2020 County Report for Cheshire

Graeme M Kay

It would be superfluous to comment on what an odd year 2020 was with all meetings cancelled. However, a few enterprising souls used their exercise rations to do a bit of local monad recording. John Hawksford covered the border with VC57 from New Mills to Marple where he made 2544 records. There were several amenity planting areas one of which contained Geum × intermedium, the only record this century and a bit of a mystery. Briza maxima graced the odd gutter as did the inevitable Polypogon viridis. Impatiens capensis has spread that far east along the canal system. Catapodium rigidum was an unusual find away from the coast. His interest in Cotoneasters was illustrated by records for C. dielsianus, helmqvistii, horizontalis, rehderi and × suecicus. Saxifraga granulata was still flourishing in a long known site. Mary and Claire Smith very kindly looked at two half monads on the upland VC57 border at Errwood and recorded 485 including a welcome new site for Phegopteris connectilis. Cystopteris fragilis was on mortar in bricks. Even up there, aliens are inescapable with Rhododendron luteum, Juncus tenuis, Castanea sativa, Meconopsis cambrica (Papaver cambrica) and Epilobium ciliatum being noted. Alchemilla conjuncta was a remarkable find in the middle of a footpath, only just beaten as a new county record (NCR) by my record of it in Sale!

Julian Laidler tackled the monads S of the R. Mersey near Sale Water Park and got 506 records. Crocus nudiflorus will have brightened his day and Dactylorhiza praetermissa only slightly less so. Galium album seems to be a popular “flower meadow” species that gets about. He found a native Black Poplar at Trafford, and Rhamnus catharticus (duly checked) at Kenworthy. Stellaria nemorum seems fond of the Mersey round there as his sighting illustrates.

Dave Morgan and myself independently sampled mid-north VC58. Dave made 3662 records and was pleased by the quantity of Eriophorum vaginatum in the Pennines where Huperzia selago on Shining Tor was an excellent find; it seems to be firmly back from the dead. He was impressed by meadows full of Conopodium majus and Viola lutea. Carduus nutans was seen enlivening sheep-grazed pastures. Epipactis helleborine popped up in nearly every monad.

My total was 8278. A nice bank of Cyclamen hederifolium was one record of many seen by others. The old tip at Wilmslow, now a shadow of its former self, being mostly dull woodland, still produced a good crop of Epipactis helleborine in one area and Agrimonia eupatoria var major which is bigger than normal. Stachys × ambigua was nearby. Elsewhere, a marshy field by the airport had Bromus commutatus and plentiful Vicia tetraspermum (Ervum tetraspermum). In a shady lane I spotted a beautifully marked Pulmonaria officinalis hiding under a tree, while Spiraea douglasii ssp douglasii and × billardii were more obviously visible. My Alchemilla conjuncta was 2 plants in willow scrub in Priory Gardens, Sale where any idea of a garden was long gone. Pauline Grimshaw’s patch was E of Manchester and yielded 162 records. Good natives were Blechnum spicant and Equisetum sylvaticum. Polemonium caeruleum was presumably a throw-out but Tellima grandiflora gets about by itself. Rubus odoratus in Great Wood is only the second record.

The area around and S of Chester was well covered by Jonathan Shanklin, who has family in Dodleston, and Martyn Stead who lives in Chester. Jonathan made 2495 records including Carex divulsa and Selaginella kraussiana in Aldford churchyard, and Geranium rotundifolium on a track by the A55. He found Inula conyzae in Eccleston and Lagarosiphon major in a pond in Dodleston, where was also Hordeum secalinum. Persicaria pensylvanica was an NCR in Dodleston and Carduus acanthoides another NCR which we need to look out for.  Martyn made an amazing 15462 records including Anthemis tinctoria ssp australis on an A55 sliproad which was new to the UK! By the canal he found Anthriscus caucalis and Briza maxima but they were later mown down. Chaenorhinum minus was a pleasing find as was Aira caryophyllea on a sandy bank at Barrymore. Dactylorhiza praetermissa, D. × grandis, and Epilobium montanum × hirsutum were good finds and Cannabis was a surprise. Galium parisiense, seen in the Chester Roman amphitheatre, is only the second record and seems to be spreading.

Julie Rose recorded further north and on the east of the Wirral. Among 1122 hits, she found Impatiens capensis and Senecio inaequidens at Stanlow in an area I was evicted from on a previous visit. What is the secret? Sherardia arvensis and Anacamptis pyramidalis were goodies from Ellesmere. Carduus tenuiflorus and Polystichum aculeatum were other good natives. Hydrocotyle ranunculoides was still in the canal despite the authorities being warned of its nature several years ago. Eric Greenwood directed his attention more to north and west Wirral with 630 records. A large bunch of snowdrops began his year, followed by Sanicula europaea in Manor Wood, Crambe maritima at Heswall and Potentilla × mixta in Gayton. Aliens he found include Rubus loganobaccus at Parkgate, Buddleja × weyeriana and Calendula officinalis at Heswall. Cotula coronopifolia is still in a long known area at Heswall. Finally, Joshua Styles who was inspired to visit Hoylake and found Catabrosa aquatic var uniflora in the area it was first described from and rarely seen since. Not content with that, he found the first records of Atriplex longipes and A. × gustafssoniana (longipes × prostrata). Salicornia ramosissima and S. dolichostachya helped to make up for the meeting to study this genus that could not take place.

Overall, 35457 records were made in 300 monads which is probably more than a normal year might have produced. In fact, it is a record total, though considering that monads potentially give 4 times the equivalent tetrad, it might not be quite so spectacular. Still, congratulations to those whose contributed are in order, especially Martyn. Keep up the good work in 2021. I doubt we will be able to have many/any meetings, but if we can, they will mirror 2020’s proposals.