Saturday, 24 September 2016

The Holies and Greenham Common

The weather has prevented a long walk - firstly because it became too hot (30°C) and then too cloudy, so I have made do with two visits to local Nature Reserves on two consecutive days. The first was to The Holies at Streatley, my closest National Trust wildlife reserve. Previous visits have been recorded here on May 2013 August 2013 September 2014 August 2015 and January 2016. I was hoping to see some late summer butterflies as it was a warm day. I did not see that many but some wild-flowers were still out, including this scabious.

scabious

As ever the views down to the river were dramatic, here is the closest thing to a 'gorge' that the River Thames flows through. The houses and boat houses at Goring are always picturesque.

My first butterfly I got anywhere near to was a 'boring' Meadow brown and it alighted on one of the last knapweeds still in flower

Meadow Brown,butterfly

I then risked life and limb to look for one of my favourite flowers : Pale Toadflax (Linaria repens). It seems to like very dry banks with thin very chalky soils. There were quite a few plants around, but this one had a darker colour than the others.

Pale Toadflax,Linaria repens

Not so far away was another favourite - a Small Copper butterfly - which made up for the lack of butterflies in general - I only saw about 6 in total and only whites and meadow browns apart from this little gem.

Small Copper, Lycaena phlaeas,butterfly

This view towards the south-east is towards Hartslock Nature Reserve, famous for its Monkey Orchids in Spring. You can see the Thames and the main Paddington-South Wales railway line running along the valley.

Hartslock view

Nearly back to the car I saw this plant which I think is Black Horehound (Ballota nigra), often a late flower.

Black Horehound,Ballota nigra

The next day I helped lead a walk over Greenham Common, it turned out to be a warm, sunny day in spite of the forecast of overcast gloom. In stark contrast to the steep chalk slopes the common is dead flat with heathland over acid gravels.

Greenham Common

One plant still denying the season was Vipers Bugloss (Echium vulgare)

Vipers Bugloss,Echium vulgare

A little further along a real treat for me, one particular gorse plant was completely covered in reddish filaments of Common Dodder (Cuscuta epithymum). This is a strange 'plant' as it does not root itself in the ground, it feeds on its host plant by tapping into its stems for nutrient. It is distant relative of the bindweeds, perhaps a chance mutation led to an encircling bindweed to tap into its host plant rather than just bind itself around it. The very tiny flowers are in little clusters along the filaments.

Common Dodder,Cuscuta epithymum

The next botanical treat was a Bog bean (Menyanthes trifoliata) growing in a pool in a gully to the south side of the Common. One of the few plants with hairy petals. It is called 'bog bean' because the fruit looks like a bean but the bean is not edible however the leaves can be used as a bittering agent for beers.

Bog bean,Menyanthes trifoliata

On the other side of the pool I was pleased to see a plant I had seen there in the previous year, it looks like the scarce Common Calamint (Clinopodium ascendens) or it may be a garden escape (Clinopodium grandiflorum).

Common Calamint

On the way back to the cars we saw a large fungus, about football sized, but because it is a giant puffball (Calvatia gigantea) it is likely to swell out a lot more before it fully matures and gives out millions of spores.

giant puffball