above: The flooded meeting place, engulfed by the River Avon © Helena Crouch

Leader Helena Crouch
Despite an atrocious forecast for strong winds and rain, twelve brave botanists met beside the swirling River Avon for a second New Year Plant Hunt, recording all species found in flower in a maximum of three hours. To the west, the riverside path was completely under water: we headed eastwards.

Ficaria verna by riverside walk, Bath

Celandine (Ficaria verna) – the first flower for our list © Helena Crouch

The first flower, a Celandine (Ficaria verna), was spotted immediately, shortly followed by a Dandelion (Taraxacum agg.), Petty Spurge (Euphorbia peplus), Annual Meadow-grass (Poa annua) and Daisy (Bellis perennis). The Celandine was an early Spring flower, but the other four species flower all year round. Peering over the riverside wall, we added Herb-Robert (Geranium robertianum), Mexican Fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus) and Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber).

In places between Southgate Footbridge and the entrance to the canal, the river was lapping over the path! We found twelve species in flower here, including Oxford Ragwort (Senecio squalidus), Nipplewort (Lapsana communis), a Primrose (Primula vulgaris) and diminutive Rue-leaved Saxifrage (Saxifraga tridactylites).

Sweet Violets (Viola odorata) were flowering along the verge of Spring Gardens Road, from which we headed east towards the canal. On walls, we spotted Yellow Corydalis (Pseudofumaria lutea) and Adria Bellflower (Campanula portenschlagiana) and a car park yielded Red Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) and three species of Speedwell.

Mind-your-own-business (Soleirolia soleirolii) was growing at the edge of a street: a quick search revealed tiny pink flowers on this diminutive member of the Nettle family. We had already seen Nettle (Urtica dioica) and Pellitory-of-the-wall (Parietaria judaica), also in this family.

Petasites pyrenaicus by the K&A Canal

Winter Heliotrope (Petasites pyrenaicus) beside the Kennet & Avon Canal © Helena Crouch

Swathes of Winter Heliotrope (Petasites pyrenaicus) were flowering beside the canal as we headed to Sydney Gardens for warm drinks and lunch at the Holburne Museum, having seen 50 species in flower. Refreshed, our next destination was St Mary’s churchyard, where we found Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca), naturalised Lenten-rose (Helleborus orientalis) and Butcher’s-broom (Ruscus aculeatus), all in flower. From there, we walked through Henrietta Park and across Bath to join the riverside walk via Nelson Street West. Our target was Toothed Medick (Medicago polymorpha) which we found flowering profusely.

By now though, Storm Henk was approaching, with fearsomely strong winds, so we headed back along the river path to town. The grand finale was a beautiful Kingfisher which flew across the river in front of us. We had seen 64 species in flower: our list was joint 14th longest out of over 2000 surveys.

Helena Crouch

The path not taken! The flooded Riverside Walk © Helena Crouch

The path not taken! The flooded Riverside Walk © Helena Crouch