Wednesday, June 17, 2015

a double circuit of barbury castle

Visit to Barbury Castle last Monday evening, June 15th 2015. The Iron Age hillfort has two concentric ramparts. The steep banks support what appears to be a fairly unspectacular chalk-land flora (e.g. Common Spotted Orchid was the only orchid that I noticed), but I found a few things interesting enough to photograph. As I sank into the details of this landscape, I knew I'd want to come back soon. 

A patch of Crested Hair-grass (Koeleria macrantha) growing on an old ant-hill. (Try to ignore the intrusive fescue...)

Panicle in full flower. 

Panicle just coming in to flower. 

Downy stem. 

The most characteristic "old ant-hill" plant of all - a mat of Wild Thyme (Thymus polytrichus ssp. britannicus)

Below, close-up with some sort of Forester moth. 

Most of the standard chalkland specialities are on the south-facing slopes. The north-facing slopes look more like ordinary vegetation, but here, as at my old stamping-ground of Cley Hill (near Frome), they are favoured by Meadow Saxifrage (Saxifraga granulata). A plant that's becoming steadily less frequent, and has almost deserted the SE of the UK.

Horseshoe Vetch (Hippocrepis comosa), one of the most characteristic chalkland plants. Close-up of flowers below. 

Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus). Common on chalk and in lots of other places too. Because of the mixture of yellow and red-orange (the latter confined to the buds),  older members of  my family called it "Eggs-and-Bacon".  They gave the same name to Common Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris).

Close-up of flowers below.

Most people walk around the ridge-paths at the top of the ramparts, to enjoy their inspiring views. But walking around the fosses at their foot is the best way to see the flowers on the slopes. The bottoms themselves are relatively rank (though, this being chalk, there is no standing water). Lots of Silverweed and one impressive Musk Thistle (Carduus nutans), preparing to flower but not quite there yet. At this stage the flower-head is, nevertheless, highly impressive. 

After one and a half circuits, variously on ridge and fosse, I walked back across the flat centre of the hill-fort. Nothing much here to see - like most flat-land on chalk, it has built up a neutral top-soil. But I did take a photo of this nice group of Wild Mignonette (Reseda lutea), looking rather more mysterious growing among tall grasses than in the bare waste ground where it's more commonly encountered. 

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