We are the Local Environment Group for the area around Prestwood in Buckinghamshire, including Great Missenden,
The Hampdens, The Kingshills, North Dean and Speen
We aim to protect and enhance the quality of the natural environment through the involvement of local people.
Flowering Plants: Meadows
Grass Vetchling is abundant in some meadows from Denner Hill north to Hampden Bottom. Rest-harrow grows in several fields, especially Flowers Bottom at Speen, and Pignut unfailingly picks out the old meadows like Haypole, Widmere Field and others.
Rare remains of old hay meadows on somewhat acid soils may still contain an interesting mix of plants including Betony, Devilsbit Scabious, Cowslip, Common Bistort, Crested Dogstail grass and Creeping Soft-grass - for instance the Haypole, Prestwood, a field beside the Old Rectory at Great Hampden, and Great Hampden churchyard. Ragged Robin may once have grown amongst these plants, too, but it was eradicated by road-widening from its last natural site, although a good patch of it grows by a minor road at Frith Hill where it was presumably introduced. Yellow Rattle may also have been frequent in such meadows at one time, but only survives in one private meadow on the western edge of Prestwood, where there also grows a patch of Common Star-of-Bethlehem, apparently native. A particularly unusual meadow type, on unproductive plateau clays beside Collings Hanger Farm, has a large colony of Corky-fruited Water-dropwort at its only site in the county, growing with Common Knapweed.
More calcareous meadows on Denner Hill have little Meadow Cranesbill left after intensive agricultural use, but the plant survives along the Hampden Road at the base of the hill and along the London Road south from Great Missenden, when not devastated by road-maintenance gangs. Meadows that have been used as cow pasture occasionally contain relics of plants like Sainfoin and Lucerne that were grown as fodder (eg Stony Green, Denner Hill). Similarly, Comfrey was introduced around the time of the last world war to the field that is now Perks Lane Picnic Site, in this case as fodder for goats, and it still grows there today. It may have been around this time, too, that Fragrant Agrimony obtained a toehold here, currently out-competing Common Agrimony with the goats long gone. Common Valerian, at its only local site, grows just outside this nature reserve, which is famous for its Cowslips, numbering over 100,000 plants. (As primroses also grow here, one can normally find plenty of their hybrids with cowslip – False Oxlip – and many complicated back-crosses providing an interesting spectrum between pure cowslip and pure primrose.) Ploughman’s Spikenard and Musk Thistle grow in similar meadows on Hampden Bottom Farm. A good example of long-grass calcareous meadow is at Flowers Bottom, Speen, where Kidney Vetch grows (supporting small blue butterflies) and Hairy Rock-cress similarly has its only local site. Common Broomrape, which lives parasitically on the roots of clover, is unpredictable and sporadic in appearance, but is still regularly recorded in certain fields.
These meadows on chalk verge into the short-grass sheep pastures of old (though the sheep have now gone and their survival is now up to rabbits or sympathetic landowners). These grasslands are usually characterised by Wild Strawberry, Yellow-wort, Eyebright, Dwarf Thistle, Fairy Flax, Salad Burnet, Milkwort, Marjoram, Wild Basil and Burnet-saxifrage, but many still have less common flowers as well. The Perks Lane reserve is one of the best local examples, with Sweetbriar, Long-stalked Cranesbill, Chiltern & Autumn Gentians, Common Calamint, Basil Thyme, Chalkhill Eyebright, Kidney Vetch and Clustered Bellflower, as well as several types of orchid and what may be a native patch of the rare Lesser Meadow-rue. Nearby Stonygreen Bank also has clustered bellflowers, along with plenty of Small Scabious. Large Wild Thyme grows on recovering chalk grassland near the Perks Lane reserve. Similar chalk field-edges at Hampden Farm support Common Rock-rose and Blue Fleabane, as well as many of the above. A declining chalkhill site at Bryants Bottom still has some interest, such as Lesser Hawkbit and lots of Cowslips and Pyramidal Orchids, but badly needs sensitive management. PN has recently surveyed two new sites on private land with good surviving chalk floras and is working with the landowners to try to prevent excessive scrub invasion - one has a large colony of Chiltern Gentians and Wild Thyme, and the other is the only site locally where Meadow Clary still hangs on.
Harebell has an odd distribution, choosing both very calcareous and very acid sites. It used to grow at Perks Lane Picnic Site, but is now confined to a few populations on acid soils, as at Widmere Field and Prestwood Parish Churchyard. The old grass-heaths that characterised the commons, however, have long gone and with them most of the characteristic flora. No more will one find Heath Dog-violet (and its hybrid with Common Dog-violet), although both were common a hundred years ago. Even Heather survives only in small quantity at Prestwood Parish Churchyard, having probably died out now at its only other recent station in Lodge Wood (along with Stagshorn Clubmoss, which disappeared in the 1970s).
Further information: Survey of Corky-fruited Water-dropwort at Prestwood
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