Society’s visit to Pilch Field 2.5.2023 – Jenny Mercer

Pilch Field (Photo © Jenny Mercer)

The photo above shows the ridge and furrow of these unimproved Pilch fields pastures. When Singleborough parish enclosed these fields the old pattern of ploughing remained as a “footprint” of the former landscape.

Plants which prefer the better drainage on ridges include Green-winged orchids and Cowslips, which are out just now.

Green-winged orchid (Photo © Martine Harvey)

Soon Pignut and Birds-foot trefoil, Salad burnet and a ton of other plants will appear. Hundreds of Common spotted orchids will appear too within the next few weeks, and in July the spiney restharrow with pink sweet pea-like flowers appear. August and September bring a profusion of blue scabious especially in Little Pilch – the smaller field to the north-east of the larger field, accessed through a big gate. In the damper furrows and on edges of ridges, the unusual Adder’s-tongue fern is showing well plus Lady’s smock/Cuckoo flower. It will soon dissapear.

Adder’s tongue (Photo © Bob Phillips)

In the significantly wet areas there are marshy areas where the quite tall Marsh valerian is beginning to show well, and there are Marsh marigolds too, with Bugle and Creeping jenny. Marsh valerian is unusual in having male and female flowers on separate plants. It is the original source of the drug Vallium.

It is also a good site for birds, such as Snipe, which overwinter in Little Pilch. I saw a Short-eared owl last autumn on the highest ridge of the bigger field. And in Little Pilch last Tuesday evening many of us were treated to several sightings of hares and 3 roe deer as we entered the field slowly, and watched carefully.

Butterflies and moths are in good numbers too.

Enjoy visiting this 30 acre BBOWT reserve, which needs volunteers to keep it free from the threatening scrub incursions of hawthorn, blackthorn and bramble. Aylesbury Vale Conservation Volunteers have done good work recently . If interested, offer your services, and there is a BBOWT contact – Leo Keedy. The old overgrown pond area is to be dug out in 2023. Superb news.

Remember, no dogs on this Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), is best as cattle graze from 1st June until 31st October.

Contact Jenny Mercer if you want to learn more about the plants on Pilch.

There are great satellite images on Google maps. Just input Pilch Field SSSI and then select ‘layers’ then satellite image. Amazingly, you can even see the superb ant hills, and some impression of the ridge and furrow areas.

Jenny Mercer