Leader: Matt Andrews
We all agreed this reserve was a star visit for botanists in the MKNHS calendar (but not for hay fever sufferers).
Joe and I compiled a list of outstanding flora, and others contributed observations on fauna.
We met at the ‘Live and Let Live’ pub in Pegsdon, just off the road to Hitchin, Bedfordshire, where we were treated to a rapid passing of a Merlin. We then set off with Matt who had arranged for us to walk up the private farm track along which we had sightings of several farmland birds, including skylarks, partridge, whitethroat, and yellow hammer.
Then we headed up into the chalk hills and immediately found displays of the chalk fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea) and impressive spreads of Dropwort (Filipendula vulgaris), and Hounds-tongue (Cynoglossum officinale), a member of the Borage family. The tight grassland sward showed the many characteristic plants of this habitat: fairy flax, milkwort, salad burnet, rock rose, Sainfoin, etc.
One of our target species, the Burnt tip orchid, (Orchis ustulata) was also abundant, as well as the Pyramidal orchid and a few Bee orchids.
The Pasqueflower was largely over (photo at top of page of the one last) but its presence was clear from the many fluffy seed-heads, mostly on the southern side of the hill. The Field fleawort and Moon-carrot were also spotted here.
The spires of Wild Mignonette, Reseda lutea and Weld, Reseda luteola were noticeable rising from the longer grasses as we walked along the ridge towards the Beech woodland on the top. Here we saw a few White Helleborines, and Sanicle, common in woodland on chalk and limestone.
Returning down by the field paths, we were intrigued by a field of red poppies, perhaps a crop for poppyseed, with fumitory, candytuft and Field madder on the edge. A Brown argus, brimstone and Common blue were seen here.
We were then ready for a very welcome sit-down and refreshment at the pub. Many thanks to Matt for his expert local knowledge and direction.
Article supplied by Mary Sarre
Photo of Pasqueflower ©Phil Sarre