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Medmenham – 15 May 2016

On the sunny afternoon of 15 May 2016, 20 RDNHS members led by Sally Rankin and Alan Parfitt gathered at Kings Barn Farm, Medmenham, for a walk through the large estate of Susan and Leonard Phillips. This was the second visit of the Society to the site; the previous one was on 16 June 2013. Before the walk started we admired newts and tadpoles in the pond near the farm house. Rigid Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) was growing in the pond with Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris) and Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis) adorning the margins. A Buzzard (Buteo buteo) and two Red Kites (Milvus milvus) flew over. Susan Phillips had explained the management plans for the estate to the members that had come on the earlier visit, such as making scrapes in the fields to encourage butterflies and other insects. One field had been sprayed in 2011 and sown with wildflower seeds the following year. Cowslips (Primula veris) were flowering and thriving here, but Oxeye Daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) were only in bud. Susan took us to the scrapes where we saw Horseshoe Vetch (Hippocrepis comosa), Common Rock-rose (Helianthemum nummularium), Thyme (Thymus spec.), Meadow Saxifrage (Saxifraga granulata), Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca), Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria, in bud), White Campion (Silene latifolia), Betony leaves (Betonica officinalis), Thyme-leaved Sandwort (Arenaria serpyllifolia), Wall Speedwell (Veronica arvensis) and very large specimens of Salad Burnet, which may have been the Fodder Burnet (Poterium sanguisorba subsp. muricata). To our delight we also rediscovered the Long-stalked Crane’s-bill (Geranium columbinum), which we had admired there three years ago.

Everywhere that we followed Susan through the fields, the deep-blue flowers of Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys), pink ones of Dove’s-foot Crane’s-bill (Geranium molle), pale blue ones of Thyme-leaved Speedwell (Veronica serpyllifolia) and the tiny pink starry flowers of Field Madder (Sherardia arvensis) were greeting us. When we looked up, there were splendid views of the sloping meadows and woods beyond, with the leaves of the trees in various shades of light green. A further field was bordered by hundreds of flowering Garlic Mustard plants (Alliaria petiolata) and here we also saw leaves and buds of the Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera) that had recently been planted there. One of the members caught a beautiful orange-yellow moth in his net called Clay Triple-lines (Cyclophora cinearia). The butterflies we saw this afternoon included Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus), Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni), Peacock (Inachis io) and Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta). A stony patch showed some interesting weed species, such as Parsley-piert (Aphanes arvensis), Grey Field-speedwell (Veronica polita) and Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), and we heard a Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) singing.

On the way back we went through the woods of the estate, with acres of Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), which unfortunately had just finished flowering, as had Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna), Dog’s Mercury (Mercurialis perennis), Spurge-laurel (Daphne laureola) and Primrose (Primula vulgaris). Still in flower were Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea), Wood Spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides), Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon) and Bugle (Ajuga reptans). Other plants included Rough Meadow-grass (Poa trivialis), Common Figwort (Scrophularia nodosa, not yet in flower), Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea, in bud), Hairy St John’s-wort (Hypericum hirsutum, not yet in flower), Box (Buxus sempervirens) and Spindle (Euonymus europaeus).

The final field, covered with a natural vegetation of chalk plants, was another highlight. A Bee-fly (Bombylius major) poked its long proboscis into the flowers, seemingly hovering above them, but clinging with one pair of legs to the flowers. We saw amongst others Common Milkwort (Polygala vulgaris), leaves of Wild Basil (Clinopodium vulgare) and Marjoram (Origanum vulgare), Quaking-grass (Briza media), Glaucous Sedge (Carex flacca), Downy Oat-grass (Avenula pubescens), leaves of Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) and, unfortunately, also the invasive Tor-grass (Brachypodium rupestre). However, we were very pleased to discover Adder’s-tongue (Ophioglossum vulgatum) again. Between the long grasses we saw dozens of fronds of this rare fern, the sporangia just appearing. In this area the nightly activity of Badgers (Meles meles) was clearly visible. This may be a threat to the survival of the ferns, or, in contrast, the Adder’s-tongue may need this activity in order to compete with the grasses.

Report by Renée Grayer

Pictures by Rob Stallard

RDNHS trip to Kings Barn Farm, Medmenham, 15.05.16
Scientific names British names Remarks
Plant species:
Ajuga reptans Bugle
Alliaria petiolata Garlic Mustard
Alopecurus geniculatus Marsh Foxtail
Anagallis arvensis Scarlet Pimpernel
Anthriscus sylvestris Cow Parsley
Aphanes arvensis Parsley-piert
Arenaria serpyllifolia Thyme-leaved Sandwort
Avenula pubescens Downy Oat-grass
Betonica officinalis Betony
Brachypodium rupestre Tor-grass
Briza media Quaking-grass
Bromus erectus Upright Brome
Buxus sempervirens Box
Campanula rotundifolia Harebell Not flowering yet
Cardamine pratensis Cuckooflower
Carex flacca Glaucous Sedge
Cerastium glomeratum Sticky Mouse-ear
Ceratophyllum demersum Rigid Hornwort
Clinopodium vulgare Wild Basil Not flowering yet
Daphne laureola Spurge-laurel
Digitalis purpurea Foxglove Not flowering yet
Epilobium parviflorum Hoary Willowherb
Euonymus europaeus Spindle
Euphorbia amygdaloides Wood spurge
Ficaria verna Lesser Celandine Finished flowering
Galium odoratum Woodruff
Geranium columbinum Long-stalked Crane’s-bill
Geranium dissectum Cut-leaved Crane’s-bill
Geranium molle Dove’s-foot Crane’s-bill
Geranium robertianum Herb-Robert
Geum urbanum Wood Avens
Glechoma hederacea Ground-ivy
Helianthemum nummularium Common Rock-rose
Hippocrepis comosa Horseshoe Vetch
Hyacinthoides non-scripta Bluebell Finished flowering
Hypericum hirsutum Hairy St John’s-wort
Ilex aquifolium Holly
Lamiastrum galeobdolon Yellow Archangel
Leucanthemum vulgare Oxeye Daisy In bud
Lotus corniculatus Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil
Mercurialis perennis Dog’s Mercury
Myosotis arvensis Field Forget-me-not
Neottia ovata Common Twayblade In bud
Ophioglossum vulgatum Adder’s-tongue
Ophrys apifera Bee Orchid
Origanum vulgare Majoram Leaves only
Poa pratensis Smooth Meadow-grass
Poa trivialis Rough Meadow-grass
Polygala vulgaris Common Milkwort
Potentilla anserina Silverweed Not flowering yet
Poterium sanguisorba ssp. muricata Fodder Burnet
Poterium sanguisorba ssp. sanguisorba Salad Burnet
Primula veris Cowslip
Primula vulgaris Primrose
Pteridium aquilinum Bracken
Ranunculus acris Meadow Buttercup
Ranunculus bulbosus Bulbous Buttercup
Reseda luteola Weld
Rhinanthus minor Yellow-rattle
Rhinanthus minor Yellow-rattle
Scrophularia nodosa Common Figwort Not flowering yet
Sherardia arvensis Field Madder
Silene flos-cuculi Ragged-Robin
Silene latifolia White Campion
Stellaria holostea Greater Stitchwort
Thymus spec. Thyme
Tussilago farfara Colt’s-foot Leaves
Ulmus glabra Wych Elm
Verbascum thapsus Great Mullein Leaf rosette
Veronica arvensis Wall Speedwell
Veronica chamaedrys Germander Speedwell
Veronica montana Wood Speedwell
Veronica polita Grey Field-speedwell
Veronica serpyllifolia Thyme-leaved Speedwell
Viburnum lantana Wayfaring-tree
Vicia sativa Common Vetch
Vulpia bromoides Squirreltail Fescue
Bird species:
Buteo buteo Buzzard
Milvus milvus Red Kite
Turdus philomelos Song Thrush
Butterfly and moth species:
Cyclophora linearia Clay Triple-lines
Gonepteryx rhamni Brimstone
Inachis io Peacock
Polyommatus icarus Common Blue
Vanessa atalanta Red Admiral
Other insect species:
Bombylius major Bee Fly

List by Renée Grayer