Looking at the Countryside – June 16th 2017

11 people met at Shide Chalkpit, Newport, for a walk led by Hugh & Margaret Walding.  Margaret gave us a brief history of the pit, previously known as Pan Pit, & from research by Alan Phillips, believed to have been a meeting place as far back as medieval times. A chalk pit from the 1800s until it closed in 1943, chalk was taken to make cement from the pit to the nearby Shide railway station, through a tunnel still present today, & to the cement works on the River Medina.  John Edmunds remembered as a boy watching the chalk being blasted from the pit face with dynamite. The brick building where the men took shelter during the blasting is still there today.

A variety of chalk grassland flora was found including Early Purple orchids past their best, many Southern Marsh & Pyramidal orchids, some Bee orchids, Twayblades, Quaking Grass, Briza, (known locally as ‘wiggle-waggles’) & rare Marsh Helleborines.  Margaret showed us an Oribanche , (Broomrape).  Also noted was a very dark Columbine, Aquilegia Vulgaris, found every year in the same spot.

The group then moved on to visit the new Pan Meadows nature reserve, managed by Gift to Nature, to admire a display of Grass Vetchling with their tiny cerise flowers.  The walk continued along Pan Lane, saved from the Asda development by dormice living in the ancient hedgerow, back to the pit, where Hugh & Margaret were thanked for an interesting morning.
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