Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Plant species recorded at Rampisham Down, Dorset

This acid grassland site (above) in Dorset is public access,
 unlike Rampisham Down.
Image: Bob Gibbons
Some of you will have seen reports in the media lately about the proposed development at Rampisham Down in Dorset. Here's a piece from the Telegraph, an article from the local paper and Mike McCarthy devoted his column in the Independent this week to the subject . 

Social media is also buzzing with comments and opinion pieces, such as this guest blogpost by Peter Marren for Mark Avery's blog, and this blogpost from Miles King, and lots of calls to action. 

Here at BSBI Central, we always look first at whatever evidence is available, share it with our members, listen to their responses and then form an opinion. So...

Typical assemblage of acid grassland plants
Image: Bob Gibbons
Rampisham Down was designated a *Site of Nature Conservation Interest last century and was more recently designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, primarily for its lowland acid grassland. For those of you familiar with **vegetation classification, the plant community at Rampisham Down is categorised U4.

BSBI’s Vice-County Recorder for Dorset, Robin Walls, said “We only have about 185ha of this community in Dorset, with most of it in small patches. Only Rampisham Down and four other sites exceed 10ha”.

Betony (in foreground) is recorded
from Rampisham Down
Image: Bob Gibbons
This citation is available to all via the Natural England website and any botanist glancing through the named species will notice some which also occur on the England Red List for Vascular Plants, published last September. I spotted 6 species on a quick skim-read and Miles King just checked the List too (thanks Miles!) and picked up 3 more.

So there are 7 species present at Rampisham Down which are classified as Near Threatened on the England Red List: 

They are Harebell Campanula rotundifolia, Tormentil Potentilla erecta, Heather Calluna vulgaris, Heath Speedwell Veronica officinalis, Quaking Grass Briza media, Heath Milkwort Polygala serpyllifolia and Bell heather Erica cinerea.

Two of the species present are listed as Vulnerable on the England Red List. They are Heath Dog-violet Viola canina and Lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica.

BSBI President Ian Denholm said "Given these facts, I think BSBI should consider carefully how best to lend its weight to attempts to save this site". 

Many lowland sites supporting acid grassland species
are in decline (see State of Nature report)
Image: Bob Gibbons
Should you feel, on the basis of the evidence above, that you wish to read more about the Wildlife Trusts' opinion on the development at Rampisham Down, then you can do so here and their petition is here.

Should you wish to share your opinion on this issue with fellow BSBI members and readers of this page, please leave a comment below. 

Many thanks to Bob Gibbons for providing the images used on this page of a comparable acid grassland site in Dorset. There is no public access to Rampisham Down.

*This is how county Wildlife Sites are designated in Dorset.
**Rodwell et al. British Plant Communities. Volumes 1-5. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Volumes published between 1991 and 2000.