Wild Marjoram

Wild Marjoram (Origanum vulgare) is one of the most prolific wild herbs in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve and becomes dominant in the undisturbed meadow section after the Yellow Rattle has finished flowering. The plant likes to grow on dry grassland on calcareous soils. The stems are often reddish. The flower buds when small are a deep reddish purple, but as the buds open the petals are seen to be a much paler pinkish-purple. It has a pleasantly aromatic smell and it often forms large swathes in the grass, alongside other scented wild flowers like Lady’s Bedstraw.

Yellow Rattle

Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) is a small flowering plant which you might easily overlook, but in the CD Nature Reserve it is the most abundant plant in the wild area nearest to the pond. It is semi-parasitic on the roots of other plants. Yellow rattles are known to grow in undisturbed meadows and stabilised dunes. In our area the plants are never reaching their full height or vigour as in other places I have visited (like the sand dunes of Oxwich Bay in South Wales). They reach about 6 or 7 inches and are very crowded together amongst the grass and other vegetation. The flowers are yellow and have leaf-like bracts with a distinctive triangular shape and serrated edges. The common name alludes to the inflated capsules that develop when the flowers are done. The ripe seeds will actually rattle in the dried brown pods.

Click on any image to enlarge.

CD Countryside Views 3

It was a lovely July morning and I thought I would venture across the main road at the top of the village to admire views from the slopes of Charlton Higher Down now that the crops are all ripening and the colours so different since my last visit. When I arrived at the place I was aiming to explore, I was disappointed to find that the farmer was spraying a field, and it seemed unwise to be too close. I ventured a short distance in the opposite direction but the path petered out and I could still smell the spray. So I walked back the way I came.

Knapweed

The purplish-pink fine-petalled flowers of Common Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) are starting to open up in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve. They look a bit like thistles among the taller grasses. The flower buds look strange with their dark brown spikey bracts. Insects love the flowers.

Field of Peas

Pictures from a walk yesterday afternoon into the fields around Charlton Down, towards the River Cerne where it borders onto a large field on sloping ground where the farmer has planted a crop of Field Peas. I think that they are being grown for animal feed but at the same time will help fertilise the soil because legumes fix nitrogen from the air and store as a compound in the roots. I haven’t seen peas as a crop here before. This field had barley last year. I really like the way the skies seen so expansive over the fields, and the cloud formations were wonderful.

Nature Reserve Flowers

Our local Charlton Down Nature Reserve is a small space with about half of the area left untouched at this time of year. One grassy patch now has a multitude of flowers and looks very colourful and attractive. The general low cover of Yellow Rattle is dying back with their characteristic seed pods forming; and taller flowers such as Knapweed, Oxeye Daisy, Wild Marjoram, Birds-foot Trefoil, and Ladies Bedstraw are flowering, mostly behind an outer border of tall grasses, dock, and umbelliferous plants.

Bladder Campion

Here is another member of the Campion family. I have already shown the Red Campion and the White Campion, and this is the Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris). These specimens were photographed at various times this summer and last, and were growing at the base of the hedgerow that lines the lane by the allotments in Charlton Down.

Hoverflies

There were loads of Hoverflies swarming around and settling on the Hogweed flowers in the hedgerows the other day when it was mild and the sun was trying to shine. They look a lot like bees (Hymenoptera) but they are flies (Diptera) so they do not sting. I think at least some of these hoverflies are Episyrphus balteatus known as Marmalade Hoverflies and many of them migrate to Britain each year from the continent.


Hover-flies and other insects on hogweed flowers

CD Field Walk 1

The barley is growing fast. The stalks and the grain are still green but the ‘whiskers’ have turned colour. Acres of soft golden haze cover the slopes. undulating like waves on the sea as the wind ripples through the crop. Clouds scudding-by create moving shadows to darken the fields, emphasising the vibrancy and golden glow when the sun reappears. It is such a pleasure to see all this – the wider panorama as well as the moving textures and nuances of hue on the smaller scale. We are privileged to be able to walk around the fields that surround Charlton Down and observe the changes to the farmed landscape from season to season.

Best appreciated full-size.

Poppies 1

Just two poppy flowers actually. Standing out as bright red jewels beside two tall thistles in a field of ripening rape seeds. Rather battered poppies flapping this way and that in the wind. Somehow, minute beetles still managing to cling on tight, and hoverflies quickly darting within whenever they could. The petals looked like crumpled tissue paper, sometimes with angular folds reflecting light like the fragmented patterns of a kaleidoscope.