Michael Keith-Lucas led a walk at Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve on the hot and sunny afternoon of Sunday 20th May, starting from the Cowleaze Wood car park. The walk started out down an ancient trackway, bordered by a ditch and bank with old multi-stemmed trees. Woodruff was in flower, and Michael pointed out big adjacent patches of male and female Dog’s-mercury plants. The female plants had wider leaves and were of a more blue-green hue. On the walk back, three flower spikes of White Helleborine were spotted. The Privet beside the path had the narrower leaves of the true wild plant. The walk continued onto the open western slopes of Bald Hill. There were abundant Cowslips and Early-purple Orchids, plus Salad Burnet, Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil and the first flowers of Horseshoe Vetch. The anthills had their own flora, including Germander Speedwell, Early Forget-me not, Thyme-leaved Speedwell and several different chickweeds. A Green Hairstreak butterfly was spotted, together with small brown Dingy Skippers, a dull orange Small Heath and tiny little Small Purple-barred moths. A fenced-off inclosure contained both male and female Juniper bushes. At the edge of the open grassland, a Whitebeam tree was covered with a mass of creamy blossom. The walk continued back up the track and across to Linkey Down. The grass here had been cropped more closely by sheep. There was more Horseshoe Vetch, the first flowers of Common Rock-rose, and a small patch of Hairy Rock-cress.
Pictures by Laurie Haseler, Sue White and Martin Mitchell