Box Hill, Box and Johnny Rotten

This is Box (Buxus sempervirens), a shrub found as a native in this country exceedingly rarely. Given its status it is not surprising that two of the areas where it does grow are named after the plant - Boxley in Kent and Box Hill in Surrey. The latter is where I took these pictures this afternoon. The image above captures a mature shrub's rather messy and open appearance - it is the mass of foilage between the two obvious tree trunks. To the left you can see the flower buds. I found very little in open flower. At Box Hill it is a very common species. At this time of year, together with the other evergreen species of Yew, Holly and Ivy, this part of the North Downs stays very green indeed. If you want to see truly wild box then this is the place to wallow in it! Box Hill has a cultural part to play in the life of Londoners. It towers (OK, to us southerners it appears to tower) above the town of Dorking, some twenty miles south of the heart of the capital. It has been known as a beauty spot for many years and has been a place of picknicking and walking to Victorians, Edwardians, baby-boomers and beyond. I can think of two songs (both written by Londoners) that name-check this iconic hill. 'On Box Hill' was written by Ben Watt (one half of Everything But The Girl) and 'The Flowers of Romance' was recorded by Public Image Limited and written by one John Lydon. In this latter song the punk idol sings "I've got binoculars on top of Box Hill". So have I Johnny, so have I...

To round off this mish-mash of natural history, social documentation and modern music, please accept this image of Spurge-laurel, an early flowering species found in deciduous woodland, and common in valleys to the north of Box Hill. I found plenty of it today, including many plants along a 100m strip of woodland at Juniper Bottom. It's one of my favourites.


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