2020 County Report for Cambridgeshire

Jonathan Shanklin

Covid only prevented us holding from two meetings.  The Cambridgeshire Flora Group just managed to hold a meeting visiting churchyards before the first lockdown was imposed, then resumed subject to the “rule of six” from June to October.  In addition, the Cambridge Natural History Society field meetings, when they were permitted, invariably included botanical recording.  The combination of Covid restrictions and a new date class encouraged a lot of recording, particularly in the area around Cambridge.  Across the county over 48,000 records were logged in MapMate. Alan Leslie compiled a report on the more interesting finds for the local journal Nature in Cambridgeshire.  He highlights the re-finding of Prunus cerasus in Gamlingay Wood SSSI where it was last reported around 100 years ago.  The real surprise is the fact that it had not been spotted previously in what is a well-recorded site.  The usual annual update of the RPR and Register of Plants of Conservation Concern (RPCC) was made at the beginning of the year, with an appendix of invasive species added to the RPCC in mid year.  Historical research by Chris Preston has pushed back the date of first record for a few species and added Osmunda regalis to the species list for the County, although it has been long extinct.   Covid meant that thorough surveys were only made of three sites: Mepal Outdoor Centre (contract work), which produced the notable record of Erodium cicutarium subsp. dunense; Emmanuel College, where I found Cystopteris fragilis and a protected road verge in Knapwell.  This encouraged visits to many other such verges and a paper on the results was written for Nature in Cambridgeshire.  It has also brought closer links with the County ecological team. Work for a book on the Natural History of Cambridge encouraged Mark Hill to use Atlas 2020 data for the county to produce a novel analysis of plant clusters that was published in B&IB.  One aim of the work was to put the City records into a County context. The 2020 county newsletter circulated news, meeting reports and excursion plans to the local botanical community.  A county web page was maintained, and emails were sent to local botanists in advance of meetings.  I gave a talk to the Ely U3A botanical group via Zoom.  I am now on the County Wildlife Sites panel as the botanical expert. I have made some progress with using QGIS for plotting plant distributions and have generated some example maps for the 2021 county newsletter.