Saturday, 23 August 2014

Sunday, 10th August 2014 Trip Report

Sunday, 10th August 2014 Natural Neighbourhood Watch
in Bathampton
Leader: Simon Potton

The main objective of this event was to get some local residents to come
along for a gentle walk and be introduced to some of the diversity and beauty
of nature within a short distance of their homes. We had a turnout of 7
members and 6 guests, the guests being people who live locally and were
mostly new to this kind of event. This was an encouraging number, given that
some would have been put off by reports that the remains of Hurricane
Bertha were hitting our area that day and others by the wet and windy
weather that had actually arrived. In fact the rain cleared away right on cue
and we enjoyed a wonderfully sunny and fresh afternoon.

We met in the car park of The George pub at Bathampton, where after
introductions and a short scene-setting talk by our President, Dr Alan Rayner,
the Natural Neighbourhood Watch got immediately under way. Alan pointed
out a host of flora within a few metres of where we had gathered, including
Prickly Oxtongue (Helminthotheca echioides), Swine cress, Dandelion, Willow
herb (Chamerion angustifolium), Ragwort and Hedge Mustard. From the car
park we crossed the road to the Churchyard, where we saw a rather fine
Southern Bracket fungus (Ganoderma australe) and the much smaller Coral
Spot fungus (Nectria cinnabarina), which was causing canker on the
Magnolia tree. We then shared lenses to get a close up view of mosses and
lichens growing on headstones. Alan pointed out the wave form visible when
we looked closely at the lichen Caloplaca flavescens. He explained that
lichens are formed through symbiosis of fungi and algae or blue-green
bacteria. As we walked on, we spotted some Creeping Cinquefoil (Potentilla
reptans) with its palmate leaves, growing on a grave (one that happens to
have ancestral significance for the Leader!).

We left the Churchyard and moved onto the canal towpath beside the hump
bridge. Here on the wall of the bridge we found Ivy Leaf Toadflax (Cymbalaria
muralis) with its snapdragon flowers and nearby, Hedge Mustard (Sisymbrium
officinale), Great Willowherb and Pineapple Weed (Matricaria discoidea) (we
sampled the latter’s strong fruity scent).

We proceeded at a gentle pace in the warm sunshine along the towpath in
the direction of Bath, and those more knowledgeable than I pointed out many
plants along the way - Hemp-agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum) growing in
a wall, Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) (which apparently the Romans used
for washing clothing - and it’s quite rare) and growing on or by the actual bank
of the canal, Burdock, Meadowsweet (some was in fruit), Lesser Pond Sedge,


Horseradish and Angelica. Some delicate wild flowers were to be found too Skullcap
(sprig with its tiny blue flowers was passed around), Orange Balsam
(Impatiens capensis) with its distinctive orange-coloured flower and
Gypsywort with attractive white flowers.

We were not focused purely on flora. Although birds seemed not too
much in evidence, Bill Bristow reported he had seen a Sparrowhawk,
and a little farther on some mysterious peeping from the hedgerow was
identified as a fledgling Wren. Some Purple Loosestrife (which is an
insect attractor) had drawn to it Honey bees and Common Carder bees
and nearby we saw a Speckled Wood butterfly. On a smaller scale,
the results of leaf miners’ excavations were observed. The tiny tunnels
we could see on leaves are caused by the larvae of micro moths -it
was explained that you can identify which type of moth by the host plant
and the shape of the tunnels visible on the surface of the leaf. The ones
we saw were on Burdock.

Progress was leisurely, as we stopped frequently to examine newly-
found specimens. From my brief conversation along the way with
guests from the village, they seemed to be enjoying the learning
experience and were surprised at the huge variety of life forms to be
seen in such a small area.

As we neared Candy’s Bridge over the canal, more flora was still
coming to light - Crab apple (Malus sylvestris) (growing on the inward
side of the towpath ), Great Burdock and Trifid Bur-marigold.

We crossed the canal by the bridge and turned back towards the
village, traversing a meadow. Thistle Rust (Rust fungus) (Puccinia
punctiformis) and Coltsfoot Rust were visible on their respective host
plants growing amongst the grass. We also found Himalayan Balsam
(Impatiens glandulifera). When we came across some Horse Chestnut
leaves, we could see on them the results of the Horse Chestnut Leaf
Miner micro moth (Cameraria ohridella). This moth was introduced to
the UK about 12 years ago. We were told that it hitchhikes around the
country (almost literally, as it gets aboard motor vehicles, travels in
them and then alights in a new spot!). Now blue tits have discovered it
as a new food source.

We made our way through the village back towards the canal, stopping
at the old stone water trough known as the Dog’s Head. The Dog’s
Head in question is the carved water spout through which a stream from
the Hampton Down above the village feeds the trough. Scented
Liverwort grows on the trough and we crossed the High Street to
examine it there. We had seen a number of plants whose name


includes ‘wort; and Bill had explained that this indicates it traditionally
had a use (e.g. medicinal).

And here our Nature watch officially ended. It had been a rich
experience and in observing, we had used most of our senses certainly
sight, smell, hearing, and touch. The ‘guests’ from the locality
seemed to have got a lot from the afternoon and I believe that everyone
enjoyed the walk. As Leader I am indebted to Alan Rayner and the
other members who came along for their help in pointing out what was
to be observed and providing a wealth of information, from which I
learned quite as much as our guests.

Simon Potton

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