Chosen for a variety of reasons, these small reserves may conserve plants, reptiles or insects, and seem to be well maintained. One of the largest is on the cutting in the chalk on the old A2 at Lydden, where the scraping of soil off the rock has provided a niche for plants that need just a little soil and not much moisture. Mignonette is flowering now, and a few orchid spikes have emerged. A bank of strawberry fruits has also emerged - barren, I'd guess, judging by the lack of flavour.
Nearby, at West Langdon, is another reserve, protecting the verge that holds a good variety of downland plants - scabious, knapweed, horseshoe vetch, kidney vetch, bedstraw, milkweed, goats-beard and poppy are all represented, so it's a valuable resource in the prairielands. As the crops come close to it, it's likely that orchids will have been chemicalled, but it's worth keeping an eye on.
ScabiousGoats-beardThe inspiration for this pottering around the verges was a post by Tony St Margarets on a dozen spikes of man orchids that were found by the eagle eyes of Phil. He cycles, and so presumably sees more that the rest of us.I was struck not only by the size of the spikes, but also by a large mat of pink milkweed, a plant that is more usually seen hanging on alone on sparse soils, not thriving profusely on an apparently rich roadside. Is the fact that the verge is on the site of an old fort earthwork relevant, I wonder?
In the wood nearby, a few more man orchids grow in the shade of a beech tree, sharing mutually-usefully fungi.
Still the painted ladies pour over and around us - an extraordinary invasion.