Tucked away in rural Kent is a delightfull small river that runs through a quiet bird song filled valley. A public footpath runs parallel to the stream, most of it shaded by the Alder that loves wet ground. Yet this delightful oasis is but a few minutes from the M20 and M26!
These are native to the UK but are often found near habitation as escapes from garden ponds or Council planting. These were truly wild though and a delight to see.
All over the place were carpets of Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage. These have no petals on their flowers but the anthers glow gold in sunlight giving the appearance of thousands of tiny yellow flowers.
Here's a tiny fly, I don't know what species, pollinating them. In turn these provide food for nesting woodland birds. The food chain all links back to plants in the end. Wipe out the plants and you wipe out everything else up that chain, simple really!
Another plant that loves damp areas is Ramsons, a type of wild garlic. There were thousands of them by the river and in a few weeks when they all flower, the valley will be filled with a lovely smell of garlic.
I then started to find these weird looking spikes. They are Great Horsetail, and actually, they are a fern. In a few weeks big feathery fronds will come up around the spikes (which release spores like any other fern).
While common, they aren't often seen in my part of Kent.
Here's a close up.
There was plenty of entomological interest as well. This is an Eristalis species of Hoverly on a Blackthorn flower.
Ground Ivy is a common plant but at this time of year, their tiny fresh flowers are quite attractive and an important nectar source for insects.
Garden escapes are numerous in the wild and many have completely naturalised, such as this Russian Comfrey. It has spread right along the river from a garden well upstream.
Symphytum x uplandicum
For a week or so I had noticed Yellow Archangel leaves in woodlands but here is the first open flower of 2016 I have found.
When in full flower, they have a whorl of these flowers wrapping around the stem at intervals up it, they look fantastic.
After about a kilometre, I came to an old ruined watermill with a small weir. This gave me an excuse to muck around with the shutter settings on the camera to make the water look fluid in the photo.
While down low I noticed numerous small black spiders running about quite fast. I finally crept up on one to take its portrait.
It's a type of Wolf spider.
Moschatel or Town Hall Clock grew in abundance. This is a shade loving species and grows in dry areas as well. It's easily missed as the flowers are green and they are about 3-6" tall, so quite small. They are uniqur in that they have a cubed shaped flower, with 5 sides flowering!
The flowers all grow on the same side of the stem causing the plant to droop.
Everything about this plant is weird, even the flowers themselves. I don't know what insects pollinate them, but I suspect flies and hoverflies as the plant grows in shady areas.
As I retraced my steps, the final thing of interest was this Bee Fly. I was fortunate that its pose was all inline so it's pin sharp from the tip of that huge proboscis to it backside. They are quite harmless to us, they don't bite! However, they flick their eggs into solitary bee nests and when they hatch they eat the bees young!
That was about it for that day, a very enjoyable walk. Nature is fast waking up and soon the woodlands will be saturated in Spring flowers, making the most of the time before the trees come into leaf, I'm looking forward to it!