This year’s NYPH ran from Sat 30th December to Tuesday 2nd Jan. Looking at the weather forecast, Saturday 30th looked to be the best option. I walked a similar route to previous years, taking in known ‘hotspots’ such as East Chiltington churchyard, and the paths and verges around the racecourse.
I’m a regular volunteer at Ashurst Organics so, with permission from the owners, I started my plant hunt in the veg fields north of Streat ridge. As expected, there were plenty of arable ‘weeds’ in flower, including Common Field Speedwell, Groundsel and Red Dead-nettle. I also spotted the rather less common Treacle Mustard and Corn Spurrey. This last plant is officially listed as Vulnerable, in decline due to changing agricultural practices. It is abundant, however, in the herbicide-free Ashurst fields.
Walking back towards the racecourse, I spotted a bright yellow Lesser Celandine and saw several more during my walk. Last year, I didn’t see any celandines until early February.
I followed the footpath through Ashurst Farm towards Plumpton College, recording hazel catkins, and primroses, as well as daisies and dandelions in the otherwise perfectly manicured grass verges near the college.
I then headed up the bostal opposite the college and found a near-perfect red campion flower. Although red campion blooms all year round, the flowers are usually fairly bedraggled at this time of year. Following the path across to Plumpton Bostal and then heading down towards the Half Moon, I found Herb Robert, Hogweed and Cocksfoot grass in flower.
Taking the footpath that runs on the bank parallel to the B2216, I identified the scent of the next plant well before I saw it. Spurge Laurel is related to the winter-flowering garden Daphnes and has lovely fragrant yellow-green flowers.
I then headed along Novington Lane towards East Chiltington but saw nothing else in flower until I turned into Chapel Lane, when I found some Cow Parsley in bloom.
Then to East Chiltington church and a single Sweet Violet flower, the first of many that will emerge in the next couple of months. There was a large clump of Winter Heliotrope at the entrance to the churchyard, a couple of straggly Smooth Hawksbeard flowers by the gate, and a few bright blue Germander Speedwell flowers just inside.
I was surprised to see a cluster of fresh looking Bush Vetch flowerheads in the hedgerow west of the church.
Time ticking by, I hurried back towards the racecourse, adding Gorse and Hairy Bittercress to my list before the three hours were up.
Looking at my list of species, 11, including Daisies and Dandelions, are ‘All Year Rounders’; 10 can be considered ‘Autumn Stragglers’, such Hogweed and Bush Vetch, still hanging on from last season; 3 are winter flowering species that we could expect to find in flower at this time of year, and 4, including Sweet Violet and Lesser Celandine, are early examples of ‘Spring Specialists’.
I found a total of 28 species in flower this year, compared to 22 on 2nd Jan 2017, and 16 on 1st Jan 2016. I don’t think this tells us anything more than that I am much better at spotting and identifying wildflowers than I was two years ago!
All year rounders
Common Field Speedwell
Annual Meadow Grass