Thursday, July 7, 2011

Road rapture

One could surmise, that the path alongside the dual carriageway of the A449 north of Worcester is, perhaps, not the most obvious choice for a relaxing evening stroll.

OK there's traffic noise and it's a bit dicey crossing the road, but the verge has some interesting and very pretty plants, so it's worth a few minor discomforts.

Sulphur cinquefoil Potentilla recta 
Sulphur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta) is a very attractive plant with pale lemon (sulphur yellow) petals. It's a neophyte; introduced into the UK in the 17th century and now naturalised.

Restharrow, Ononis repens, is always nice to see.

Restharrow Ononis repens
Old man's beard, Clematis vitalba not only looked good, it smelt good too. No wonder it's called traveller's joy.

Old man's beard, Clematis vitalba
Haresfoot clover (Trifolium arvense) and red clover (Trifolium pratense) graced the edge of the path.
 Haresfoot clover Trifolium arvense 
Red clover Trifolium pratense
Photography was tricky as the light was fading, and every time a vehicle went past the plants were shaken and stirred by the turbulence.

We actually went in search of a rare plant which purportedly grows somewhere along this stretch of verge; Dianthus armeria, Deptford pink. As it was evening the flowers would have been closed-up, but I was still frustrated I couldn't find it (and I was pretty sure I was in more or less the right place).

This verge is apparently being managed specifically for the Deptford pinks, the only population of this nationally rare species in Worcestershire. Pinks are susceptible to shading and competition from other vegetation, i.e. no scrub. They also require occasional ground disturbance. Perhaps I wasn't in the right place after all?

The verge was meant to be cleared of scrub by the Highways Agency before being handed over to the County Council a few years back (so says this spreadsheet report here. It's an annoying format; you need to scroll down to DA39). Here are the most recent (the only ones I could find) site assessments from the DEFRA report:

2004: The population has not yet recovered following the dumping of rubble. Scrub has been cleared, but there has been much regrowth of Ulmus procera and Crataegus monogyna. A programme of drastic scrub removal and disturbance is needed.

2005: Site in better condition than in any year since 1998! >20 flowering plants. More scrub clearance required.

2006: Scrub still there in large quantities - have recommend [sic] more clearance. Seed collected and sent to MSB [Millennium Seed Bank]. Managing agents have promised to clear scrub, and raise non-compliance on plants strimmed around road sign.

I really hope I was in the wrong place? I'll go back tomorrow (weather permitting) and look again, as I know the plants are there somewhere.

The verge is near Hawford (GPS GR SO 8446460459), which is a small hamlet, north of Worcester, on the Droitwich Canal.

A report from the Worcestershire Biological Record Centre in 1998 is here.

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