Sunday, 2 February 2014

Maybe your botany group would like to have a 'Wild Thyme'?

Moenchia erecta at Fawsley
Image: B. Laney
That's the title of the excellent newsletter that Rob Wilson has been sending out each year to botanists in VC32 Northamptonshire and surrounding counties.

Rob told me "The Northamptonshire Flora Group has been running since the early 1990s and I have been producing newsletters since then.  It was very useful to keep in touch when we were producing the 1995 Flora and subsequently for Atlas 2000 and the 2013 Flora.  We now have a number of active members who are well on their way to completing more than is required for the 2020 Atlas, although we are always looking for more volunteers". 

If you live in Northants. and want to get involved, get in touch with Rob here. We are also putting together a "help pack" for local groups, and Rob has kindly agreed to draft some notes to help you start your own newsletter.  

Gill Gent examines Odontites jaubertianus
at Spanhoe Airfield
Image: R. Wilson
Rob is quick to acknowledge the help of the many local volunteers who have contributed records over the years, such as Gill Gent, who was VC Recorder until she retired last year after "more years than she cares to remember!" 

Gill was a driving force behind the 1995 Flora, and in 'Wild Thyme' she talks of growing up in the Nene Valley during the Second World War when "the valley was a patchwork with many colours of blooming flowers..." 

And of course Northamptonshire is the home of plant-finder extraordinaire Brian LaneyWherever Brian goes, he seems to effortlessly spot plants that have either never been recorded in the county before or else have not been seen for around a century. How on earth does he do it? 


Brian Laney in VC55 for New Year's Plant Hunt 2013-4
Image: L. Marsh
Dipping into the latest issue of 'Wild Thyme', there is Brian's gorgeous image of Upright Chickweed Moenchia erecta which he re-found in Fawsley last June, the previous record being from 1877. 

There is also a note about Rob, who recently received the Cliff and Joyce Christie Award for contributions to the study of natural history and/or conservation in Northamptonshire. This was presented to him by Baroness Young of Old Scone, the President of the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, at their AGM last October.


Odontites jaubertianus
Image: R. Wilson
Click here to read the full story in 'Wild Thyme', which also has an update on the Rare Plant Register for VC32, notes on 'Unusual plant records' (including Brian's Moenchia erecta) and the group's calendar of 'Botanical Outings'. 

I love the way botanists, so precise in their language when discussing taxonomy and botanical nomenclature, fling so many different terms around to describe what we actually do. We hold botanical outings or fieldtrips or field meetings or excursions with our local Flora/BSBI/county/botany/recording group. When we get there, we may pootle or poke about or have a nosey, but if we have time we will carry out a survey or fill in a card or bash a square. 

No wonder people don't have a clue what a botanist actually does - pootling and square-bashing? I guess newcomers will just have to try and get on to one of our field meetings and find out for themselves what goes on. And will probably tell us that they were out mooching with BSBI Plant Club and Brian Laney found something really rare... again!