We had a day out at Sandwich, a small town on the East coast of Kent. There are many botanical rarities in this area, so when I heard that a brand new public footpath had been opened, called the England Coast Path, I thought we had to walk it.
On the way we stopped on the Thanet Way for a drink, so naturally, I had a look around.
This is Mugwort with its flowers fully open! They are tall leafy plants which when crushed have a lovely smell. They grow just about anywhere as well.
There were plenty of plants around, but the only other photo I took here was the underside of Wild Carrot. This shows its feathery bracts underneath, very distinctive. Most flower heads also have a red flower bang in the centre of the umbel (but some don't ).
Lunch at McDs arrived so the camera was put away here. Got it just in time as well, as they had a power cut straight afterwards!
We arrived at Sandwich and began the long walk down the River Stour, where there were plenty of flowers to see, such as this nice display of a Common Mallow and a Scentless Mayweed growing through it.
Malva sylvestris & Tripleurospermum inodorum
Butterflies were everywhere, and I managed to photograph quite a few of them on the walk. Here's the first, the attractive Gatekeeper, settling on a gone over Bristly Oxtongue.
I then found a Kent RPR species, the rare Dittander. There were hundreds of them along the tidal river. The only other place I have found them is on the Dartford Marshes in North Kent.
Dittander is a tall spindly plant with masses of small crucifer white flowers. As such, they sway about in the wind a lot and are difficult to photograph!
Birdsfoot Trefoil type flowers abounded, but this one looked different. On a closer inspection, I noticed the leaves to be narrow and strap shaped, quite unlike the usual Common variety.
It's Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil
Along the mowed edge of the path my partner found a tiny Broomrape. These have all gone over elsewhere, and I suspect this one came up after being cut down by the mowers.
This is an unusual form, being an all yellow Common Broomrape. The only plant anywhere near it were Trefoils.
Broomrapes parasitise certain plants and knowing which ones are close can help to identify them. Sandwich is home to two very rare Broomrapes along the dunes near the sea so it's always worth keeping an eye out for them.
We then turned off the old path onto the new England Coast Path, which is several kilometres long and twists around the Sandwich peninsular before arriving at the coast on the South side of Pegwell Bay.
Initially there wasn't much to see as the path was new and freshly mowed either side. But there were plants of interest and a habitat like this one was sure to have some good finds. There's even a single Dittander in the photo.
You can see these in the photo above as well, Purple Loosestrife, a tall plant with an impressive spike (or in this case, spikes) of purple flowers.
There was another different Birdsfoot here, the Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil. Don't go by size only as some Common Birdsfoot Trefoil can be very large. Check the pointed sepals at the base of the petals, the outer two will curl outwards (usually) in this species. They also prefer wetter areas and usually grow a lot bigger than Common.
Along the edge of a ditch feeding the lake were several of these Celery-leaved Buttercups. They only grow in permanently damp or wet areas, often in the water itself.
There was another interesting plant in the ditch. I think this is Three-lobed Water Crowfoot, another rare plant. I used the BSBI plant crib to help me ID it, though I've sent several photos to my County Recorder to help determine the species for sure.
Fan-leaved Water Crowfoot were also present.
These are easier to ID as they have no surface leaves and the submerged thread like leaves all branch in twos (like a fan).
I recently found some of this species in the Long Ponds at Dungeness.
The path then changed to a horrible mowed grass path with all the cuttings left on the new path. This meant you couldn't see any obstacles and I turned my ankle several times on cattle hoof prints or tree stumps, all hidden under the cut grasses. A freshly ploughed field was easier to walk on and this went on for about 2km!
Anyway, by the edge of the path, I spotted this Restharrow, normally a very common plant, but this one was different to the usual. It was tall and bushy with vicious spines. The stems almost hairless as well, confirming this to be Spiny Restharrow, a Kent RPR species. I've only found this on the North Kent coast before, so it was a great plant to find on the new path. I have put a record in for it as well. There's a long spine on the lower left of this photo.
Pale Persicaria put in an appearance as well, growing right next to a group of the more common Redshank, which have the usual pink flowers.
Although I've already shown a photo of a Common Mallow, I thought I'd include this one to show how tall they can get. This one is about 4' tall and mostly in seed. Some can get so big you think it might be a Tree Mallow, but the flowers are quite different and the Common Mallow never has a true woody stem.
All of sudden, the terrain changed to vegetated dunes. The flowers became more varied and more numerous, as did the wildlife.
I noticed this Garden Tiger Moth on a stem in the dunes. It had been a cloudy day with some rain and was quite cool and the moth didn't fly off. I could even cut away grass stems in front of it to get a good photo, without it flying off.
The plant below the moth is Lady's Bedstraw going to seed.
Wild Teasel are very common and were plentiful here as well. Their flowers come out in bands around the flower head, you rarely see the whole flower head in flower at the same time.
Common Mallow is nice to see, but Musk Mallow is a delight to see. The flowers are pale pink , much bigger than Common Mallow and are usually in pairs facing in opposite directions.
Once in the dunes, the amount of butterflies around increased dramatically. Whites, Skippers, all sorts, including this Marbled White.
This was a Red Admiral, quite plain on its underwing, but with a vivid red stripe on the upper.
The final butterfly I photographed was this lovely Small Copper, a declining species, but still often seen in coastal areas. I did see some in Shoreham (Kent) and also Dartford Heath in recent years, but I rarely see them inland now.
Back to the flowers and these tiny Lesser Sea Spurreys grew in salty areas. They are common around the coast, saltmarsh and surprisingly along salted roads inland (such as by the A2 at Northfleet)
Sea Holly is on the Kent RPR, but is quite common at Sandwich. It's now in flower and it's pale blue mini florets look good on the dunes.
I must go and find Eryngium campetsre soon (Watling Street thistle) which looks similar, but the flowers are white.
A rust fungus was my last photo on this long walk. I don't have time to look it up now, but they are quite fascinating organisms in their own right.
It then started pouring down with rain and by the time I got back to the car in Sandwich by an alternate route I was soaked through. However, it was a very interesting day overall.
All credit to the authorities that created the new path, but hopefully, they will iron out the rough bits of it in time.