A member of the society, Helen Price, was inspired by Isobel Clark’s lovely photographs, featured on our Wildflower Cards, and requested these walks. As with other guided walks, this was a wonderful opportunity to take a closer look at some of the amazing things on our Commons that so many of us pass on a daily basis but which, all too often, go unnoticed. The walks generated so much interest that Isobel very kindly ran two sessions and we hope that she will be persuaded to run others in the future for those of you who missed out this time.
On May 3rd, after a wet morning, the afternoon faired up so that about a dozen of us could go on the first of the walks. Isobel had her copies of “Wild Herbs of Britain and Europe” and The Complete Guide to Wild Flowers” with her. These were very useful for identifying wildflowers and describing their uses in cooking and/or in medicine. There are many similarly useful books and it is worth looking for one that has the plants coded by colour for easier identification. One wonderful book is Wild Flowers by Sarah Raven – certainly not one you could carry about on the Commons though!
We met up by the Cricket pitch and within a few yards were able to see several species including Comfrey; White Dead Nettle; and Ground Ivy. Isobel also encouraged us to have a closer look at flowering trees and shrubs. The magnificent Horse Chestnut, which is near to the Millennium Bench and planted in 1937 to commemorate King George VI’s coronation, was in full glory as were nearby Blackthorns and further down Apples. The children who came on the10th May walk described the Horse Chestnut and the hidden den and swing under its canopy as “epic”. As we walked along, Isobel also drew our attention to the blossom of Oaks and Hornbeams which aren’t nearly so obvious, but lovely nevertheless.
One really good feature of the walks was not only seeing the flowers themselves but that Isobel and other participants were able to discuss other features of the Commons and the interrelations of plants; insects and works done on the Commons. One example of this was that, across the road from the Cricket Pitch, we saw a few Cuckoo Flowers and David Dennis was on hand to show us that an Orange Tip butterfly had laid an egg on the underside of one of the flowers. These tiny eggs start off white before turning bright orange after a few days. David explained that the female will only lay one egg on a flower as the caterpillars are cannibalistic and will eat any that are smaller than they are.
Further along we admired the carpet of Wild Garlic (Ramsons) just near to Post Office Cottages. This is particularly spectacular this year since the area was cleared in the Autumn by our Conservation Group . This was a good example of work undertaken by our volunteers, which has had the beneficial knock-on effect of allowing these wild flowers to flourish. The Wild Garlic will give way to what should later be a picture of Rosebay Willow Herb.