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Walk at Farnham Heath

In October we went to Farnham Heath which was a new venue for us and proved to be a varied and interesting site. It was acquired by the RSPB in 2002 and is gradually being returned to heathland, to the benefit of all the species that live in this valuable habitat.


Autumn is not peak time for birds and this Friday was indeed very quiet, apart from Kestrel, Buzzard and a smattering of small birds. However, to balance this, over 150 species of fungi have been found here and we discovered a fair few including: Amanita citrina, the False Deathcap, Paxillus involutus, the Brown Rollrim, Hygrophropsis aurantiaca, the False Chanterelle, Trametes versicolor, Turkey Tail and a splendid Sparassis crispa the Cauliflower Fungus.


There were still quite a few flowers around including both Calluna vulgaris, Common Heather or Ling and Erica cinerea, Bell Heather. Linaria vulgaris, Common Toadflax was a welcome and attractive addition to the list, although it is more usually found on calcareous soils, the little colony here was doing well. Another plant that caused quite a bit of discussion was Artemesia vulgaris, Mugwort, which is very similar to, and often confused with, Artemesia absinthium, Wormwood. However, the latter has larger yellow flowers and is strongly aromatic. Mugwort has small, brownish flowers and the leaves are silvery white underneath. The name Mugwort is thought derive from moughte (a moth or maggot) because the plant was believed to be useful in staving off the attacks of moths. Before the introduction of hops, another use for this plant, along with several others, such as Glechoma hederacea, Ground Ivy, was to flavour beer.


Autumn is the time of year when spider webs on gorse and heather become particularly noticeable as droplets of moisture, caught in the webs, flash and shimmer in the sunlight. The difference between cobwebs and spider webs is a fascinating subject and well worth five minutes research on Google!

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