Monday, 21 June 2010

Ranscombe Farm

An afternoon looking for arable weeds - it's been done for centuries, since hunter-gatherers realised that they could stay at home and grow their own crops. It's a back-breaking task, and as civilisations and technologies have developed, so have the ways to get rid of the weeds in the fields.
At Ranscombe Farm near Rochester, however, they are encouraged because we've been so successful at pushing out the weeds, there are almost none left.
Some we have lost are large and lovely, like the corncockle and meadow clary (first recorded at this very place in 1792.
Some are, however, tiny and difficult to find, but not as difficult as providing conditions suitable for its growth. To encourage these tiny plants, the farm manager (on behalf of the charity Plantlife) sows low-density crops to allow space between them, and of course shuns fertilisers, insecticides and herbicides. The result is a sparse crop on poor soil that would struggle to feed a family, but that allows the rare plants to flourish.

Stinking Mayweed, above, and the optimistically-named Venus' Looking Glass, below
- the latter is very small and bears little resemblance to its romantic name.

Broad-leaved Cudweed is a particular success on this site, and has spread rapidly across the field where conditions have been favourable for it - it's very rare elsewhere in the country.

Field Madder

Dwarf Spurge

Corn Salad

Naturally the sensitive farming methods are attractive to bugs - I think the beetle is a female Thick-Kneed, but I'll avoid trying to identify the moth. [Thanks to Greg for correcting me - it's a Spanish Fly apparently]

Wild Liquorish

Sweet Briar, with its apple-scented leaves

A lovely place - an island in our intensively-farmed countryside, but clearly illustrative of how poor crops would be on the chalk downs without constant improvement.


abbey meadows said...

Thats a great post and some beautiful plants that I would love to see.

Greenie said...

Steve ,
You certainly found some great plants , more even than the Butterfly Conservation visit , and we had a Ranger guiding us .
It's a place that I shall revisit in the future .

Warren Baker said...

A superb vision of a field of Poppies Steve.

Were there fields of poppies and wildflowers before agriculture ?