Maria Newham led a well-attended walk, starting from the Maltsters Arms at Rotherfield Greys, on Wednesday 15 September. It was a mild grey day, but as the morning progressed, the clouds thinned and the sun broke through. The walk started out north-eastwards along a footpath which led down into a valley through chalk grassland. A large mixed flock of Swallows and House Martins was flying across the adjacent fields and several Small Heath butterflies were roosting on grass stems. Flowers seen here included Field Scabious, Greater Knapweed, Agrimony, Marjoram, Wild Basil, Wall Lettuce and Wild Mignonette. A female Kestrel flew into an Oak tree at the bottom of the valley. After a brief dog-leg along the valley bottom, the route continued up the opposite grassy slope. Ivy Bees and a Red Admiral butterfly were nectaring on Ivy flowers in the hedge. There were several rosettes of Woolly Thistle, with their distinctive 3-dimensional leaf structure, and both flowers and the round seed heads of Goat’s-beard were seen. Further out in the field, a Wheatear perched on a clump of thistles. Several Meadow Brown butterflies were on the wing, including a pale, almost bald, specimen. Leaves of Stinking Hellebore were noted at the edge of a fenced-off chalk pit at the top of the hill. After a short stretch of lane, the next footpath led across a stubble field. Sightings here included Field Pansy, Common Poppy, Black Nightshade, Swine-cress, Small Nettle and Scarlet Pimpernel, together with a flock of Linnets, a Buzzard and a Raven. There were a number of Robin’s Pincushions in a stretch of hedge. The next section of the walk was through Lambridge Wood, where several large yellow slugs and a glossy black Dor Beetle were seen. The footpath led to the lane which borders the north-west edge of the wood. A few darkening spikes of Yellow Bird’s-nest and seed-heads of Green-flowered Helleborine were found growing up out of the leaf litter. The next footpath continued through woodland on the other side of the lane, before dropping down towards the National Trust’s Greys Court. Two Commas were feeding on ripe Blackberries in the hedge and a worn Common Blue butterfly flew round the flower head of a Common Ragwort plant. The route followed the roadway past the house and then dropped down through woodland to Rocky Lane, before climbing back up, first through a grassy field, then more steeply through woodland to the cricket pitch at Rotherfield Greys. The walk continued along the Chiltern Way, passing through an area of woodland where yellow Chicken-of-the woods and the dark fingers of a fungus which was tentatively identified as Xylaria longipes were found on stumps by the more observant members at the back of the group. The next track ran south-eastwards between high hedges, before the final footpath led back across a grassy field to the church at Rotherfield Greys. Most of the group then stayed for lunch at the Maltster’s Arms.
Pictures by Rob Stallard and Fiona Brown