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Streatley – 18 May 2019

Jan Haseler led a walk on the bright and intermittently sunny afternoon of Saturday 18 May at the National Trust land at Streatley. The walk started out across Lardon Chase, the steep south-facing slope above the village. A sign on the gate warned about grazing cows, calves and a bull, but the animals did not appear to have arrived yet for their summer grazing task. At the very top of Lardon Chase is a small area of Clay-with-flints and this section was covered with long grass and buttercups. There was then a sharp transition onto the Chalk, with shorter grass and a much more varied flora. Flowers here included Horseshoe Vetch, Kidney Vetch, Mouse-ear-hawkweed, Germander Speedwell, Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil, Ox-eye Daisy, Hoary Plantain, Clustered Bellflower and Field Scabious, and Yellow-wort leaves were seen. There were a few Small Heath and Common Blue butterflies and a Lesser Whitethroat was calling from the boundary hedge. An area of disturbed soil around a cluster of Rabbit holes had Common Gromwell, Field Madder and Cut-leaved Crane’s-bill plants. At the eastern end of Lardon Chase were sheets of navy blue and white Chalk Milkwort and Horseshoe Vetch, together with a few spikes of Common Spotted-orchid. The Whitebeam trees on the far boundary were covered in creamy-white flowers.

The walk continued through the gate into Lough Down, the north-facing part of the site. Several clumps of Field Mouse-ear were found on disturbed soil just past the gateway. Much of Lough Down is covered by a fine set of anthills. Common Rock-rose was growing on some and Wild Thyme covered others. There is another small area of Clay-with-flints at the top south-west corner of Lough Down and this is where a number of clumps of Meadow Saxifrage were found, with more plants amongst the anthills on the Chalk slope below. Also found here were a number of Early Forget-me-not plants, with tiny blue flowers. Part way down the slope amongst the anthills is an old sunken trackway and this is where there was the best display of Cowslips. A few plants of Common Milkwort were found here, and a flower spike was compared with a specimen of Chalk Milkwort. The Common Milkwort flower had a more purple hue; the veins on the sepals had closed loops, compared with an open branched structure on the Chalk Milkwort and the broadest part of each leaf was near the tip for the Common Milkwort and near the base for the Chalk Milkwort. On the eastern side of Lough Down was a patch of bare ground where scrub had been cleared recently. On it was a big clump of Deadly Nightshade which was about to come into flower, together with White Bryony, Wild Strawberry, Dense-flowered Fumitory and more Common Gromwell. A Whitethroat was heard on the walk back across the top of Lardon Chase.

Pictures by Rob Stallard and Laurie Haseler