Saturday, August 26, 2006

Some plants by the river Line

The pictures above show a few of the plants that grow by the river Line. On the brickwork of the bridge in Whatlington Road I found the lichen Ochrolechia parella (kindly identified by Simon Davey, the Sussex Lichen Recorder).

To the east there are the characteristic trees that line the river, alder and willow. The willows are a form of the crack willow, Salix fragilis, and every time the breeze blows, as in the picture, the leaves ruffle over in a silvery shivering cat's-paw.

The river Line

My next walk took me down Whatlington Road to its lowest point at the river Line. This is little more than a small stream, but at least it is permanently flowing when other small streams in the neighbourhood are now only winterbournes.

Whatlington Village Hall stands beside the river as does their splendid village sign (I remember my friends in the old government Department of Transport used to call such things 'confirmation of arrival' signs).

The river Line rises about five kilometres to the west on the borders of Netherfield and Mountfield parishes and it then flows across a variety of strata including the Purbeck limestone which must make the water quite hard, unusually for the Sussex Weald. To the east it changes to the river Brede at Sedlescombe and joins the Rother at Rye. I think the word 'Line' is probably quite ancient - pre-Saxon and maybe even pre-Celtic. Even if there is no substance in it, I like to reflect that the people who lived here at the time Stonehenge was built might have used a word like 'Line' for this little river and successive generations have simply gone on using it.

The banks of this small stream are lined with alder and willow and rich in waterside vegetation. There is also a good dragonfly population,including the very attractive beautiful demoiselle, Calopteryx virgo.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Whatlington church and churchyard

On my next expedition to TQ7618 I stopped in a small lay-by on Whatlington Road and walked up to Norman church, a tranquil, classically English spot well-hidden from view and probably rather seldom visited.

As with all churchyards I was able to make many new records for the grid
square and wished I had had a lichenologist with me as the walls and gravestones were particularly rich in these plants. The photo shows an example of Diploicia canescens, a common species kindly identified for me by our Sussex lichen recorder Simon Davey.

To the east of the church there was a vineyard with the rows of grape vines stretching neatly down to the Line valley. The quality of the wine may improve (not that I know what it is like now) if the climate gets warmer, but I think it will be small compensation for all the problems it might bring. As it is wine-making in England seems to be a rather precarious way of trying to make a living.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Midsummer Grove

Right at the top of my grid square the map shows the kind of public footpath few would trouble to take (see here). It seems just to be a nondescript short cut across the top of a field from Whatlington Road to the A21.

There is a lay by where this path joins Whatlington Road and, on Midsummer's Day, I ascended the bank to discover that the path led in one direction out into the barley field, but had a short spur leading into a grove of trees in a circular basin, possibly a long-forgotten pond. In the centre there was a small elder tree in full bloom.

Finding a grove such as this on Midsummer Day had a pagan chime about it and it does show that following even the most obscure footpaths can reveal interesting places. A few days later I went there again with our son Charles and brought a piece of decaying birch log away with me to see if I can breed any insects from it. So far the only species to emerge is the fly Rhinophora lepida, a parasitoid of woodlice.

The top picture shows the view from the Midsummer Grove towards the south east.