Thursday, 25 January 2018
After the dark deluge of yesterday it was a welcome return to dry and sunny weather. Where better to spend the morning than on Mickleham Downs. In the image above you are looking at the steep south/south-eastern slope, covered largely in beech, box, holly and yew. It is the haunt of Bird's-nest Orchid, Wild Candytuft, Stinking Hellebore, Marsh Tit and - now and again - Hawfinch. Above the trees, and out of your view, is an open flat hill top of short grassland, beloved of chalk downland flowers. Although there is hardly a trace now, this hilltop (known today as 'The Gallops',) has a history of settlement, from the Bronze Age through to farms that were created at the time of the Roman invasion.
From roughly where I took the top photograph was a big clump of Butcher's Broom (pictured above). This is a strange plant, as what appear to be the leaves are in fact flattened stems (the true leaves being but papery scales that can be seen in the first picture). The bottom image shows the tiny flowers in the middle of the flattened stems. The whole shrub is of a stiff and rigid build, and back in the mists of time the branches were cut and bundled together to create crude brooms (and not just used by butchers I'd guess).
Bird-wise, very quiet save for a few Marsh Tits and several vocal Common Buzzards. As for the 'H' bird, not a sniff...