On 29th, I led a well-attended guided walk for the recently formed West Lancashire Wildlife group to Cabin Hill NNR. We were able to enjoy the best display of Grass-of-Parnassus on the coast and the rich diversity of plants that have colonised a dune-slack that was cleared of dense willow scrub in 2005. No less than 140 different plants have been recorded in this slack since 2006, 28 being new to the reserve. I always like to finish on a “high note” so we climbed up to the Devil’s Hole, a huge blow-out just north of the reserve which originated during the Second World War. The floor of the blow-out reached the water-table some years ago and now supports interesting dune-slack vegetation, including many orchids.
The second half of the month was largely devoted to a major survey of one of the country’s most rapidly declining plants, the Field Gentian (Gentianella campestris). Although widespread in Scotland, it is now said to be very rare indeed in England south of the Lake District and adjacent Pennines. However, Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve supports great drifts of these splendid purple-blue flowers and, belying national trends, they seem to be increasing and especially in the Dune Restoration Area where scrub and pine trees were removed in the 1990s. By the end of the month, Patricia Lockwood and I had counted and mapped over 35,000 gentians and we hadn’t even got to the best area.