On a warm summer’s day, eight members met in Farrington Gurney for a visit to Hollow Marsh Meadow. As we walked down Pitway Lane, we saw Goldfinches and Swallows and heard a Yellowhammer. Six species of butterfly were spotted in the lane: Red Admiral, Large White, Gatekeeper, Small Copper, Meadow Brown and Ringlet. In the ditch along the edge of a field, a stand of Greater Pond-sedge (Carex riparia) was seen, and a leaf collected for comparative purposes later.
Hollow Marsh Meadow is a Somerset Wildlife Trust reserve and part of Long Dole Wood and Meadows SSSI. It is an example of unimproved neutral grassland, maintained by grazing, although there was no evidence of grazing so far this year. Betony (Betonica officinalis) was flowering profusely, with Devil’s-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) just coming out. Many different species of grass were found in flower, and we soon added Marbled White, Small Skipper and Green-veined White to our list of butterflies. A ditch crosses the meadow, where we saw Purple Loostrife (Lythrum salicaria), Fool’s Watercress (Apium nodiflorum) and Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga). A large stand of Lesser Pond-sedge (Carex acutiformis) was examined, and the ligule compared with of the leaf from C. riparia. A patch of Dyer’s Greenweed (Genista tinctoria) in full flower was admired and a few plants of Saw-wort (Serratula tinctoria) were found. The western end of Hollow Marsh Meadow is clearly more acidic, supporting Purple Moor-grass (Molinia caerulea) and much Tormentil (Potentilla erecta). We found a single plant of Sneezewort (Achillea ptarmica) and many more leaves of Saw-wort.
The adjacent field, Long Dole Meadow, is part of the SSSI and is maintained as a species-rich hay meadow. It is a stunning sight, purple with Knapweed, Devil’s-bit Scabious and Betony: it was thus disappointing to find that it had already been cut for hay, probably the previous day! A remaining corner indicated just how attractive it had been and here we added Silver-washed Fritillary, Peacock, Comma and Speckled Wood to our butterfly list.
After lunch, we set off to explore Chewton Wood. Along the main ride, stunning patches of Wood Vetch (Vicia sylvatica) were seen. The rides are maintained with wide verges, providing a diversity of flowers to encourage insects. We saw ten species of butterfly along the main ride, adding Brimstone and Holly Blue to our list, as well as Scarlet Tiger Moth. Pausing at a junction we watched a family of four busy little Wrens. A mycological diversion was provided by a patch of grass found to be suffering from Choke: white mycelial collars which form around the tillers, later turning orange as they produce spores. A whitethroat was singing as we left the wood. Returning along Pitway Lane, we added a Small Tortoiseshell to our butterfly list, taking the total to 16 species plus Scarlet Tiger Moths.