Early spring in west Kent woodlands

The hornbeam woodlands on the North Downs are at their best; carpeted with a white blanket of wood anemones. A perfect example locally is on the rolling hills above Eynsford. The anemones are a near monoculture but the dark green bluebell leaves are emerging and the swathe of deep blue flowers will take over in a few weeks. One or two bluebells are out now, remarkable for a species that normally appears in May. There are also occasional patches of wood sorrel, wood spurge, wild strawberry and primrose.

On a cool evening sheltered from the bitter east wind that brings endless sunshine, a mistle thrush sings its plaintive song from the tree tops and a territorial male buzzard shrieks angrily at any passer-by. The small birds of the hornbeam coppice are thin on the ground having been virtually non existent through winter; a drumming great spotted woodpecker, pairs of noisy great tits and singing male chaffinch.

Down the road in Mereworth woods, the sandy soil supports a similar flora with wood anemones, wood spurge, sweet violets, primroses and bluebells. The coppice management is still in full swing with large coupes of sweet chestnut and small stands of old oaks not escaping the treatment.

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