Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Down to the sea again

Once a year, I get the chance to wander around East Kent, with my increasingly shabby but much loved copy of Rose* (I imagine I look more like a botanist if I have a well thumbed id book) and my (underused) loupe. I tend keep up-to-date with all things Kentical Botanical via Kingsdowner's excellent blog. As a non-Kent resident I haven't invested in the excellent new botanical atlas. Perhaps I'll get a copy next time I am down in August.

My annual sojourn by the sea is courtesy of my sister's cat, for whom I cat-sit in June each year. I am unclear in this instance, who is looking after who. But we get on OK. I sleep all night and go out all day, and put food down when I'm told to. She sleeps all day and goes out all night, and tells me when to put down food. We pass on the stairs twice a day.

The drive there is always a wretched bore being via the M25 and M2 (or M20, which I prefer). The journey was not so bad this time and once I'd emptied the car, and said 'Bye' to sis & 'Hi' to bemused furry housemate, I zipped off to the National Trust for ice cream and a walk along the cliffs.

Dover looked grand, as ever.

The skies were blue but the pesky wind made trying to take taking photos of plants infuriating. I managed kidney vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria) & viper's bugloss (Echium vulgare).

It was pretty busy at the NT, and the grassland looked quite grazed, so I headed off to St Margaret's free down. Ahh. Bliss. The views to Kingsdown & beyond are gorgeous.

A sward of sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia) was teetering on the cliff edge, ditto for some yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris).

Yellow-wort (Blackstonia perfoliata) wasn't open and the meadow salsify (Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon) (Tragopogon pratensis) was in bed. I did find one J-g-t-b-a-n just emerging with elegant curly leaves.

Both these plants were noted by botanists in the 19th century growing around here (according to a little gem I found on Google books: MH Cowell (1839) A Floral Guide for East Kent: Being a Record of the Habitats of Indigenous Plants Found in the Eastern Division). Here is the clip from p73 'From Dovor to Sandwich by the coast'.

Chlora perfoliata is now Blackstonia perfoliata. So I see Kingsdowner has some work to do finding those burnt orchids (Orchis ustulata now Neotinea ustulata), noted by the ertswhile Victorian botanical blogger, 'Miss H', between St Margaret's & Kingsdown.

At the edge of the crop I found field madder (Sherardia arvensis) & what I think is narrow-fruited cornsalad (Valerianella dentata) (there were no fruits but the leaves looked right).

Field madder (Sherardia arvensis)

Narrow-fruited cornsalad (Valerianella dentata)

And that is just a snippet of day one!

*Francis Rose (2006) The Wild Flower Key (Revised)


  1. Alas it's been many a long year since Burnt Tip Orchid has been seen on the cliffs. It reminds me, though, to have another look at Lydden where it was seen relatively recently.

    Interesting link to Mr Cowell's book. I've bookmarked the scan for further research, and will go see it in book form at Dover library.

  2. They have Mr Cowell's book on sale on Amazon in various formats, incl. paperback facsimile for about £7. Annoyingly when I searched on Amazon, using 'Cowell' & 'Kent' as my search terms, the 9th and 10th links to come up were pictures of Simon Cowell on sale for £9. Nuff said.