Saturday, 24 July 2010

A Scientific Tourist

The splendidly-named book "The Scientific Tourist through England, Scotland and Wales in which the traveller is diverted to the principal objects of Antiquity, Art, Science and the Picturesque" by T. Walford (1818) mostly dwells on old buildings and plants.

In the former section he dismisses this area as:
Deal.— A Castle. 2 m. s. is Walmer Castle. and describes Ramsgate as a "beautiful bathing place", which presumably at that time it was.

The second part lists 56 rare plants in Kent, of which only about half are still known in the county. Of the survivors, few appear to have increased their range, others unsurprisigly have reduced, orare not in the same places, or indeed with the same names - Purple Goats-Beard is better known as Salsify nowadays..Nottingham Catchfly is still on the cliffs but I've not noticed it on Sandgate Castle and Sea Pea is indeed still growing by Walmer Castle, and has not spread.

Wild Madder
is on the list "on the cliffs at Dover east of the caves" which would be a clear pointer if you knew where the caves are - perhaps the ones now surrounded by the railway sidings? But the plant has flourished along the new fencing beside the railway line at Samphire Hoe, so maybe it moved along the tracks in the last 200 years.
The Channel Tunnel workings created a huge amount of spoil, now flattened into Samphire Hoe, giving a new habitat to the area, with the opportunity for rare plants to thrive in conditions that are unsuitable for commoner, more successful species. Sea Lavender loves it here, giving a pink glow to the concrete apron.
In places the fallen chalk has given refuge to many small plants, like the clints and grikes of limestone.
The world has vastly changed since 1818 and some wonderful things have been lost, but it's good
to know that others have the strength to adapt to new opportunities.
The Kent branch of the Botanical Society has published its own list of rare plants, numbering 256 - in 200 years, how many of these will still be with us?


Greenie said...

Steve ,
Interesting but depressing reading .
Did however learn two new words ,
'clints & grikes' . Couldn't find them in the dictionary , so had to Google them .

Warren Baker said...

Another little gem of a book from your extensive library Steve?

Hope you've got more to share :-)