|Walking down into Cudham Valley past Bottom Barn Farm|
We started in Cudham and walked down into the valley, onto Cudham Road, up Hang Grove Hill and off down to Musk Orchid Bank, from where some of us accepted a lift back.
Much of this is on the Cudham circular walk. The whole area is of interest to historians of science, as it is part of the area walked and recorded by Darwin when he lived at the nearby Down House. This area is once again (for the third time) being proposed to Unesco as a world heritage site. And there is some beautiful countryside.
|A field full of cowslips in Cudham Valley|
These Bromley valleys were formed by runoff from melting ice at the end of the last ice age; there is no water in them now. The plateaus are clay with flint, and the valleys themselves are chalk.
Walking down the side of the valley, we passed several laid hedges. The slope itself was covered with scrubby trees until ten years ago, when they were cleared and a few sheep were introduced to prevent regrowth. This was an attempt to re-establish the chalk downland which became overgrown when rabbits died off on the introduction of myxomatosis. It has re-grown naturally since then with the local mix of plant species and is now well populated, though there is plenty of low thorn and bramble scrub up to about a foot high.
|Cowslips in Cudham Valley|
Down at the bottom of the valley, a field belonging to Bottom Barn Farm is full of cowslips, introduced by re-seeding. We walked on to Cudham Road, a short section at the bottom of the valley between Downe Road and Hang Grove Hill. The coal-tax post there was erected to show a point at which tax could be levied on coal being brought into London.
At this point there is a privately owned field which was once a caravan site. It has regrown a lovely carpet of wild flowers; many primroses, lungworts, speedwells, and some less lovely ones like wild parsnips. There are some orchids here in season. There are also a few escapees from the old caravans, for example daffodils and goldenrod, which are less welcome.
|Primroses on Primrose Bank, Cudham Valley|
The field is known as "Primrose Bank" and this name is well justified.
On the high sides of the valley are ancient woodlands, including Blackbush Shaw and Twenty Acre Shaw, which are managed by the Woodland Trust. We walked up Hang Grove Hill, through Hang Grove, and saw some interesting plants by the roadside; townhall clock, an indicator species for ancient woodlands, and toothwort, a plant with no chlorophyll that is parasitic on hazel roots.
Up the hill, we turned off to a site known as Musk Orchid Bank. This area is not accessible to the public; it is owned by Bromley council and managed by a tenant farmer. There are no musk orchids there now, as there were in Darwin's time. But it is covered with primroses, with some patches of cowslips. It's adjacent to Downe Bank, a nature reserve owned by the Kent WIldlife Trust.
There I also found the shell of a Roman snail, a very large edible snail species which I have never seen alive. Much bigger even than the large garden snails. I will be watching ..
Just as we left we saw a buzzard fly out of the woods for a few moments.
Random fact: Lesser celandine is sometimes called pilewort, and was used as a cure. One of the walkers said that the roots resemble piles, so this might just be sympathetic magic.
Here are a few more images:
|The coal tax post in Cudham Valley|
|Field Speedwell on Primrose Bank, Cudham Valley|
Later addition: I now think this might be germander speedwell.
|Townhall clock on the edge of ancient woodland in Cudham Valley|
|Lungwort on Primrose Bank, Cudham Valley|
|The group on Musk Orchid Bank, about to rest among primroses|