Saturday, 2 May 2015

Down on the Down

Yes, yet another post from Martin Down, as one of my friends had never been, so it was time for a bit of a tour!

First up was a second attempt to see the elusive single specimen of the pasque flower - only this time, I remembered where it was and it was successfully located. However, it flowers early, and although there were several blooms, most had gone over. It is a very striking plant - standing so much taller than all of the surrounding vegetation at this time of year, and with the long silvery hairs on the stems and leaves casting an almost ghostly halo. But it's really the flowers that need closer examination - the wonderful contrast between the bright yellow stamens and the deep purple petals. Gorgeous.

We then continued on up towards the Bokerley Dyke, noting the relative absence of cowslips - they are very stunted this year, probably due to the dry winter and spring we've had. Continuing up to the highest point on Hanham Hill, we noted our first cuckoo call - heartening given their population decline in recent years, likely due to issues in their wintering grounds in Africa, and of course trying to stay alive on migration without being shot over Malta etc...

Reaching the ridge on the furthest boundary of the reserve, where you can peel off to walk into the adjoining Tidpit Down (part of the same Site of Special Scientific Interest, but in private ownership and managed with cattle grazing), we marveled at the carpets of hairy violets.

We then returned via the Mediaeval field system (cue discussion over tor grass control, which the reserve has battled for many years - it takes over chalk grassland, out-competing some of the wildflowers), with good numbers of more cowslips.

Another beautiful afternoon on the Down, and my friend was full of praise for this amazing place.

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