Monday, July 27, 2015

Great Chattenden Wood

A year ago Twitter informed me of a record of iris at Cliffe, near Rochester in Kent.  Today I called in at Great Chattenden Wood, by Cliffe.  This is where the British obsession with iris really began, back in mid-Victorian times.  Anyone who has read Frohawk, Tutt or even Heslop (and Stockley) will appreciate the significance of the place.  Chattenden is also effectively the type locality for iole / lugenda vars, as it produced quite a few of them (the Fermyn of its day).  It is of immense importance in the history of butterflying in the UK, actually predating collecting in the New Forest.  It is therefore the spiritual homeland of the People of Purple Persuasion.

I am more than delighted to report that iris is indeed back in Great Chattenden Wood (if it ever left).  The weather was just a little too cloudy for adults today (a shame as there is a classic sheltered high point male territory, which is probably the same spot where the bulk of Victorian specimens were collected, an oak-crowned hill top as described by Frohawk and Tutt).  However, I found an egg on one of the abundant caprea-type sallows down the lower slopes.  Habitat conditions are really good for the butterfly, due to extensive coppicing in recent decades.  I was hugely impressed by the quality and quantity of the sallows.  
  
Chattenden is currently in the news, for the eastern half of it is Lodge Hill - the top Nightingale site under threat of development for housing, as an MOD sell off.  The War Dept took over Chattenden during WW1, much of it was turned into a camp.  We want it turned back into sallow jungle...  


3 comments:

dennis said...

so does the MOD still own it?

Bill Seager said...

Nightingales and Emperors, it sounds like a piece of old England to treasure, not destroy. Perhaps the fellowship should stake a claim on the place...

Paul Fosterjohn said...

There's a 129 page report commissioned in 2009 for Land Securities available via the Medway local government website.

Unfortunately the historical significance for producing ab.iris won't be a factor deciding the fate of the wood. Maybe the nightingales will be the saving grace but alas not iris.

As Knepp proves, iris is remarkably good at populating and exploiting new areas in a relatively short space of time.