US social scientist Kenneth Boulding : ‘If you believe exponential growth can go on in a finite world, you are either a madman or an economist’.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

18/9/10: 'The Old Orchard' south of Hall Place, east of the A2

Another visit to the scrubland south of the railway track that runs past Hall Place, on some maps called the 'Old Orchard'. I spent a bit of time here watching the trains go by when I was a teenager. In those days (the mid 70s) people used to dig here for old bottles, so I presume it was a Victorian rubbish dump. Now it has a diverse - if somewhat eclectic - flora with large bushes, medium-sized trees and some areas of thin soil, sparse vegetation and rubble, backed by oak woodland on what I assume is the southern valley side of the River Cray floodplain.

Crayford 'Old Orchard' scrubland, looking south-east to the oak-covered ridge

Noticeable today - having 'clocked' it for the first time on a recent LNHS trip to Bookham - was a lot of Red Bartsia, a plant I've not found in Bexley Borough before. There were still a few flowers hanging on.

There were Common Toadflax, a few pale cream Lucerne x Sickle Medick hybrids, two Asparagus, four Lesser Swine Cress, Hop and a lot of Common St. John's-wort, the latter in flower. A single, 'dwarfed' plant of Upright Hedge Parsley was found in a rabbit-grazed patch. Other singletons were a Hoary Ragwort and a Vervain. A few Marjoram plants were still in bloom, both pale purple-violet and white variants. Geranium rotundifolium was noted, and several Geranium pyrenaicum occurred along the track between the railway and pumping station towards Crayford. Shrubs included a Spindle, Dogwood and Sloe. Field Maple was also present. A few clusters of fungi were also noted.

Common Toadflax on a mound, looking north to the ridge atop Gravel Hill on the horizon

Subtle colours of some fungal fruiting bodies

Deciding to explore more of the site than previously, I eventually headed up a track at the west end of the site, parallel to the A2 Rochester Way (which veers slightly more westward as the Dartford by-pass), which eventually led to a scrappy industrial site at the southern end of the remains of the original Rochester Way. A large White Poplar had fallen across the track, which was bordered on each side by non-native, planted shrubs and trees - including saplings of False Acacia and Tree of Heaven.

Fallen White Poplar with attractive lenticel pattern on the trunk

Towards the industrial estate I found some open ground smothered in Common Stork's-bill. There were also several Wild Parsnip and some Soapwort. Just before the estate were a couple of suspected non-native grasses and, the the northern end of the old Rochester Way, some Ribbed Melilot.

Looking rather like reed Canary Grass, the flowers of this largish unidentified species were far spikier

Round the corner, by the road into the industrial area, were Small Ranunculus moth caterpillars on Prickly Lettuce.

By poking about in an unpromising-looking, shady, shallow sandy pit where rubble etc. had been dumped some time ago, I found a single plant of Stone Parsley which I believe to be uncommon in the Borough, also Greater Celandine and the herbs Spearmint, Lemon Balm and Feverfew.

Further on was a larger, open sandpit with a couple of Vervain, some Wild Carrot, a few Sheep's Sorrel and a self-sown Snowberry.

After some more persistence I came across an out-of the-way track atop a south-facing steep sandy bank, overlooking a housing estate. This had several large Broom plants on it, and most interestingly, it was smothered with Hare's-foot Clover, a definite London rarity, and also lots of mining bee nests holes. A good end to the afternoon, by which time there wasn't enough light to take a decent picture on my mobile phone camera.

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