2021 County Report for Surrey

Ann Sankey

VC17, VCR Report 2020


Ann Sankey


Some key points about botanical life in Surrey

  • Feb/March 2021 – I was invited to check seed mixes for proposed landscape specifications for Highways England M25 J10 improvement adjacent to Wisley & Ockham Commons /protected sites by Atkins. They were very grateful for my expertise & suggested this checking with VCRs should be standard practice.
  • April 2021 – a few of us joined with NE & EA to discuss the restoration potential of the wetland units at Reigate Heath SSSI, resulting in NE setting up an SSSI improvement project.
  • Also in April, we were again invited to survey some grassland fields on a private estate. These resulted in yet more significant finds and a general boost to the records of this area.
  • Unfortunately, a mild brain haemorrhage then curtailed my recording activities but others were able to continue.
  • A few field meetings were arranged.
  • One of these was a joint one with the Wildlife Trust on an estate now run as a charitable trust that wishes to manage the area sympathetically with wildlife.
  • Another large private estate wanted information on its woodlands, some on heathland, also with the aim of sympathetic management. The advantage of these large estates having laudable aims is that of linking good habitats.
  • One member worked with her local authority on a site with good populations of Chamaemelum nobile (Chamomile). She has also encouraged good management of road verges in her area.
  • Two of us have been working with NT on the management of two adjacent fields that support Surrey’s only remaining sites for Ranunculus arvensis (Corn Buttercup)


Significant finds:

Two good finds in April: while recording on a private estate, Ann Sankey and Bill Stanworth recorded a large colony of Teesdalia nudicaulis (Shepherd's Cress) in an old acid grassland lawn, much to the pleasure of the owners. Then Crassula tillaea (Mossy Stonecrop) found by a few members of Surrey Botanical Society by a path on Shalford Common in acid grassland. This was both a new hectad and a new habitat for this species.

Also in April Caroline Bateman recorded Ranunculus parviflorus (Small-flowered Buttercup) by the perimeter road around Gatwick Airport and then the same species turned up in Battersea Park a month later, recorded by Freedman, C. & Livingstone, B.. The latter is a new hectad record. This species is showing a rapid increase in VC17. The origin of the plants is unknown.

In June Steve Mellor found a large colony of Melampyrum pratense subsp. commutatum (Common Cow-wheat) on the chalk at The Sheepleas in TQ05. This is a new VC17 record since 1932.

A disappointing note: annual counts of Herminium monorchis (Musk Orchid) at its two better sites in Surrey have shown a severe decline. At one site, there has been a decline from 450 to just 5 flowering spikes this year. At the other site, there is a very similar pattern. The reasons for this decline is not known but could be a combination of changing weather patterns, scrub encroachment plus loss of fine chalk turf to Brachypodium pinnatum agg. (Tor-grass) on at least one of the sites.

There is a record of Dactylis polygama (Slender Cock's-foot) at West Horsley Place in 1934 that has puzzled various people for some time. At the SBS meeting there in July Alan Leslie came back to his home turf on a quest to re-find it. He was apparently successful, finding it in several places. Because of the possibility of it being the hybrid, confirmation is pending.

George Hounsome found another site for Oenanthe javanica (Water Celery) on a ditch bank in a disused golf course at Pyrford, the subject of a rewilding project. It seems that this species is now being grown in gardens. George also found a tuft of XSchedolium krasanii, the hybrid between Lolium multiflorum and Schedonorus arundinaceus, on a verge near Esher, confirmed by Arthur Copping.

In June, several plants of Anthemis arvensis (Corn Chamomile) were recorded by Peter Wakeham among a crop of Field Beans in Northey Fields, near Ewell. This species was last recorded in the same field in 1961 and these plants are almost certainly native to the site rather than originating from a wildflower mix and, as such, are a rare occurrence in Surrey.

While monad-bashing in late October, George Hounsome and Caroline Bateman came across several colonies of Clinopodium acinos (Basil Thyme) in a 1970s/1980s housing development built on former chalk downland in the Epsom area. Some plants were growing in lawns or in the gaps between the lawn and the pavement. More were found in cracks in the paving and one small colony was growing in a gutter. Apart from being an unusual find in a built-up area, this is also a new record for TQ24.

And also in late October in an allotment in urban Redhill Caroline came across a patch of several Misopates orontium (Weasel's-snout). She has visited these allotments several times but this was the first time that this species was seen here. It is possible that they arrived in a “wild-flower” mix but there were no other tell-tale cornfield weeds in this or adjacent allotments.

To date, about 260 new hectad records were made in 2021.

This is my final Annual Report as VCR for VC17.