Thursday, 16 April 2009

West meets East

The names of a number of villages in Kent include the word 'Minnis' - like Ewell Minnis, Rhodes Minnis and Minnis Bay. This refers to the open common land attached to the community, that could freely be used by the commoners for grazing, wood collection and such like. The rights to the minnis have mostly been lost over time, as land is enclosed or built on, or as the villagers lost the need to use them. The village of Stelling Minnis, however, retains the open land, and has set up a charitable trust to manage the common. Its impressive 10-year plan is available for inspection.

One of the most interesting plants on the Minnis is Western Gorse (Ulex gallii) which is at the eastern end of its UK distribution. AS its name suggests, it is usually found in the west country and Wales, as shown on the NBN distribution map here, but for some reason it still grows side by side with common gorse (U. europaeus) on this common.

The Western version flowers only in the autumn (draw your own conclusions on the saying about kissing when gorse is in bloom) and here it's looking a bit straggly, in comparison with the common species which is flowering brightly.

Hasted in his eighteenth century work commented that the minnis formed 'an uncommon and not unpleasant scene, the inhabitants being as rude and wild as the country they live in'. Near the village is a hamlet known as Wheelbarrow Town, for reasons that have been lost in the mists of time.
Elsewhere, the chalk downlands are starting to come into flower, with cowslips and violets being joined by the first rock roses.
On the Bay, a ringtail Hen Harrier has been seen, presumably about to move on to its breeding grounds.


Warren Baker said...

Its good to see some of these places are being cared for Steve. Interesting post.

Mary said...

You always provide such interesting information about a world so different from what I know. What a good idea to share some common land. Here in America land ownership is so important and finding unspoiled places that are free to roam around on are hard except in parks...even there you are often restricted in where you roam. Good photos of the harrier and flowers.

Greenie said...

Steve ,
Have often wondered what was the meaning of Minnis when looking at a map of your part of the world . Won't have to now , Cheers .

abbey meadows said...

Strangely enough I was just reading about Western gorse. It is thinly scattered around Northumberland but I haven't come across it yet but when I do I'll post a pic on the blog.