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HNHS Chairman's Newsletter Sept 2012


    As you know the weather this summer has not been kind to us, and the occasional walk has had to be canceled, but as I write this at the start of our new session I am looking at blue skies with lovely warm temperatures so maybe we will have a nice autumn.


The field trip to explore Essex and Suffolk was very much enjoyed by all who came, and the hotel could not be faulted.  In fact there was so much to see and do in the area, I was asked by the staff

before I left if I would be returning soon, and I would love to go back, personally to visit the places we did not have time to visit.  Any feedback on this by those who came would be appreciated.


In late September, John, Margaret and I will be going to a holiday village on Hayling Island for a long weekend to see if the accomodation and terms will be suitable for our group to use as a base to explore West Sussex.  This will be ideal if it works out as there is plenty to do on the site for anyone who wants to stay behind, and there is even a programme of evening shows, dances etc for those so inclined.  We aim to explore the local reserves and set a possible preliminary

itinerary for a field trip in late May or early June next year, for the usual 4 nights/half board.

Even if you do not usually join us on these holidays, you might like to take advantage of the low cost group prices we get.  You can do your own thing, stay on site or see local attractions.  We are a lovely friendly group and you will be very welcome.


Reports of Spring and Summer Meetings.


Visit to Fryant Country Park  Wed. March 28th  Leader: Adam Witho


A fine day, and a well attended meeting.  We were immediately struck by the abundance of daffodils planted on the verges as we approached the country park, and then as we walked through the profusion of white blossom in the hedgerows, a mixture of Cherry Plum and Blackthorn, both early to flower.

After such a wet summer it is hard now to remember how dry the previous months had been, and several of the ponds were almost dried out..  Adam, already prepared and concerned for the tadpoles, transferred a jar full from a dried out pond to one in better condition.

Despite the early season, but maybe because of the sun, we saw several butterflies.

Speckled Wood    Peacock    Unidentified White.

Birds  (Heard rather than seen)  

Chaffinch       Wren       Goldfinch          Blackcap       Crow       Long tailed Tit       Nuthatch

Greater Spotted Woodpecker                  Wood pigeon                 Parakeet                 Blue Tit

Great Tit         Jay                                      Robin

We had the privilege of seeing a pair of Mistle Thrush ground feeding for a few minutes.


Not a great deal of evidence of wild flowers due to the early meeting, but we saw some in flower.

Ash  Fraximus excelsior           Goat Willow  Salix caprea             Alder  Alnus glutinosa

Hazel  Corylus avellana            Blackthorn  Prunus spinosa         Cherry Plum  Prunus cerasifera

Lesser Celandine  Ranunculus ficaria   Lungwort  Pulmonaria officinalie 

Common Comfrey  Symphytum officinale    Field Forgetmenot  Myosotis arvensis


Thank you Adam for a very enjoyable and varied walk.    Joanne Colthup


Spring in Harrow 2012


The first event was our Spring Walk April 29th in Stanmore Country Park.  There was heavy rain

that morning so there were several phone calls excusing the callers from a probable drenching.

After checking the Met Office rainfall radar, Margaret and I decided to venture out; no one else turned up.  Light rain was falling at the start time so the net was left in the car and we decided to

concentrate on the Park flora.  I have a list of flora seen by the two previous people who have produced management plans over the past decades (the late Paul Moxey and Mike Waite).  After

a damp circuit of the Park we found that we had added to the list Bird Cherry and Field Woodrush.  As regarding Lepidoptera, there was one brief glimpse of a micro that vanished as

soon as it had been noticed.


The following Friday, May 4th, Simon Braidman led an evening walk on the same site looking

(or mainly listening) for bats using detectors.  The weather did not co-operate (a strong NE

wind was blowing) so none were heard.  However I spent the next hour or so gazing at various tree trunks with a torch.  I found it quite amazing observing what creatures come out at night;

various slugs, flies, woodlice (including a banded one), centipedes, millipedes and two species of moth.  These were Adela reumurella; the day flying moth with the very long white antennae and Esperia sulphurella, I must that Andrew Wood for giving me the ID for this one from my brief description.  The yellow line on a black background is quite striking.


On Saturday May 19th at 9.30pm we set up an MV light over a white sheet in W.S. Gilbert's old orchard.  Again the weather gods were not on our side.  A strong easterly wind was blowing so we tucked ourselves in the lee of a holly bush.  Our party included Helenka, the head gardener at the

Grimsdyke Hotel, and Andy Green.  A few moths eventually appeared .  The list at the end of the

two hour session consisted of two Brimstones, two Green Carpets, two pugs (probably Oak Tree

pugs) and a Maiden's Blush.  The pugs will eventually make their way to Colin Plant for species

confirmation.  There were no micros and no Noctuids.  I don't know if the constant presence of

a couple of bats had anything to do with that.    

                                                                                       John Hollingdale



Thursday 17th May   Walk in Bentley priory for Birdsong


On Thursday 17th May 8 members met at the Old Lodge Way entrance to Bentley Priory Nature

Reserve at 9.30am for a walk to listen to bird song.  It was a cool cloudy morning, but it was dry.

We set off up the path and there were blackbirds singing and also several blackcaps.  When we

got to the gate into the wood a garden warbler was heard in the hedge.  The wood was fairly quiet,but a mistle thrush was seen feeding on the ground and great tits, wrens and a robin were heard.

We crossed the stream and went up the field.  A goldcrest and green woodpecker were heard and also a party of long-tailed tits and a mistle thrush were seen.  We went into the wood and down to

Summerhouse Lake.  Here were several mallards on the lake as well as coots and a pair of canada

geese but there were no young birds possibly due to the disturbance caused in April when the lake was being de-silted by the contractors from the water board.  A grey wagtail was seen by the dam and a male gadwell was seen to fly onto the water this bird caused a fair amount of discussion.  Great spotted woodpecker and nuthatch were seen in the wood and also a small plant

of Butcher's Broom which appeared a few years ago probably brought in by a bird.

We continued up the West field, there were blackcaps, chiff chaffs, wrens, blackbirds and a song

thrush but the whitethroats were silent.  From the top path we could see the Shard which is getting very tall, and on walking along we saw the work being done in the grounds of Bentley

Priory House to landscape the gardens.  On the way down the deer path we spent some time listening to a dunnock and we finally got our whitethroat at Old Lodge Meadow.  In total 32 birds were seen or heard and we got back at 12.30pm

                                                                                                  Elizabeth Stainthorpe



Plant Indentification at Roxborough Rough   Saturday May 16th  Leader: Joanne Colthup


The reserve is a complete surprise, as it consists of 13 acres of species rich grassland near to

Rayners Lane.

About a dozen of us set off on a fine morning to cover as much as possible of the circular walk.

We were joined on part of the walk by the voluntary warden Dave Bolton who told us of the history of the reserve, how the land had been owned by British Gas, and saved from development.  I was disappointed not to find Grass Vetchling Lathyrus nissolia which is rare in Harrow, and illustrated on the reserve leaflet.  However we found several other members of the

Pea family in the lush meadows.

Meadow Vetchling  - Lathyrus pratensis. ;  Common Vetch  - Vicia sativa ;

Tufted Vetch  -   Vicia cracca ; and Slender Tare  -  Vicia tenuissima.

The meadows were full of Lesser Stitchwort  - Stellaria graminea, and Common Mouse Ear -

Cerastium fontanum, both white and superficially looking similar which needed careful observation.

A great deal of the reserve is damp due to many ditches, and because of wet weather much of the grassland was wet underfoot.  The old pond had maturing tadpoles, and attractive Yellow Iris -

Iris pseudacorus, our only wild native Iris.  The damp grassland attracted Marsh Thistle  -  Circium palustre and Greater Bird's Foot Trefoil  -  Lotus uliginosus.

The hedges and wooded borders surrounding the reserve are dominated by Hawthorn, and in the London area we get the common Hawthorn  -  Crataegus monogyna , also Midland Hawthorn   C.laevigate and the hybrid between the two which can be even more common.  We found several willows  Great Willow  - Salix alba ;  Goat Willow  -  Salix caprea ;  Osier Salix viminalis; and

Crack Willow  -  Salix fragilis.

We didn't complete the circuit but recorded many species common to the area.


                                                                                                               Joanne Colthup



Thurs June 14th  College Lake Reserve for butterfies, birds and flowers  Leader John Hollingdale


June 14th dawned a pleasant day, warm enough not to wear a coat although overcast.  Eleven of us met at College Lake near Tring and enjoyed a day of flowers, birds and one butterfly.  We set off west along the track.  Stops at the bird hides gave views of Shelduck, Redshank and Lapwings

and some of us had views of a Kingfisher.

Highlights of the flora were a good display of White Helleborine  (Cephalanthera damasonium)

which Joanne told us were quite unusual.  A helpful reserve ranger that we met added the information that they were colonizing where clearance work for the Geological SSSI has taken place.  In fact it was a good day for orchids as we also recorded Bee Orchid  (Ophyrs apifera);

Common Spotted Orchid  (Dactylorhiza fuchsii);  Pyramidal Orchid  (Anacamptis pyramidalis)

and Common Twayblade  ( Listera ovata).  Other interesting plants were the Blue Fleabane

(Erigeron acer) a lover of chalk grassland, Bloody Cranesbill  (Geranium sanguinium) and Dame's Violet  (Hesperis matronalis).

At the furthest point of the morning walk in a meadow area a small Heath butterfly was very

amenable and several attempts were made to photograph it.  I think Marion got a good picture in the end.

We returned to the Visitors Centre for lunch and in the afternoon several of us continued in the other direction.  We walked as far as the Cornfield Flowers Project where meadows have been planted with traditional cornfield flowers.  The effect was very colourful and we managed to identify a number of species aided by the helpful labels.  There were Cornflowers, Corn

Chamomile, Shepherds Needle, Corn Cockle, Pheasant's Eye and Venus Looking Glass among

others.  The will definitely be helpful for pollinators including bees and possibly on a sunnier day, butterflies!

                                                                                            Margaret Huitson


Walk for Flowers  Bentley Priory   Friday June 22nd   Leader:  Joanne Colthup


This was the annual afternoon walk for the Friends of Bentley Priory, but mainly supported by the HNHS.  We started from the Old Lodge entrance and made our way across the field to enter the wood.   It was a good place to identify Meadow Barley ( Hordeum secalinum) and contrast it to Wall Barley  ( Hordeum murinum) which grows everywhere.  It was a pleasantly warm afternoon but due to weeks of rain we found every path leading into the wood impassible with deep mud, so we had to resort to the concrete path.  We did eventually find a reasonable path to lead us to the enormous Oak which is reputed to be 500 years old, and then onto a grassy area which was drier underfoot.  We identified more grasses  Yorkshire Fog  (Holcus lanatus) which en masse really does look like a mist or fog,  Crested Dogstail  (Cynosurus cristaus) and Cocksfoot

(Dactylis glomerata). 

We continued our way up hill through Summerhouse Meadow which is SSSI and good for flowers.

Agrimony  ( Agrimonia eupatoria) was coming into bloom, and several species of Speedwell which are apt to be tiny.  The most spectacular, Germander Speedwell  (Veronica chamaedrys).

As we crossed a stream we looked for Brooklime  (Veronica beccabunga) a Speedwell which likes to have its feet in water.  We admired enormous Marsh thistles (Cirsium palustre), and speculated if their unusual height was due to the prolonged rain.  We were also able to compare Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare) and Creeping Thistle (Cirsium arvense).  I had been shown

Adderstongue (Ophioglossum vulgatum) which was frequent in the borough many years ago, but is now confined to the one location in the meadow.  We searched, but as the grass was long, and not being sure of the actual location we failed to find it.  We did find a fine specimen of Weld  (Reseda lutea).

Reaching the top of the reserve, enjoying the view, and lamenting about the destruction of trees and wild areas of Bentley Priory House as they landscape the grounds, we made our way down via Summerhouse Lake.  There is an interesting area of damp grassland adjoining the lake which has a rather different flora.  Ragged Robin  ( Lychnis flos-cuculi), Creeping Jenny  (Lysimachia

nummularia) and Lesser Spearwort  (Ranunculus flammula)

Onto the deer path the deer seemed to be absent but a warden putting out food for them told us that several had, or were giving birth and hid their young away from the public in the long grass.  A couple of weeks later, and the young would be visible.  We saw a good number of flowers but did not venture far from the paths.                                          

                                                                                                          Joanne Colthup


Saturday July 14th  10.30  Fern Meeting  Oxhey Woods   Leader:  Howard Matthews


Despite the dismal weather, though it didn't actually rain,13 intrepid members met with Howard

to search for ferns in Oxhey Woods.  Howard warned us that the ground was a quagmire, and it proved to be the muddiest meeting underfoot that any of us had experienced.

The wood is a nature reserve, and ancient woodland though for unknown reasons ferns have been diminishing.

Howard started by pointing out Bracken Pteridium aquilinum our most common fern, and then Male Fern  -  Dryopteris filix-mas which is also very common.  Comparing Broad Buckler Fern  Dryopteris dilatata with Male Fern we learned to distinguish 2 pinnate and 3 pinnate stalks

We moved on to less common ferns Narrow Buckler Dryopteris carthusiana, Scaly Male Fern

Dryopteris affinis and Hard Shield Fern  Polystichum aculeatum.

One fern even flummoxed Howard, he couldn't identify it, it was probably a hybrid between

Male Fern and Scaly Male Fern.

The find of the day was Hard Shield Fern  - Polystichum acnleatum, just one specimen and very rare in Herts but not nationally.  Howard was pleased to record it as the only record found in the area and extinct in Middx.

In the afternoon we moved on to Carpenters Park Cemetery a new area for all of us and it proved to be exciting as the Hartsbourne Brook flowed through to the Colne and it was very full.  We walked through woodland along side the stream and saw many of the same ferns plus Hartstongue  - Phillitis scolopendrium in quantity.

Thank you Howard for an excellent day.                                        Joanne Colthup



Thursday August 22nd  Flora at the Welsh Harp.  Leader: Joanne Colthup


I chose the location because years ago the society had regular meetings at the reservoir, but we had not been for some time.  It was a beautiful day and ten of us started by spending time at the very informative notice board which gave the history that the reservoir had been built around 1880 to supplement water for London already provided at Aldenham and Ruislip.

 It seems that Goats Rue (Galega officinalis) is colonizing the area.  It was going over but is very pretty blue and white when in full flower.  Another flower in great quantity was Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) we expected to see caterpillars of the Cinnabar moth but none could be found.  The Canadian Golden Rod (Solidago canadensis) is also increasing.  We were on a path alongside,f but inaccessible to the water for most of the way  but when we could get close to the lake we took the opportunity to look for water plants.  We saw a lot of Gipsywort (Lycopus europaeus) and several plants of Water Mint  (Mentha aquatica) and Marsh Woundwort.  (Statchys palustris).  A clump of Skull-cap (Scutellaria galericulata) was conspicuous by its deep blue flowers.


Now John is adding his report:  The party spotted a Gatekeeper early in the walk.  Several white

butterflies passed by but only one settled & proved to be a Green-Veined White.  One Crambid moth was seen in the first few paces of the walk.  Crabids are known as the grass moths.  Also lurking in a bramble bush was a macro moth; the Shaded broad-bar.

We looked a couple of unusual snails.  The small white ones were junior banded snails but I also

identified a Pellucid Snail.  This only occurs in SE England.  The round oak galls were Oak Apple

Galls.  The many orange donut- shaped ones on the underside of leaves are called spangle galls.

The mis-shapened acorns were Knopper galls.  These have been present in the UK since the 1960s