Rare sightings . . .
Lesley Dolphin takes a dip and campaigns to save the county’s adopted wildflower
Can you remember picking wild oxslips when you were young? I’d love to hear from you if you’ve seen any recently because they have just been put on the red data list for plants.
Most counties have their own flower, Lancashire and Yorkshire are obvious examples with their red and white roses respectively, Bedfordshire has the bee orchid, Essex has the cowslip and Norfolk has the common poppy. Here in Suffolk we voted for the oxslip in 2002 in a poll run by the charity Plantlife.
It was my regular guest, writer and Suffolk dialect specialist Charlie Haylock, who was dismayed to hear that our Suffolk flower is under threat and decided we should do something about it. So he has come up with the idea of SOSO - Save Our Suffolk Oxslip.
I have to admit I had to dig out a picture of one because, although I grew up in the country with primroses and cowslips in abundance, I didn’t see oxslips – mind you I grew up in Norfolk.
One listener, Gerry Turner, told us that he remembers his grandma taking him, when he was little, to a wood near Battisford to pick ‘Five Fingers’ as she called them. He said the wood was full of these beautiful flowers. In fact he was so inspired by his memories that he has managed to get hold of some seed and grown his own patch of oxslips in Norwich.
Apparently they are fairly common in Europe but here in the UK they are disappearing fast. I’ve learnt that they love ancient woodlands and clay soils but, because of changes in agriculture and, more recently, an explosion in the deer population, their natural habitat is disappearing.
In the same way that our bluebell woods are a magnificent sight, the Suffolk Wildlife Trust says a Suffolk oxlip wood in spring is wonderful. “. . . with its graceful, nodding, creamy yellow flowers and its delicate apricot scent.” Bull’s Wood at Cockfield, and Bradfield Woods have magnificent displays in April, apparently. I must try to remember for next year.
Although Suffolk Wildlife Trust is trying to manage the woodlands so the flowers survive they are fighting a losing battle against increasing deer populations. I’ve seen lots of dead deer on the sides of the roads which is, I assume, another sign of their increasing numbers.
The CLA (Country Land and Business Association) held a meeting recently to discuss the problem and included the plight of the oxslip on the agenda.
So what can you do to help? Well, we really need to know where oxslips are still growing, so if you can keep your eyes open and let us know that would be really helpful. We’re determined to do our bit to try to save another iconic Suffolk species. See also Sheena Grant’s feature on identifying wildflowers and what to see in August page 134
SPOT THE DOLPHIN
I can’t leave without a mention of the wonderful June and July we’ve had, and of another rare sighting – a Dolphin in the sea at Felixstowe. Me!
I know the dry weather has been a huge problem for farmers and our lawns look as if they’ll never recover (at least we don’t have to cut them) but hasn’t it been glorious?
Mark and I have been determined to make the most of our move to Felixstowe, so I abandoned my usual weekend housework for some time on the beach. There is nothing more special than the sound of the sea, and of children playing on the beach and in the waves. It felt as if we were on holiday and I was even tempted into the sea for a swim – more than once!
ABOVE:A Dolphin enjoying the sea at Felixstowe