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The Holies, Streatley – 27 August 2017

Jan Haseler led a walk round The Holies, National Trust land at Streatley, on the hot afternoon of Sunday 27 August. The walk started out through a cool stretch of woodland, where Soft Shield-fern was noted, then Pale St John’s-wort was seen in a band of scrubby woodland. The route led out into a large steep field of fine chalk grassland which had been used as a motor-cycle scrambling track in the 1980s. It is still possible to see the outlines of the former scrambling tracks and it was interesting for the botanists to note the differences in vegetation which are still detectable there. Flowers here included Wild Marjoram, Agrimony, Small Scabious, Eyebright, Common Restharrow, Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Wild Basil, Harebell, Dwarf Thistle and Fairy Flax. There were many Meadow Brown butterflies on the wing, together with a few Small Heaths, Brimstones, Common Blues and a Lesser Treble-bar moth. The tiny longhorn moth Nemaphora metallica was spotted on a Field Scabious flower head. Carline Thistle and Autumn Gentian appeared to be favouring the former scramble tracks. Basil Thyme and Pale Toadflax were found on bare soil patches on one of the scramble tracks. The walk continued on the other side of the valley, where there were some very big patches of Devil’s-bit Scabious just coming into flower, with many bees and a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly nectaring there. Clustered Bellflower, Yellow-wort and Blue Fleabane were added to the flower count. Field Madder and Long-stalked Crane’s-bill were growing by the trackway at the bottom of the valley. Some of the group crossed the valley bottom to inspect the enormous seed heads of a number of Woolly Thistle plants.

The route then led through a gate into the next field of steep chalk grassland. More Basil Thyme flowers were found in cracks in the tarmac of the old zig-zag road which climbs steeply up the hillside. Hoary Plantain, Wild Mignonette and Salad Burnet were seen here. Contouring round the hillside, the first of the Adonis Blue butterflies was seen, a stunning turquoise blue male. In all, about 8 male Adonis Blues and 1 worn male Chalkhill Blue butterflies were seen. There were a number of the brown female butterflies, but without good close-up views, it was hard to be certain whether they were Adonis or Chalkhill Blues. A  Hummingbird Hawkmoth flew down the slope, nectaring on various flowers on the way. Squinancywort and Common Rock-rose were seen here. In the top corner of the field was an area which had been cleared of scrub and scraped bare about 10 years ago. It had been recolonised by an interesting selection of chalk grassland plants, including Chiltern Gentian, Pale Toadflax, Bladder Campion and Devil’s-bit Scabious. Another gate led back to the scramble track field. Next to the gate was a large Whitebeam covered in large still-green berries. On another of the former scramble tracks, a patch with more than 100 Autumn Gentians was found.

Pictures by Rob Stallard and Laurie Haseler

RDNHS trip to the Holies, 27.08.17, led by Jan Haseler
Plant species
Scientific name English name
Polystichum setiferum Soft Shield-fern
Centaurium erythraea Common Centaury
Origanum vulgare Wild Marjoram
Hypericum montanum Pale St John’s-wort
Daucus carota Wild Carrot
Agrimonia eupatoria Agrimony
Odontitus vernus Red Bartsia
Lotus corniculatus Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil
Euphrasia sp. Eyebright
Carlina vulgaris Carline Thistle
Leontodon hispidus Rough Hawkbit
Clinopodium vulgare Wild Basil
Gentiana amarella Autumn Gentian
Gentiana amarella Autumn Gentian
Pastinaca sativa Wild Parsnip
Galium verum Lady’s Bedstraw
Scabiosa columbaria Small Scabious
Tragopogon pratensis Goat’s-beard
Centaurea nigra Common Knapweed
Cirsium acaule Dwarf Thistle
Linum catharticum Fairy Flax
Asperula cynanchica Squinancywort
Linaria repens Pale Toadflax
Campanula rotundifolia Harebell
Clinopodium acinos Basil Thyme
Clinopodium acinos Basil Thyme
Ononis repens Common Restharrow
Dipsacus fullonum Teasel
Succisa pratensis Devil’s-bit Scabious
Blackstonia perfoliata Yellow-wort
Dactylorhiza fuchsii Common Spotted-orchid
Trifolium campestre Hop Trefoil
Geranium columbinum Long-stalked Crane’s-bill
Sherardia arvensis Field Madder
Potentilla reptans Creeping Cinquefoil
Bellis perennis Daisy
Brachypodium pinnatum Tor-grass
Pimpinella saxifraga Burnet Saxifrage
Briza media Quaking-grass
Campanula glomerata Clustered Bellflower
Polygala vulgaris Common Milkwort
Erigeron acris Blue Fleabane
Centaurea scabiosa Greater Knapweed
Cirsium eriophorum Woolly Thistle
Poterium sanguisorba Salad Burnet
Plantago media Hoary Plantain
Helianthemum nummularium Common Rock-rose
Gentianella germanica Chiltern Gentian
Gentianella germanica Chiltern Gentian
Sorbus aria Common Whitebeam
Vicia cracca Tufted Vetch
Cornus sanguinea Dogwood
Viburnum lantana Wayfaring-tree
Reseda lutea Wild Mignonette
Convolvulus arvensis Field Bindweed
Plantago coronopus Buck’s-horn Plantain

List by Renée Grayer