

And finally, the indefatigable Brian Laney, after an afternoon of botanising in the Spinney, gave a short masterclass in What You Can Find on a Roadverge to those of us still standing after - was it 5 hours? 

Wood Anemones at Knighton Spinney April 2014
I guess all those nice plants - from halophytes like Lepidium ruderale and Cochlearia danica, to Geranium molle and dissectum, to a rosette of Verbascum, were all there anyway but Brian spotted them and then... suddenly we could all see them! And yes, Verbascum really does have dendritic hairs, just as John Poland says!

Next meeting on the 26th at Burley Wood, hope you can make it. Here's the doodle link in case you haven't voted yet :-)

Posted by Louise & pix by me