Sunday, 2 July 2017

Middle Barton

Another successful recording meeting in SP42 last Sunday (apologies for the delayed write-up). After all those records from TVERC the hectad now looks relatively well recorded, but there were still no recent records from Middle Barton Fen SSSI (SP42N), so recording this site was the goal. With just three attendants we were able to cover ground quickly, getting round the site in good time so as to be able to also fit in a thorough bashing of SP42M.

Initially it didn't look positive that'd we get access to the SSSI so we wandered across nearby improved pasture. We made some surprising finds here on the slope above the fen, the first of which was Filipendula vulgaris (dropwort). There were also several rosettes of Cirsium acaule (dwarf thistle) and clumps of Ononis spinosa (spiny rest-harrow). The best find was Alchemilla filicaulis (hairy lady's-mantle), known at only four sites in the county and not seen at Middle Barton since 1987. After this splendid discovery access was confirmed to the SSSI!

The SSSI along a shallow valley of a small stream is in unfavourable condition, with much of it rank and overgrown with Filipendula ulmaria (meadowsweet). There was a little Dactylorhiza maculata (heath spotted orchid) in this vegetation, but the grazed neutral grassland on the valley slope was in good condition with plenty of nice plants, including Briza media (quaking grass), Dactylorhiza fuchsii (common spotted-orchid), Galium verum (lady's bedstraw), Potentilla erecta (tormentil), Poterium sanguisorba (salad burnet) and Succisa pratensis (devil's-bit scabious).

Another field within the SSSI still supported the distinctive fen meadow community dominated by Juncus subnodulosus (blunt-flowered rush) and Carex acutiformis (lesser pond sedge). Here the vivid green of rush and sedge foliage was splashed with the brighter colours of F. ulmaria and Silene flos-cuculi (ragged robin), as well as a mass of the pale straw-coloured inflorescences of J. subnodulosus. There was also an abundance of the scarce Valeriana dioica (marsh valerian), the un-valerian-like basal leaves forming an understorey to the rushes.

As we'd finished looking round the fen by lunchtime we next headed to SP42M which had only 80-odd post-2000 records. This tetrad supported a decent diversity of habitats, with wooded lanes, road verges, hedges, a churchyard, grassland and small streams with fenny areas, and we found a respectable 193 taxa. This bumped the tetrad comfortably over the 200 mark, including a few near-threatened species such as Knautia arvensis and relatively scarce ones such as Ranunculus fluitans (stream water-crowfoot).

For the next meeting on the 9th July we'll be back in SP42, returning to SP42Z. We were there way back in May and this time we'll be surveying Bestmoor SSSI which holds a large population of the nationally scarce Oenanthe silaifolia (narrow-leaved water-dropwort). Supposedly there are tens of thousands of plants and as well as count these I've been asked to survey the vegetation — I'll therefore be needing lots of help should you be able to spare a Sunday!