Friday, April 13, 2012

A walk in the wildwood: Gorsehill Wood

(This follows on from my previous post about a walk to St Radigund's Abbey near Dover)

With evening getting on, we decided we still had time to take a peak in Gorsehill Wood. We entered the wood from the footpath at Grid Ref TR 27673 42218. A public footpath leads through the wood. The information panel whetted the appetite for a return visit.....

...lady orchid (Orchis purpurea), violet helleborine (Epipactis purpurata), herb Paris (Paris quadrifolia)? Yes please :-)))

Gorsehill Wood is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI); Alkham, Lydden & Swingfield Wood complex. It's a mix of ancient lowland oak and ash coppice woodland.

Immediately we entered the wood we noticed common twayblade (Neottia ovata) all over the place. I've never seen so many, looking so lush :-)

Twayblade is so called because it has a single pair (tway) of leaves (blades). It's an all-green orchid (well the flowers are sort of yellowy-green). It's related to lesser twayblade (Neottia cordata - a plant I saw in Teesdale) and the achlorophyllus bird's nest orchid (Neottia nidus-avis - here's a blog I wrote way back in 2009).

The oval leaves looked lovely in the evening sunlight. The flower spike is just starting to grow.

The wood is very attractive with an open, airy structure. It looks actively and sensitively managed. 

Woodland management, Gorsehill Wood

Charcoal burner, Gorsehill Wood

The woodland floor was littered with spring flowers (the light was getting pretty poor so these are pictures taken elsewhere). Along the path we found wood anemone Anemone nemorosa ...

...English bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta...

and dog violet Viola riviniana - called 'dog' because it lacks the perfume of the sweet violet (Viola odorata) much beloved of perfumers.

Other species included dog's mercury (Mercularis perennis) and bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg).

As the path reached the edge of the wood we saw glimpses of Chilton Farm in the valley.

By the path was the blotchy rosette of the chalk-loving common spotted orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii - or is it an early purple (Orchis mascula) rosette? The purple blotches look transverse so I plumped for common spotted at first. (Francis Rose says early purple has lengthwise blotches and common spotted transverse blotches.) We'll have to come back next month to see what it is when it's in flower. But who needs an excuse to return here?

We also found a number of deformed wood spurge plants (Euphorbia amygdaloides). Phil Gates recently wrote a blog on the bacterium which causes these deformations; Rhodococcus fascians is a leaf gall bacterium which upsets the hormonal balance in the plant, causing this crazy growth pattern. 

Why is wood spurge called amygdaloides? Amygdala means 'almond-shaped'. Is it from the leaf-shape? I did find one reference in an 18th century gardener's dictionary to 'almond-leaved wood spurge' :-)

The walk back to the car followed a public path along the lower edge of Gorsehill Wood. Chilton Farm sits in the valley. They appear to have their own butchers in Folkestone.  

The cattle were grazing peacefully in the last rays of the evening sun. It was an idyllic rural scene.

But, before I close, I feel that these pulchritudinous sheep are worthy of a short indulgence.

Are they South Downs? 

Who me?

This one reminded me a bit of a Herdwick.

Hey! Wait a minute! This is grass. We've been eating grass! 

Further Information
Gorsehill Wood
Location map here
SSSI citation here
A history of Gorsehill Wood here
The owners of the wood run a woodland products company called Sylvatica selling seasoned ash logs, lumpwood charcoal, chestnut rustic fencing, etc.. A sustainable enterprise which will keep this woodland alive. Their website is here.

Sheep Breeds
The National Sheep Association has a Sheep Breeds A-Z (ignore the 'Sorry there are no sheep breeds available at the moment. Please check back soon' - there just aren't any breeds listed begnining with A). I thought South Downs was the closest match.

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