An update from Michael Walter:

This year’s heath fritillary season was messed about by the weather, and the peak probably occurred during a fairly prolonged sunless period.  This butterfly is a particularly fussy creature, being reluctant to fly if there is no sun and, to misquote Naomi Campbell, they don’t get out of bed unless it’s 20°.  Despite these problems, it is safe to say that this has been the second best season in forty years (2020 taking the ultimate accolade).  As usual, some sites declined or disappeared altogether due to vegetation growth, while a few new areas were colonised.  Most remarkable of all was one quite shady clearing with carpets of cow-wheat, the caterpillars’ food plant, where numbers had bumped along near the bottom of the graph (below) for many years.  Something happened two years ago to prompt a small increase, then an even bigger one last year, and finally this season the numbers have simply rocketed (or ‘increased exponentially’ in covid parlance!), turning a formerly insignificant site into the best colony in the country for its size - quite astounding.

The optimistic assessment of this year’s orchid count (below) is that the numbers have gone up, whilst a more sanguine analysis would be that it is still the second worst count ever.  The wetter spring may have been beneficial, but now that the plants are being heavily shaded by the rampant growth of all the other vegetation, it is possible that they won’t be able to replenish the energy stores in their corms so efficiently, which could then lead to a poorer showing in 2022.  We shall see!


I don’t get to record many new plant species these days, especially trees, but then the tree in question is small-leaved elm, and the shoots, in an area coppiced last year, were no more than a foot or two tall.  It’s a small miracle I spotted them, as the leaves are remarkably similar to the hornbeam with which it was growing, with their serrated edges and bold, parallel veins.  One of the features of all elms is that their leaves are lopsided at the base, being less rounded on one side of the stalk.  While the elms I found appear to be there naturally, a single wych elm, with much larger leaves, standing beside a ride, was probably planted by a previous owner.


The RSPB Canterbury local group is holding a fund-raising strawberry cream tea in a Rough Common garden on Saturday 24th July from 3-5pm.  There will also be plant and cake stalls and a raffle.  £6, payable in advance.  To support this summery event, please email or phone 01227 462491to receive the address and details of how to pay.


Michael Walter