The next hour was spent exploring along the margins of the brook and collecting mosses to take back home to identify. We saw several meadow brown butterflies and ringlets in a sunny patch of grassland. There were some large anthills that were colonised by plants normally found in acid grassland habitats. eg. Carex flacca, Lady’s bedstraw and two mosses: Hypnum jutlandicum (Heath plait-moss) and Pseudocleropodium purum (Neat feather-moss).
On entering the woodland we found an orchid-looking, deep purple shoot about six inches high. After much searching in I.D. books and botany keys, together with inspections with lenses and photographs taken, my Harrop clinched it. There is only one orchid whose stem has a purple base, the Broad-leaved helleborine.
After climbing a fence and crossing a stream we continued along the edge of a barley field and settled in a sunny corner for lunch.
We were concerned that we hadn’t found all the things from the previous record for the site but were rewarded later by a boggy hollow. Penny, ever intrepid, squelched around and a cry went up, “Marsh marigolds!”
There was also fool’s watercress and stands of hard rush. On the edge I found some ragwort but the leaves were different to normal and it proved to be Oxford ragwort, usually found in urban areas and on railway embankments. There is a disused railway nearby which might explain it’s presence.
We continued further into a wood and Penny climbed over a barbed-wire fence into a shady dell by the stream. She found evidence of bluebells and primroses (long finished flowering) and was content to have found everything from the previous list. In fact we found much more. She threw me a sample of moss, which turned out to be Atrichum undulatum (Common smoothcap or Catherine’s moss)
On returning to the house the owner was keen to show us a huge Wild service tree, which explained why we had found saplings by the stream. He then gave some of us a guided tour of his large garden, accompanied by his black Labrador, Mabel. There were two huge greenhouses containing enormous beefsteak tomatoes and courgettes, and the back garden was a profuse cottage garden with a large arboretum / orchard sloping away from the house. It contained many old variety apple trees and a beautiful tulip tree in full flower. American, I think, and so quite appropriate for 4 July.
Our tour complete, we left just as it was beginning to rain – another lovely day out.