Places We're Going and Places We've Been

View down a dry valley between Andrews Wood and Meenfield Wood, towards Timberden Farm, with patches of Germander Speedwell, Veronica chamaedrys. May 2012.  Photo by Bill Welch. Valley below Andrews Wood in May,
with Germander Speedwell, Veronica chamaedrys.
Photo by Bill Welch
Speckled Wood, Pararge aegeria, in Meenfield Wood in May.  Photo by Bill Welch. Speckled Wood, Pararge aegeria,
in Meenfield Wood in May.
Photo by Bill Welch

Andrews Wood leads on to a dry valley and then to Meenfield Wood, which is on a ridge to the west of the Darent Valley.

The woods, and the paths along their edges, are full of mosses and plants, and the valley has the flowers typical of chalk grassland. In May 2012 there were patches of blue Germander Speedwell, which you can see in the photo.

The Speckled Yellow moth, Pseudopanthera macularia, and the Speckled Wood butterfly, Pararge aegeria, flit through the trees, their colouring providing camouflage in the dappled light.

From the east side of Meenfield Wood you can see Shoreham and the Darent Valley spread out below, with the unusual war memorial, a large cross cut into the chalky hillside. (You can see it on one of the photos in the Otford section below.)

There is a car park in Andrews Wood which appears to have plenty of space.

Places We're Going and Places We've Been

Meadow flowers in May at Darrick and Newstead Woods.  Photo by Bill Welch. Meadow flowers in May at Darrick and Newstead Woods. Photo by Bill Welch.
Flower of Grass Vetchling, Lathyrus nissolia, at Darrick and Newstead Woods in May.  Photo by Bill Welch. Grass Vetchling, Lathyrus nissolia, at Darrick and Newstead Woods in May. Photo by Bill Welch.

Darrick and Newstead Woods comprises 24 hectares of woodland and meadow which was opened as a Local Nature Reserve in 2010 after considerable work by its friends group clearing up litter and graffiti.

It includes ancient, semi-natural and broad-leaved woodland, meadows, hedgerows and ponds, with a good range of plants and wildlife for such an urban area.

Places We're Going and Places We've Been

OFC members wandering along Downe Bank in June.  Photo by Bill Welch. OFC members wandering along Downe Bank in June. Photo by Bill Welch.
Large skipper, Ochlodes venatus, male, feeding on selfheal, Prunella vulgaris, on Downe Bank in June.  Photo by Bill Welch. Large skipper, Ochlodes venatus, feeding on selfheal, Prunella vulgaris, on Downe Bank in June.
Photo by Bill Welch.

Downe Bank is a nature reserve owned and managed by the Kent Wildlife Trust near the village of Downe, where Charles Darwin lived and worked.

It is closely linked with Darwin, and in particular his studies of orchids. You can read about it and see orchid photos in Irene Palmer's article about "Orchis Bank" on this website.

Naturally, there are many orchids here, and also a good range of other plants, particularly chalkland specialists.

There is no convenient parking place. Visitors park in the village of Downe, and make their way along a path by the the side of the road to the track down to the bank.

Places We're Going and Places We've Been

Shaded Broad-bar, Scotopteryx chenopodiata.  Caught at Dryhill Local Nature Reserve, flying by day on 4 August 2012.  Photo by Bill Welch. Shaded Broad-bar, Scotopteryx chenopodiata, caught flying by day at Dryhill Local Nature Reserve in August. Photo by Bill Welch
Common Ragwort, Senecio jacobaea; Hogweed, Heracleum sphondylium; Creeping Thistle, Cirsium arvense.  Dryhill Local Nature Reserve, 4 August 2012.  Photo by Bill Welch. Ragwort, Senecio jacobaea; Hogweed, Heracleum sphondylium; and Creeping Thistle, Cirsium arvense, in Dryhill LNR in August. Photo by Bill Welch

Dryhill Local Nature Reserve is a small reserve occupying a space where, up until the 1950s, there was a quarry.

It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, largely because of its rocks and fossils from the Cretaceous Lower Greensand.

There are also some interesting plants; Meadowsweet, Filipendula ulmaria, and Hairy St. John's-wort, Hypericum hirsutum, as well as large stands of the coarser species such as Common Ragwort, Senecio jacobaea.

These support many invertebrates; spiders, harvestmen, butterflies and day-flying moths. Brightly striped black and yellow Cinnabar moth caterpillars work away at denuding the Ragworts.

It's a good place for a picnic, and there is a car park of moderate size.

Places We're Going and Places We've Been

Spring Wild Mignonette, Reseda lutea, on Farthing Downs in June.  Photo by Bill Welch. Wild Mignonette, Reseda lutea, on Farthing Downs in June. Photo by Bill Welch
Mother Shipton, Callistege mi, on Farthing Downs in June.  Photo by Bill Welch. Mother Shipton, Callistege mi, on Farthing Downs in June. Photo by Bill Welch

Farthing Downs and New Hill is a stretch of semi-natural grassland belonging to the City of London Corporation, and is one of a goup of City of London Commons scattered around the margins of the city.

It includes chalk and neutral grasslands, and some pockets of woodland and hedgerow which add to the diversity of its flora and fauna.

Grassland flowers include Dropwort and Horseshoe Vetch, and there are several species of orchid, including Fly, Bee and Fragrant. A rich moth population is sampled by regular (non-harmful) trapping, and there are lots of butterflies in summer, including Chalkhill Blues.

There is a car park with plenty of spaces for early arrivals.

Places We're Going and Places We've Been

A Malachite Beetle, Malachius bipustulatus, on a white-flowered Creeping Thistle, Cirsium arvense var. albiflorum, at High Elms in July.  Photo by Bill Welch. A Malachite Beetle, Malachius bipustulatus, on a white-flowered Creeping Thistle, Cirsium arvense var. albiflorum, at High Elms in July. Photo by Bill Welch.
A field of Oxeye Daisies, Leucanthemum vulgare, at High Elms in May.  Photo by Bill Welch. A field of Oxeye Daisies, Leucanthemum vulgare, at High Elms in May. Photo by Bill Welch.

High Elms Country Park consists of 250 acres of Local Nature Reserve with a variety of habitats: woodlands, ponds, formal gardens and wildflower meadows. There is also a nature centre with a café.

It would take more than a day to explore the whole area. The nature highlights are the chalk meadows, which are rich in flora, with many orchids, and butterflies, including the Silver-washed Fritillary.

There are woodland orchids, too, and unusual saprophytic plants such as Bird's-nest Orchid, Yellow Bird's-nest, and Toothwort. And glow-worms can be seen in the woods on midsummer nights.

The car park is spacious, but can be full at busy times. There is another, rougher car park at Cuckoo Wood about a mile up High Elms Road, at the far end of the estate.

Places We're Going and Places We've Been

Hoverfly, Eupeodes luniger, female, on chicory, Cichorium intybus.  Jubilee Country Park in July.  Photo by Bill Welch. A hoverfly, Eupeodes luniger, on a chicory flower, Cichorium intybus, in Jubilee Country Park in July. Photo by Bill Welch.
People enjoying a meadow in Jubilee Country Park in July.  Photo by Bill Welch. People enjoying a meadow in Jubilee Country Park in July. Photo by Bill Welch.

Jubilee Country Park is 62 acres of meadows and ancient woodland on the edge of the suburbs, between Petts Wood and Bickley.

It is a Local Nature Reserve. The meadows are at their best in summer, with washes of blue Chicory flowers, which are the symbol of the park, and many butterflies and other insects.

Other meadow flowers of note include Corky-fruited Water-dropwort, scarce in this area though this park is full of it, and Greater Yellow-rattle; you can't miss those, and there are other treats for sharp-eyed botanists. The park also contains Slow-worms and Great Crested Newts.

The meadows are mostly clay, and it is muddy in wet weather. There are three car parks around the edges of the park. An active friends group keeps the amenities in good shape.

Places We're Going and Places We've Been

Yellow Loosestrife, Lysimachia vulgaris, at Leybourne Lakes Country Park in July 2012.  Photo by Bill Welch. Yellow Loosestrife, Lysimachia vulgaris, at Leybourne Lakes Country Park in July. Photo by Bill Welch.
Horseradish, Armoracia rusticana, at Leybourne Lakes Country Park in July 2012.  Photo by Bill Welch. Horseradish, Armoracia rusticana, at Leybourne Lakes Country Park in July. Photo by Bill Welch.

Leybourne Lakes Country Park opened in 2004. It was created from a series of gravel pits and is now a recreational centre.

It is a good place to see water birds and many interesting plants. Paths run round the lakes and botanists can see Gypsywort ( Lycopus europaeus), Marsh Woundwort (Stachys palustris), Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris) and many others.

Some of the pathsides, near housing, have been sown with wildflower seeds, so that banks of Goat's-rue (Galega officinalis) and Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), while pretty, are not natural.

There is a car park with space for 100 cars. There is a charge to park. There are toilet facilities; these and the car park are locked at night.

Places We're Going and Places We've Been

Bog Asphodel, Narthecium ossifragum, on Keston Common in July.  Photo by Bill Welch. Bog Asphodel, Narthecium ossifragum, on Keston Common in July. Photo by Bill Welch.
A Roe Deer, Capreolus capreolus, crossing Keston Common in September.  Photo by Bill Welch. A Roe Deer, Capreolus capreolus, crossing Keston Common in September. Photo by Bill Welch.

Keston Common is a mixed site on Blackheath Gravel, varied and full of interest; in fact it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, as well as being a Local Nature Reserve and an Ancient Scheduled Monument site.

There are areas of dry acid heath and grassland, woodland, small lakes, and wet meadow. The common contains the source of the River Ravensbourne at the so-called Caesar's Well. A special feature is a small bog, used by Darwin in his studies of insectivorous plants; regrettably, sundews are no longer found here.

The varied habitats mean that this is a good site for studies of plants, insects and fungi.

The site is managed by an active group, the Friends of Keston Common.

There are two car parks, one close to the ponds and one over a road at the far side of the common.

Places We're Going and Places We've Been

Soft Shield Fern, Polystichum setiferum, in a chalky wood near Leaves Green in December.  Photo by Bill Welch. Soft Shield Fern, Polystichum setiferum, in a wood near Leaves Green in December. Photo by Bill Welch.
Schizophyllum commune, a fungus, on a wooden post on the edge of Leaves Green village green in December 2012.  Photo by Bill Welch. A fungus, Schizophyllum commune, in Leaves Green in December. Photo by Bill Welch.

Leaves Green car park is at the side of a roadside village green. Narrow roads lead back to a dry chalk valley of the type also seen elsewhere in the London Borough of Bromley.

This is the northern fringe of the North Downs. Saltbox Hill, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, is nearby.

The roadsides have their own plant community, including Hart's-tongue Ferns and the fragrant Winter Heliotrope. The farmlands and valleys are rich in chalkland plants, including some orchids, and there are patches of woodland among the fields.

There is plenty of room in the car park; but we have observed that it is sometimes closed.

Places We're Going and Places We've Been

Water-violet, Hottonia palustris, Water Plantain, Alisma plantago-aquatica, and Water Mint, Mentha aquatica, in Marden Meadow pond on 25 May 2013.  Photo by Bill Welch. Water-violet, Hottonia palustris, Water Plantain, Alisma plantago-aquatica, and Water Mint, Mentha aquatica, in Marden Meadow pond on 25 May 2013.
Green-winged Orchids, Anacamptis morio, and Meadow Buttercups, Ranunculus acris, in Marden Meadow on 25 May 2013.  Photo by Bill Welch. Green-winged Orchids, Anacamptis morio, and Meadow Buttercups, Ranunculus acris, in Marden Meadow on 25 May 2013. Photos by Bill Welch.

Marden Meadow is a small group of three fields, some of which is unimproved hay meadow of excellent quality, and therefore a great place for botanists to visit.

There are also a couple of very pleasant small ponds.

The main feature of Marden meadow is its display of Green-winged Orchids (sometimes called Green-veined Orchids).

These are mostly purple, but pink (or "salmon") and sometimes white specimens can also be found.

A drawback for group visits is the very restricted amount of parking, no more than half a dozen cars. However, it is also accessible by train and bus.

Here is a link to the Kent Wildlife Trust's site on Marden Meadow.

There are some closeup photos of Green-winged Orchids on our page of orchid photographs.

Places We're Going and Places We've Been

View over flooded fields towards the war memorial above Shoreham, the next small town up the valley from Otford.  Photo by Bill Welch. View over flooded fields towards the war memorial above Shoreham. Photo by Bill Welch
Filston Oast and the Darent valley countryside near Otford, Kent.   Photo by Bill Welch. Filston Oast and the Darent valley countryside near Otford, Kent. Photo by Bill Welch

Otford is a small town in the valley of the river Darent, just outside the M25. There are walks up the valley through some beautiful Kent countryside.

The photos are from 2nd February 2013, a dry day in a very rainy season. There was a cold wind and a great deal of mud! But great views, and just a few early wildflowers were already in bloom.

There is a car park in the town, on the high street just west of the roundabout, at grid reference TQ 526 594.

Places We're Going and Places We've Been

Spring Park meadow from the base of the wood in September.  Photo by Bill Welch. Spring Park meadow from the base of the wood in September. Photo by Bill Welch
Broad-bodied Chaser, Libellula depressa, at the pond in Spring Park.  Photo by Bill Welch. Broad-bodied Chaser, Libellula depressa, at the pond in Spring Park in June. Photo by Bill Welch

Spring Park belongs to the City of London Corporation, and is one of a goup of City of London Commons scattered around the margins of the city.

It consists of an area of semi-natural ancient woodland on a slope with a hay meadow at the bottom. A pond has been created at the base of the wood, and here you can see dragonflies and damselflies.

It is rich in Small-leaved Limes, which are not common, and has some excellent specimens. It has a beautiful show of Bluebells and Wood Anemones in the spring.

Some sections of the wood are managed by cyclical coppicing of Hazel and Sweet Chestnut, providing a variety of habitats which help to enrich its wildlife.

There is a small car park at the far side of the meadow, and plenty of parking space on Woodland Way above the wood.