Conserving Crookhorn Wood

To the west of the Medway gap in Kent, an untidy patchwork of woodlands between Cuxton and Trottiscliffe covers the steep, downland slopes and plateaus; much is designated as one large Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and select parts as one half of the North Downs Woodlands Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The latterContinue reading “Conserving Crookhorn Wood”

Adders on the down

A black and white male adder sunbathes on the upper slope of an old pile of fence posts and the chocolate brown female does the same on the lower slope. On another day, a darker male is on the fence pile tightly coiled as the cloud is over; he tastes the air then slides silentlyContinue reading “Adders on the down”

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 inContinue reading “Early spring in west Kent woodlands”

Chalk grasslands cleared and ready for Spring

6th March Fackenden Down is spring cleaned; a herd of red Dexter cattle has been in over winter. This native breed from south west Ireland is often used to manage chalk grasslands, especially to clear invading tor grass. Being small with short legs that give a comical appearance, they tend not to poach the turf.Continue reading “Chalk grasslands cleared and ready for Spring”

February light

In early February, the cherry plum throws out the first blossom in random bursts of dazzling white along the dark lanes. At Bough Beech in late February, a pair of Egyptian geese have a brood of young goslings that are paraded along the edge of the concrete dam. Garden birds are foraging intently at theContinue reading “February light”

Devil’s bit

The early September colours across the downland slope are golden brown. The devil’s bit scabious is out in brilliant blue; the small pincushion flowers on slender stalks light the dying sward. A spider hides beneath a flower head and waits; a solitary bee lands and busily works the florets; the spider climbs up and thenContinue reading “Devil’s bit”

White Hill Chalkhill Blues

The nature reserve of White Hill on the ridge above Shoreham in Kent is carved out of the high beech woodland. The reserve is managed by Butterfly Conservation as the small patches of herb-rich, chalk grassland support a strong colony of chalkhill blues as well as many other butterfly more common species. The scrub encroachesContinue reading “White Hill Chalkhill Blues”

Kent Life

In mid-May, the early purple orchids are up at Fackenden Down. The sward is short and so the orchids stand proud at the top of the ridge. Dingy and grizzled skippers flit low over the ground. The chalk grassland is just coming alive after a long winter of grazing the dull, unassuming turf. At theContinue reading “Kent Life”

Park Gate Down’s orchid collection

Chalk and limestone landscapes in southern Britain today are predominantly huge, hedgeless fields of intensively farmed arable crops. Turning the turf with a plough in order to feed the country during the Second World War was the end of the last great expanses of species rich lowland grassland. Many of the UK’s 56 orchid speciesContinue reading “Park Gate Down’s orchid collection”