MKNHS Pilch Field visit – Tuesday 30 April 2024 – Report

A group of about 20 visited Pilch Field SSSI on a cool but dry evening – not entirely dry underfoot, but dry enough once we navigated our way past the ponds near the entrance.  Jenny and Di were well prepared and carrying bundles of sticks to mark areas where less common plants were found. Pilch Field is an amazing Site of Special Scientific Interest, well-managed these days by BBOWT, comprising old ploughland left as pasturage about 200 years ago after the Enclosure of the open field agriculture of ‘Ridge and furrow’, in the Parish of Singleborough.  Its damp areas of fen vegetation are treacherous and we avoided them – though the wonderful show of Marsh marigolds was in the middle of the western swampy part of the big field.

There was plenty to see in the larger field, with only a couple of members venturing into Little Pilch. Cowslips and Green-winged orchids are in profusion on the ridges; bugle too. The furrows are much damper and full of Hard rush with some sedges seen. The cool April weather has delayed grass growth this year, and Adder’s tongue fern was easily spotted. Often 1 square metre of this atypical fern was seen (Jenny noted at least 10 areas of 1m2) and one of 2m2 as we walked back. No sign of Moonwort so far this year though.

Adder’s tongue fern (Photo ©Bob Phillips)

Hoary plantain Plantago media, distinguished by its ‘crinkly’ pleated leaves,
with Yellow rattle Rhinanthus minor (Photo © Janice Robertson)

Yellow rattle was plentiful, and beginning to flower, but much of it stunted. Meadowsweet was much in evidence, but will not be in flower for another few weeks; likewise Marsh thistle.

Towards the end of the visit we had a great treat finding 2 Twayblade orchids …in bud… just before we turned back towards dusk, having had to abandon going into Little Pilch. Jenny had never seen twayblade orchid in Pilch in 30 years of visiting. They were near the site where Early Marsh orchids are sometimes found in June-July, though none seen last year…

Twayblade (Photo ©Bob Phillips)

A list of plants and birds observed can be found here .


Report prepared by Jenny Mercer and others