Friday, February 24, 2012


Hello and thank you to everybody who has visited my Sandy Wildlife blog. 
I've recently moved from Bedfordshire to East Kent, so the time has come for me to mothball this little blog and start afresh. My new blog is called Flora Cantiaci and it will be the same format, focussed on British wild flora and fauna. 
Farewell then to Bedfordshire. I'll be back to visit from time to time :-)
But before I go, here are a few random memories from my favourite haunts.......

....the view from The Pinnacle, Sandy on a jolly cold January day.

Frozen flooded fields by The Ivel near New Road, Sandy.

That glorious herald of spring, Tussilago farfara, coltsfoot, growing near a flooded gravel pit by The Ivel.

A blazing congregation of coltsfoot growing at Beeston, thanks to the efforts of Poppy & Roger Cope (Beeston Wildlilfe Group).

Back along the banks of the River Ivel......

... you can find that splendid resident of riverbanks, butterbur, Petasites hybridus. Here is the male flower in March.

Here is the female butterbur flower, which tends to be found in the north if the UK; this spike is in a friend's garden.

Another favoured place to walk is Waresley Wood. It has a ridiculoulsy big carpark and I've never yet been there without being disturbed by dogs off leads; not good for ground nesting birds :-(

This is, I believe, giant horestail, Equisetum telmateia. It's marvellous!

The woods on the clay soils in this part of Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire are famous for their woodland flora, including, oxlips (Primula eliator). I am not an expert on identifying oxlips but here is a perfectly splendid plant of that ilk in Waresley Wood.

The most famous wood in the area is just into Cambridgeshire. Hayley Wood is a stunning ancient woodland, still actively managed as coppice with standards. It's just brilliant to visit in the early spring.

Amongst the many super woodland plants which grow in Hayley, is the curiously distinctive herb Paris (Paris quadrifolia).

Also in Hayley is another favourite of mine, sanicle, Sanicula europaea. Not particularly rare, but cute.

Whilst in Cambridgeshire, I can't not mention the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens. Worth a trip at any time of year. You can't do it all in one trip, there's too much to see. Just fabulous. Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) is an early bloomer.

Closer to home, I've spent hours wandering around Potton Wood. I rarely met anyone else there. In the spring it is carpeted with native bluebells (Hyacinthoides nonscripta).

Potton Wood is another ancient woodland on clay and is crammed with many typical woodland species. Here is bugle, Ajuga reptans.

The wood has wonderfully wide rides (it's managed by the Forestry Commission) which provide habitats for insects like the lovely speckled wood butterfly.....

...and the dark bush cricket.

On the way to Potton Wood I pass a short section of road verge, designated a a nature reserve. Most of the year it is pretty unimpressive and bare, but when the rare meadow clary (Salvia pratensis) is in flower, it's worth a gander :-)

The above woodland sites are east of Sandy. If you head south west there are other treasures to savour. The northern edge of the Chilterns offer a banquet of chalk downland and arable wildflowers. Here is Venus's looking-glass (Legousia hybrida) (I kept missing it in flower!) growing at the edge of an arable field.

The hairy violet (Viola hirta) grows in clumps along a footpath up to the Barton Hills.

Off the chalk, there are also gems to be found in the woods on the greensand ridge. Toothwort (Lathraea squamaria) is a weird achlorophyllous parastitic resident of Chicksands Wood.

Back home I'd wheeze up Swaden on my bicycle, not only for the views off the greensand ridge but to enjoy freewheeling down the hill! From here I'd cycle long the ancient boundary of Hassells Hedge to Tempsford.

Gibraltar Barn (a private site) on the now disused Tempsford airfield was somewhere I loved to sit on balmy days. 

This angel in the churchyard at Everton (back up on the ridge) always reminds me of the baddies in that brilliant Doctor Who episode, Blink.

I was fortunate to live within spitting distance of the RSPB HQ at The Lodge. The gardens are gorgeous. 

Biggleswade Common is not quite as visually pleasing as The Lodge, but I did find a single cottongrass (Eriophorum angustifolium) flowering there a few years back. It hadn't been seen on the site for decades so I was pretty chuffed (a few days later it had been trampled by the cattle). 

I've spent many happy hours standing on Sandy station platform waiting for steam trains to chuff past. There's a fair bit of fennel in the verges near the station, probably escaped from the nearby allotments (which I sincerely hope the local council will reconsider relocating and turning into a graveyard).

Just next to the station, an insignificant little patch of grass shelters another botanical treat, common broomrape, Orobanche minor. No-one seems much interested in it, although the local council were informed. I hope it survives the mowers. 

Down the other end of Stratford Road are some naked ladies; a small patch of autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale). 

And finally, here's another lady, a painted lady, on the Verbena bonariensis in the drive.

And now it's time to go..............