Our first evening meeting took place in conditions more akin to the autumn – cold temperatures and a strong wind. This didn’t deter the dozen members who met up at the appointed place. We started with a walk round a small balancing pond, where we saw some members of the legume family – Common Vetch, Spotted Medick and Black Medick. There were also members of the daisy family – Ox-eye Daisy and Beaked Hawk’s-beard. The half hour that we spent here was not enough for one late arriving member who failed to spot us!
We then walked down the cycleway path, stopping when we found some Creeping Thistle. Jo Garrad, one of the Park Rangers, explained that they were looking for Thistle Rust in order to start a trial on reducing the invasive plant. What they hoped to do was collect spores from infected plants, make this into a solution and spray it onto thistle stems in patches. Trials elsewhere had shown this reduced thistle populations by 80% over a few years.
Continuing on to the large balancing pond we admired the Tufted Duck and other waterfowl that were present. We crossed over to the relict waterside meadow, where we saw the small fronds of Adder’s-tongue and the scrub that had grown up in the last decade. Back on the old railway we saw a few plants of Winter-cress in full flower, but didn’t try tasting any of the leaves. Dusk was now approaching and it was cold, so we walked briskly back to our starting point.