Brampton Racecourse SSSI: history and natural history intertwined

In the valley of Alconbury Brook, near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, lies Brampton Racecourse SSSI, a site that is the result of a combination of local interest in natural history and the establishment of a racecourse. This led to the preservation of one of the best examples of unimproved lowland hay meadow in Cambridgeshire, and here

Long-distance dispersal and establishment by orchids

How do orchids successfully travel to and grow in far-away lands? Dave Morgan examines the biology of orchids, from the morphology of seeds to the ecological demands of the flowers themselves, to explain their remarkable dispersal abilities. In 2014, a botanist couple looking for native Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes in Dorset found a single

‘Natural’ vegetation in Britain: the pollen-eye view

Pollen analyses provide an indication of the abundance of different plants at different points in history and can therefore be used to identify changes in vegetation over time. The study of pollen, known as palynology, first emerged 100 years ago and has developed greatly in the time since then. As modelling techniques have improved, it

The changing plant communities of Scotland’s sand dunes and machair

The sand dunes and machair of Scotland’s coast support diverse wildflower communities, but these are extremely vulnerable to changes in land use. A large dataset has provided botanists with a unique opportunity to assess the state of these habitats in Scotland, and examine how and why they have changed over the past 30 years. Robin

Reserve Focus: Durlston NNR and Country Park, Dorset

Situated a mile from Swanage, in Dorset, Durlston National Nature Reserve is a 120ha (300-acre) countryside paradise consisting of sea-cliffs, limestone hay meadows, coastal downland, hedgerows, woodland and scrub, complete with a rich and diverse array of wildlife. 

Wild about Asparagus

Their faces screwed up a little and we could see that they did not really like the taste: it was a little bitter. Fortunately, the Wild Asparagus spears which we fed to the Biodiversity Action Plan group from cultivated plants were only small, and the group much preferred the larger, scrumptious Garden Asparagus plants which

Classic Wildlife Sites: South Gower Coast

The Gower peninsula in South Wales is famous for its landscape and wildlife, and because of this it was designated as the UK's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1956. Although the whole of the area is of great interest to naturalists, attention has traditionally been focused on the coast, which dominates accounts

Sea cliff slopes and combes – their management for nature conservation

Britain's sea cliff slops and the seaward sectors of coastal valleys contain exceptionally rich wildlife habitats. In generic terms they can be called 'coastal slopes'. They support a diverse and often specialist flora which occurs in various grassland, heathland, wetland, woodland and scrub communities. They also have a significant breeding bird fauna which is distinct from

Reserve Focus – Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve

The National Nature Reseve in Upper Teesdale is one of Britain's richest and best-known botanical localities – a treasurehouse of rare and unusual plants, some of which occur nowhere else within England or Britain. It is also of national importance for breeding birds, and possesses many features of outstanding geological and geomorphological interest.

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