FNM Visit to Flordon Common SSSI

Our guide was Peter Aspinall, six generations of whose family have been custodians of this rare and wonderful habitat. No herbicides or other chemical sprays, and no heavy machinery have ever been used on these richly biodiverse acres which nestle in a floodplain between areas of higher ground. It is carefully managed by Peter with the help of some dedicated volunteers and advice from Natural England.

2022.06.22.Flordon Common.Photo C Wakeford smGathering on Flordon Common, Photo: C Wakeford

We saw several species of wild orchid, from the Common Spotted and Marsh Orchids to the unusual Twayblade and Marsh Helleborine - as well as a few hybrids that made identification sometimes tricky.  There were many familiar plants that love damp conditions, such as Ragged Robin, Meadow Buttercup and Hemp Agrimony, along with the more unusual Fairy Flax, Bog Pimpernel and Black Bog Rush.
Peter carefully lifted corrugated sheets and pieces of deadwood to reveal to us the grass snakes and lizard sheltering beneath. He pointed out and named the grasshoppers, colourful beetles and hoverflies that were everywhere among the grasses.

2024.06.22.Grass snake.Photo C Wakeford smGrass snake. Photo A Syme

 He was a most knowledgeable host who likes nothing better than sharing his love of this very special haven and we were all extremely grateful for his generosity and engaging warmth.

2024.06.22.Flordon Common.Phpt C Jordan sm 4
Southern Purple Orchid. Photo: C Jordan

It was lovely to see so many orchids dotting the fen. The southern purple was prominent because of size and intense colour. Every square foot yielded something of Interest and sometimes rarity, but Peter Aspinall was never daunted; he seemed to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the insects, plants and birds of Flordon Common.

2024.06.22.Fairy Flax.Photo Annie smFairy Flax. Photo A Syme

I very much enjoyed the wonderful guided walk with the Forncett nature matters group. It was an amazing opportunity to take some photographs of some plants I hadn’t seen before - the fairyflax flower was particularly beautiful! I was also lucky enough to see a grass snake - this was the first time I had seen one before! I look forward to any future events.

Thick thigh marsh beetle.Photo C WakefordThick Thigh Beetle. Photo E Syme

The common is truly a magnificent example of an area that thrived because of its long management under low-intensity agriculture on land that, even in the heyday of subsidies, would have been too expensive to crop for very long (and thank goodness that Peter's grandmother stopped people from attempts). Landowners have always been encouraged by authorities or agricultural service-providers to 'improve' grassland but in a shared resource, like a common, agreement about exactly what to do, who pays and who benefits would likely have made habitat destruction difficult to organise. My thoughts on the visit were busily occupied in drawing comparisons of the flora at my own patch and other areas of the Tas Valley and what has produced such abundance and variety. Key reasons would be plenty of sunshine over the meadows, free of shading trees, wet ground and a bit of churning from grazing animals as well as the particular microclimate produced by geography and surrounding landscape. Happily now, Peter is lucky to have this treasure on his doorstep and it is very lucky to have him!

Thank you very much to Peter and the Forncett Nature Matters team for a fascinating look at the nature on Flordon Common. I spent a happy couple of hours engrossed in all the beauty around us. A great way to switch off and relax.


June 2024

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