Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Sussex Downs and more wild carrots

A walk over the Sussex Downs and the Seven Sisters reminded me of the similarity between these hills and those closer to home. The same plants and birds (namely wheatears and stonechats), although the grass was generally cropped shorter, presumably by a higher density of rabbits.

One plant that puzzled me was this furry clump, which I don't recall on the North Downs. It's like a lump of soft moss on a stem up to 6 inches tall.

At the Seven Sisters Countryside Museum and Shop, I found a book of a type I've been searching for - Downland in Flower by WN McLeod. Living in Eastbourne, the author spent a year wandering over the South Downs with a camera, and he provides a month-by-month account of the changing flora and fauna. Unfortunately, however, I couldn't find the aforementioned mossy clump in there.

A reference in this fascinating book was to the alternative name for the wild carrot, of Queen Anne's Lace. There are a number of suggested reasons for this name, of which my favourite is that Queen Anne of England pricked her finger while lace-making, and a drop of blood landed on her work, which then looked like the red floret in the centre of each flower-head.

This nugget of information (and more than you could ever want to know about carrots) is on this site, which is a classic of its kind.

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