Monday, June 27, 2011

Sandpits, Sand Lane, Sandy

One thing we have a lot of in Sandy is, oddly enough, sand. 
The old name for Sandy, Sandeia apparently means, sand island.  

Sandy is on the River Ivel, which wends its way through the Oxford clays of the valley and joins the Great Ouse at Tempsford a few miles north. The town sits at the edge of the Greensand Ridge, which passes for an 'upland' in this part of the world (and when I am on my bike I can certainly vouch for that).

The Romans knew a good place to set up camp when they saw one, and bronze artefacts and coins pop up in the cemetery down the road and my neighbours have fragments of Samian Ware which they've dug up in their gardens (sadly not in our backyard to date....). 

Bedfordshire is littered with old sand & gravel pits, which make very interesting areas to explore.
Disused pit, Sand Lane, Cox Hill, Sandy
Today I walked to the disused pit north of Sand Lane (GR TL 177 494), just outside the town. It's used by local people for recreation. The most interesting part of the site is where the clay has been exposed by the workings.
Clay exposed at the north side of the site.
Cudweeds were everywhere, both common (Filago vulgaris) and small (Filago minima). Much overlooked but very beautiful woolly, little plants.
Common cudweed Filago vulgaris (and small interloper of unknown id)
Small cudweed Filago minima 
There were a few yellow-wort in flower and common centaury, was, well, common.
Yellow-wort Blackstonia perfoliata 
Common centaury Centaurium erythraea (with curly anthers)
The delicate flowers of blue fleabane were dotted about here and there.
Blue fleabane Erigeron acer
There used to be a couple of blue fleabane plants down our road but they have succumbed to local council 'verge management' (I use the word 'management' cautiously).
To fully appreciate the more diminutive plants on display, the botanical prayer position was obligatory, but worth the effort.
Birdsfoot Ornithopus perpusillus
Buckshorn plantain Plantago coronopus
Other plants included thyme-leaved sandwort, sheep's sorrel, mouse-ear hawkweed and self-heal. Gorse seed pods were popping in the heat. 
The most unusual and striking plant on this site is, I think, Carline thistle (Carlina vulgaris). It isn't in flower just yet but its spiny rosettes were in evidence.
 Carline rosettes in a lichen bed (Cladonia app.)
Carline thistle (Carlina vulgaris) in bud.
I am impatient for them to flower. Here are some shots I took in August a couple of years back. 

Carline thistle in flower, Sandy, August 2009
At the moment, I can't leave the house without finding bee orchids, and today was no exception. 6 flowering spikes were blooming just north of the pits in woodland by a pond. 


  1. HI

    What a beautiful article, i can see you really enjoy your walks through this area. I also enjoyed your photos of the flowers and plants you found on your way. If you have allot of sand a great experiment is to graft roses using different colored roses, great fun. thanks for your article.

  2. Thanks Ben, I see you like sand too! Mel