Posted by: Ross Gardner | June 9, 2013

Ups and Downs

A week of warm, fine weather lasts long enough into the weekend to wash the North Kent Downs in bright Saturday sunshine.  The spread of flowery grasslands that swathe some of the steep chalky slopes of the North Downs are a veritable double edge sword.  They can be so rich, textured with a wonderful diversity of plants – the likes of Crosswort, Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Wild Thyme, Milkwort and Salad Burnet, yet all the while though, their coverage is a fragment of what it should be and it is only the steepest and hardest to cultivate areas that have survived the plough.

Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor).  Ross Gardner 2013.

Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor).  Copyright 2013 Ross Gardner.

A sense of realism is essential to our enjoyment and appreciation of the natural world; what we have is so precious and to the future we must look in improving its lot and redressing the imbalances of the past.  But the ethos of this blog has tended to be one of positivity for what we still have rather than of lamentation for past losses and so, for now, it is that lasting sense of wonder that one is left with after wandering among the Downs that will be the point of focus.

I am most fond of the North Downs.  They are less than an hour distant from my Essex home, yet something further away in terms of the often subtle differences (sometimes less so) of the communities of plants that thrive on the Kent chalk and the Essex clay.

Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages).  Copyright 2013 Ross Gardner.

Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages). Copyright 2013 Ross Gardner.

A breeze stirred the sward yesterday, nodding the copious Burnet and Buttercup among the grasses.  The Common Blue skipped among them unperturbed by the occasional gusts.  In the more sheltered corners of Kemsing Down I was hard pushed to remember seeing so many of these butterflies in one go.  Buttercups and Blues I have seen many times before and the Dingy Skipper and Man Orchid were much more unusual compared to the things of my regular wanderings around my home ground.  Here though, was another reminder of how the familiar may retain that potential to surprise, even amidst such diverse treasures as can still be discovered among this fine downland countryside.


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