One of the downsides of watching (or checking) an area over a number of years is that you sometimes observe a slow (and at times sudden) demise of a species. My visit to Epsom Downs this morning (un)helpfully illustrated this.
I have known a spot at the base of Juniper Hill where Early Purple Orchids grow - not many spikes, but reliably flowering each April. A half-hearted attempt last year failed to find any, and today's more thorough visit had the same outcome. In fact, where I was hoping to find the orchids I was confronted by a mound of dumped soil. Now gone?
Another place I checked was an area of compacted, stony ground, at the northern end of the downs. This is where I can expect to find Rue-leaved Saxifrage (below). Year on year there are fewer plants. Today there were fewer still. How much longer will this species keep a toe-hold here?