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OUR CHANGING SUFFOLK COUNTRYSIDE AND ITS ENDEMIC FLORA. B Y FRANCIS W . SIMPSON,

Ipswich Museum.

THE charm of rural England many of us can remember; or we can visualise, from the vivid nature essays of the Victorian naturalist Richard Jefferies, what has alas gone. The gulf between town and country is rapidly narrowing and the countryside vanishing, because urbanised. At some time we must have all feit sad and lamented injury to a favourite spot: our very sanctuary. A shady lane where the trees have been felled and birds sing there no longer : now it is ugly and dry with the surface tarred. Perhaps a single tree under which we used to play : it had been there for a very long time and many children of bygone times played too. One day we went by and stood amazed. The tree was there no longer. The flowery meads where we used to pick summer flowers and fine grasses have all been ploughed up and the hedges stubbed. The very heart of the countryside is stricken ; the flowers of Suffolk are rapidly vanishing. We can all take steps to prevent unnecessary damage and wanton destruction, but what is far more important is the restoration of natural beauty. Educate tbe young generation with gentle persuasion and thoughtfulness. Try to influence those responsible : the County Councils, Planning Committees, Landowners, the East and West Suffolk Agricultural Committees, the War Office, various local authorities, etc. You may be able to do something practical, such as tree planting or preserving a habitat of rare flora and handing over the area to the care of the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves or the National Trust. Much of the beauty and charm of our countryside was created in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the enterprise of land-owners and lords of the manors, often planting lovely trees and parklands around their fine mansions. These estates preserved also a heritage of wild flowers : their habitats were seldom disturbed. What took many years to achieve and more to maintain has been destroyed rapidly in a half Century or less by taxation, death duties, industrial development and growth of towns, construction of many large aerodromes and military camps. A wave of vandalism Struck the country about 1920. Everywhere roads were widened and trees cut down. Do you remember the London Road from Ipswich to Dedham before it was widened ? The noble trees of Crane Hill, Latinford and Stratford St. Mary ? The Rushmere Road, Humber Doucy and Clapgate Lanes, Ipswich. With the widening of roads for the motorist came the breaking up of estates and ribbon development, such as at Kesgrave. The advance of the railways in the Victorian era had done certain


OUR CHANGING SUFFOLK COUNTRYSIDE 50 damage cutting through parks and woodlands, though new habitats for plants and birds were created by their extensive banks. But the petrol engine has done far more härm than ever did any other invention. No appreciation was shown for the preservation of wayside trees ; any excuse, and down would come a line of fine timber or a complete wood felled. Now things are a little better and more consideration is given during road alterations, but much is to be desired, especialy planting of wayside trees or allowing saplings to grow : the hedge Cutters are very careless and will seldom allow a young tree to develop. I know of many waysides where the large trees have been felled and young trees have appeared in numbers from seed, but none remain. They struggle and struggle to send up shoots, which are periodically hacked back and their efforts wasted. The County Councils have tree preservation powers whereby certain groups or lines of trees may be permanently preserved, but the Councils have taken very little action as yet. I know of only two orders : one for a group of trees at Martlesham and another at Bramford. The schemes in preparation for the parishes of Sudbourne and Iken are too late as manyfinetrees and woods have already been felled which should have been preserved. The protection of a few isolated groups of trees will do little to preserve or maintain the traditional landscape. This is not bold or extensive and we need a law, as in force in some countries, compelling those that cut down trees to replant at least two saplings for every tree removed. Let us plant trees that are native to our County or have been established a long time, as the Horse Chestnut and Sycamore. If you are teachers, get the children interested ; let the children plant trees ; let each child be personally responsible for a tree or group of trees. They can be raised in school gardens from seeds gathered locally, as acorns and various nuts. Children so trained would not be as keen to destroy young trees as others, especialy town children who now go out into the country armed with knives, hatchets and saws. Trees, especialy those with plenty of foliage, more than any other Vegetation restore and maintain the correct balance of nature, arrest erosion, purifv the atmosphere, encourage precipitation and in time add fertility to the soil. Farmers may not agree and will argue that marginal trees rob their land of much moisture and shade crops ; but a land denuded of its trees loses its interest, eventually becomes very poor indeed, andfinallywaste or desert. I cannot overrate the importance and usefulness of a well-timbered countryside. Forest land once covered much of Suffolk : all the area over which there is spread the Glacial Upper Chalky Boulder Clay was dense forest or scrub ; there were large areas of open woodland and heath on the coastal sands and gravels ; but the " Breck " in the north-west of the County was practically treeless, except


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where p r e v a i l e d e x t e n s i v e f e n a n d a l d e r carr. Now little remains of these ancient forests : some of the existing woods and copses have an endemic flora showing they have never been under the plough and are traceable as woods on the earliest Suffolk maps. However, many large woods shown on the first Survey Maps of about 1838 have vanished and others reduced to copses. The preservation of woods and coverts for game prevented many more being felled in Victorian times after the repeal of the corn laws. Once beautiful woods have become scenes of desolation as every sizable tree and even sapling removed in recent years, often destroying in a few weeks what took hundreds of years to achieve. The lovely endemic flora has vanished and biambles, rank grasses, rushes and bracken now flourish. Why should not these woods be replanted ? The forestry commission is not interested in such areas, as they are too small and uneconomic to maintain. Natural regeneration is very slow and takes about fifty to hundred years according to type of soil, but this rarely is allowed and before it is complete the whole area of a wood is again cut for its saleable stakes. Between the wars a deal of land was going out of cultivation and returning to scrub or heather ; and if much of it had not been reclaimed, because of the second German war, would have eventually become woodland. Large areas were between Haiesworth and Beccles, at Theberton, Whattisham, Grundisburgh, Charsfield, Monewdon, Rickinghall and in many other parishes ; but practically all has now been reclaimed. These areas were very rieh botanically and often a paradise of handsome species, especially the Orchidaceae, of which Ophrys apifera, Huds. and Orchis maculata, L., often occured in thousands. O. mascula, L., O. morio. L., O. pyramidalis, L., Habenaria virescens, Dr. and LĂ„stera ovata, R. Br., were locally common ; Ophrys museifera, Huds. and hybrid forms of Marsh and Spotted Orchis were not uncommon. St. Johns Worts (Hypericum), Centuary (Erythraea), Yellow Wort (Blackstonia perfoliata, Huds.), Carline Thistle (iCarlina vulgaris, L.), Feiwort (Gentiana amarella, L.), and many other plants produced a very charming floral picture. In time, as the trees or the scrub developed, the flora changed and woodland types arrived : but this change has happened in only a few instances. The scrub has grown into woodland and there is good young timber and the land area has not been wasted.

in the Valleys very

Our flora has suffered by the removal of old hedges due to the merging of several flelds into one area. The flowers and shrubs of some of these hedges were relics of former ancient woodlands and marked their boundary. If you look at many old Suffolk paintings or engravings you will notice that hedges were tall, thick and well timbered ; fields were small: there was much charm in the scenes; timber of all sorts played so important a part in the life of the Community that it was encouraged wherever possible.


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The hedges are not now required and are stubbed down to the ditches, and fields are larger for the modern machines : much of Suffolk has thus been spoiled and great treeless areas exist as at Capel and in Elmsett, Naughton and Bricett parishes. Large aerodromes scattered all over Suffolk have denuded the countryside of much former beauty and their buildings stand out ugly and bare on the horizon. T h e bulldozer and gyrotiller have destroyed the heart of the countryside by grubbing hedges, trees, old tumuli and groups of bushes : every district has suffered. Whatever farmers have to say to the contrary, I firmly State that small fields and high hedges that are also fairly thick, preserve the fertility of the soil and give better crops. Large fields cause much erosion by wind and water : soil erosion is a main enemy, the wind and water removing all fine particles. Upon light ground on a dry spring day hundreds of tons of top soil may be swept away, in a few hours by an easterly gale, from a comparatively small area. We are not likely to suffer the " dust bowls " of North America, but we will certainly lose much of the soil's fertility by removing hedges and trees and will have to spend enormous sums in a few years upon adding humus to restore the lost balance. You may have read in the local press recently that our Society was at last interesting the East Suffolk County Council in the question of preserving our wayside flora, and propose to set up a Sub-Committee : this matter arose from complaints made by our Member, the Earl of Cranbrook. I sent this protest to the Council: " Botanists have complained from time to time of, and feit alarmed about, the rate at which the wayside habitats of rare and other flora are vanishing. Many years ago when commons and woodlands were cleared and brought into cultivation the aboriginal flora was driven into the remaining hedgerows and waysides. In certain instances a few yards of a wayside bank may be the only known habitat of an uncommon species, worthy of the utmost protection. Such habitats are very easily destroyed or rendered useless by road Operations, especially during surfacing when heaps of sand, gravel, tar, etc., are dumped anywhere convenient, or are spoilt by the scythes and spades of the Council's road-men. Many beautiful flowers of the countryside, such as the primrose, cowslip and violet have ceased to adorn miles of our roadsides and banks, where formerly abundant, because they are unable to withstand the constant attacks of the road-men. It is indeed a very great pity that we have lost this wayside charm when it could have been preserved with a little care and consideration. I am afraid it is a difficult task to instruct or interest the men employed by road contractors. T h e Suffolk Naturalists' Society is always Willing to co-operate and advise on the preservation of the County fauna änd flora and beauty spots. T h e r e are still certain strips of our wayside banks that should be totally


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protected ; and, unless something is done, damage to our rare flora will continue until little remains worth preserving. Some of the more important wayside habitats might be listed and given priority protection. Such a list would not at first be very large, but it could not be complete and must need additions from time to time as naturalists supplied information If certain species are to survive and maintain their numbers, protection is very necessary whilst they are growing, flowering and seeding." A very large number of the habitats of favourite flowers have been lost during the past decade especially, by ploughing up very old pastures and draining such meadows, parks and marshes. Many species which were formerly frequent, or even common, are now rare or have even almost vanished from our County. These include species of Orchis, Fritillary and Saffron. Afforestation of Breckland and the East Suffolk heaths has reduced or even exterminated much of great scientific interest. We need more and more trees to replace those felled, but we very strongly object to the methods of the Forestry Commission. Breckland we consider a heritage well worth preserving for its rare fauna and flora, to say nothing of its archeological relics. It should have become a National Park Area including certain Nature Reserves. Afforestation of Breckland and the east Suffolk heathland will continue despite every objection or protest. Those in control of the Forestry Commission live behind an " Iron Curtain " and pay no attention to the wishes of local Naturalists.* T h e government afforestation does not tend to produce much natural landscape-beauty, and the lines and lines of conifers blister one's vision. T h e plantations and woods of Georgian and later times, created by private enterprise, are certainly attractive. T h e mixed woods of Nacton and Shrubland are examples of good planting and much local beauty has been created : Birdlife also favours these mixed plantations. State Forests are breeding grounds of vermin : Magpies, Jays, Crows and other enemies of small useful species. There are vast stretches of moorland in the north of Britain where little of botanical interest exists and which were, in ancient times or recently, timbered. We have heard lately much about the need for the cultivation of marginal lands. These areas already serve a very useful purpose and act as reserves to restore to our countryside a balance of forces necessary to maintain a suitable equilibrium. They act as very important catchment areas of natural reservoirs. Sandy * I t appears that the Forestry Commission are shortly to cut down practically every original native tree in a large area they occupy. Regardless of size, all trees bordering lanes, tracks and former field hedges have been marked and numbered ; the total is very frightful, hundreds and hundreds. T h e lovely grove and wooded lane between Chillesford Church and Tunstall Common, where I saw the Swallow Tail Butterfly, are affected. These trees harbour many small birds not found in the coniferous plantations.—F.W.S., Oct. 1950.


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heaths and marshes can absorb up to 100% of the total rainfall. Springs which arise from such areas are more constant in their flow and the water is much purer and less polluted with organisms than those collected from cultivated land. W e spend far too much energy in this island draining away precious rain as rapidly as possible : the flow of many streams is now only seasonal. In Suffolk, surface water supplies are disappearing and springs drying up, and the quantity of stored water deep down in the chalk is annually lessening ; ponds are not dug out as formerly ; more and more pastures have been drained and ploughed, so less and less rain-water has the opportunity of percolating to the sub-soil for storage and springs. Trees and hedges which also encourage local precipitation and preserve moisture, so often needed for crops at a critical time, have been removed. Floods are caused by removing much of the n a t u r a l V e g e t a t i o n . Suffolk rivers are not as seductive as formerly. T h e River Gipping is hardly more than an open drain for Needham and industrialised Stowmarket. When it was maintained as a Canal it was a habitat for many flowers of great charm, especially between Ipswich and Claydon, where now little of interest can be found. T h e Stour has also suffered through the activities of the Catchment Boards. T h e plants of the tidal waters have been killed by pollution : the Zostera or Eel Grass is disappearing. Along the Stour this decrease may, however, be due to the rapid spread of the Spartina Grass, from a few plants brought to Suffolk from Poole Harbour and planted at Brantham by the late Mr. Keeble ; it has now invaded the Orwell, Deben,* Aide and Blyth. Although this is a hybrid plant, its seeds are fertile. Streams, ponds and moats beside roads have also been polluted by asphaltum drainage : the tar, oil and grease poisoning all life. Between 1920 and 1945 the Coast was subjected to all sorts of threats : ribbon development, military Operations, etc. We saw once peaceful areas and lonely beaches invaded by vast crowds : the trippers arrived ! A new era began, the huts went up, bungalows and shacks of every s o r t : the rush was on to exploit. Holiday camps and amusement parks ruined many areas. Landguard Common, formerly of great botanical interest, is now almost entirely enclosed and spoiled. Felixstow Ferry and Bawdsey are overrun during summer, as also is Shingle Street. T h e best area undoubtedly on the Suffolk Coast for floral beauty during May and June is the long shingle ridge that runs south from Slaughden to the mouth of the Ore ; part, however, has been used as a bombing ränge : the beauty of the Sea T h r i f t and Bladder Campion, extending sometimes as far as the eye *A small marsh, bordering the roadway at Bromeswell C o m m o n and a well-known habitat of Marsh and Spotted Orchis and hybrids and other uncommon plants, has just been partly filled up with earth and debris. S h a m e !—F.W.S., Oct. 1950.


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can reach is one of the finest sights I know. Later there are Sea Pea, Stone Crop, Sea Lavender and various grasses. This area should be entirely a Nature Reserve for birds and plants. Much has disappeared through erosion between Thorpness and Minsmere : thence Sea Buckthorn has gone. T h e shingle bank between Dunwich and Walberswick has been weakened : Crambe maritima has vanished, as also from Bawdsey ; Crithum maritimum was destroyed during the last war when coastal barriers were erected, and is now only to be found in one place with a few specimens of Crambe maritima. T h e shore between Southwold and Kessingland has been less spoiled, though Benacre Ness is but a ghost of its former seif: little remains of the varied flora. Everywhere along the coast much ugliness exists. T h e untidy effect of defence materials remains : barbed wire, metal and concrete objects. There is little hope of their removal and we must wait until the forces of nature have worn them away or they are buried by the rolling shingle. Some plants have died out or are vanishing for other reasons, such as general changes in climatic conditions. We are now living in an interglacial period ; local changes, like air pollution, have killed or reduced the ränge of many beloved species, especially around Ipswich. Others may die for no apparent reason, possibly often due to the weakening of stock, or new virus diseases brought to this country with aliens and cultivated crops. T h e spread of towns, motorists, cyclists, hikers and ramblers removing roots, industrial development and rubbish tips, have damaged or destroyed many beauty spots and sanctuaries. There must have been a remarkable profusion of wild flowers and even ferns around Ipswich up to the middle of the nineteenth Century ; for several old collections in the Museum there contain important specimens collected from parts of the town now built over : even some species that are now very uncommon in our County. To-day interesting endemic species are everywhere being replaced by newer arrivals, better suited to man's interference. N A T U R E RESERVES

are urgently needed.

However, we still possess a good many plants in Suffolk requiring special protection if they are to survive much longer the action of the east and west Suffolk Agricultural Committees, the Forestry Commission and other " planners." T h e plants must be preserved in their actual habitats and not transferred, as is so often and so wrongly suggested, to new sites where they may or may not survive the changed conditions. T h e nature reserves urgently needed would be mainly the ancient habitats of endemic species, and would require little maintenance and protection from only vandals. T h e provision of such in Suffolk, and protection of fauna and flora, is left as yet to chance or the discretion " planning committees." An intelligent programme of conservation can restore some of


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the beauty and charm to our countryside. Much cannot be replaced where habitats have been destroyed ; but the planting of wayside and hedgerow trees is most important and should be carried out without delay: the Forestry Commission could supply the trees (native ones only) to the County Councils, and land-owners for planting or carry out much of the work themselves in certain areas. T h e health of the nation will suffer if hedges, trees and other natural Vegetation be further removed : the air becoming more and more polluted, dust and germ laden. Before you feil a tree or remove a hedge consider the above results. APPENDIX.

Great changes have taken place in our countryside since the publication of my article on the rare, extinct and doubtful flora of the County (Trans, supra, vol. iii, p. 9). T h e following lists indicate certain species, formerly frequent or locally common which have now become less common or even quite scarce. Habitat. Woodlands. T h e felling of great quantities of timber in our oak-ash woods has brought about many changes, such as robbing endemic species of essential shade : Asperula odorata, L., Primula elatior, Schreb., Paris quadrifolia, L., Habenaria virescens, Dr., Neottia nidus-avis, Rieh., Epipactis latifolia, All., Iris feetidissima, L. Convallaria majalis, L. and Ruscus aculeatus, L., have been very much reduced in recent years at Bentley by removal of leaf mould, stubbing and burning. Habitats. Rough pastures, moist meadows and marshes, also old parkland used for grazing and scrub. Much has been ploughed or reclaimed, many interesting habitats are lost, and a wealth of beautiful flora disappeared. T h e following species less f r e q u e n t : Genista tinetoria, L., Saxifraga granulata, L., Achilla;a ptarmica, L., Carduus acaulis, L., Valeriana dioica, L., Chlora perfoliata, L., Gentiana amarella, L., Primula elatior, Schreb., Lysimachiä vulgaris, L., Orchis morio, L., O. maculata, L., O. eloides, O. pyramidalis, L., Habenaria virescens, Dr., H . viridis, R. Br., Ophrys apifera, Huds., O. museifera, Huds., Listera ovata, L., Malaxis paludosa, Sw., Liparis loeselii, Rieh., Narcissus pseudonarcissus, L., Fritillaria meleagris, L. Colchicum autumnalis, L., Gagea lutea, Ker. Several of the above plants are usually regarded as woodland inhabitants but they grow very well in old pastures and beside streams. In many cases the pastures were derived directly from felled woodland or alder carr, and have never been ploughed. Habitats. East Suffolk Heaths and west Suffolk Breck. Due chiefly to afforestation and military camps and aerodromes, the Breckland flora much reduced over the entire area. Local or frequent species now thus reduced include : Teesdalia nudicaulis, R. Br., Drosera rotundifolia, L., Sagina nodosa, Fenzl., Cerastium


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arvense, L., Mcenchia erecta, L., Genista anglica, L., Scabiosa columbaria, L., Carlina vulgaris, L., Asperula cynanchica, L., Jasione montana, L., Pedicularia palustris, L., Veronica verna, L., Thymus serpyllum, L., Calamintha acinos, Clairv. Habitats. Waysides, lanes, banks, etc. Roads have been widened, hedges and banks removed. Helleborus foetidus, L., Helianthemum chamaecistus, Mill., Saponaria officinalis, L., Malva moschata, L., Borago officinalis, L., Mentha alopecuroides, Huds., Salvia verbenaca, L., Nepeta cataria, L., Stachys betonica, Benth., Verbens officinalis, L., Daphne laureola, L., Aceras anthropophora, R. Br., O. pyramidalis, L., Ophrys apifera, Huds., Luzula forsteri, DC., Asplenium adiantum-nigrum, L. Habitats. Sea coast. Ribbon development, extension of towns and villages, erosion and war-time changes. Vast numbers of trippers, etc. Crambe maritima, L., Frankenia laevis, L., Eryngium maritimum, L., Crithmum maritimum, L., Sedum anglicum, Huds., Hyoscyamus niger, L., Hippophae rhamnoides, L. Habitats. Rivers, streams and estuaries : pollution. Hottonia palustris, L., Butomus umbellatus, L., Typha angustifolia, L., Sparganium simplex, Huds., Acorus calamus, L., Zannichellia palustris, L., Zostera marina, L., Z. angustifolia, Syme.

HIEMAL M O T H S S P A R S E . — N o sign of the threatened cold spell yet, thank Goodness ! I rushed and had anti-freeze put in the car, to no useful purpose so far. For I saw more Brumata and Defoliaria on 3rd in pouring rain than I have seen all the winter (P. J. BURTON ; 5 Jan.). Fluctuata came to light on 3 June, the first of any Moths in my Lowestoft house all this year ! (id., 3 June). The mild winter seemed slow to liberate any Moths ; the first were Hispidaria in Barking Wood on 15 March (CHIPPERFIELD), and at Monks Soham light one Badiata on 17th in temp. 45° at 10 p.m. with Depressaria applana the next night, in the same. Nothing followed tili, after snow on 29 March, Bullace was blossoming, Osier already green, Hawthorn still brown, Daffodils, Violets and, ever since February, Primroses in füll flower, but Forsythia and Sallow bloom fading, on 1 April. Still light attracted nil! (MORLEY).—Mr Renouf and I repaired to Northfield Wood in Onehouse 18 February, an extraordinarily mild night, and there took at light:—many Marginaria, Rupicapraria and JEscularia, several Leucophearia and bibernated Vaccinii, with single Pedaria and Hyemana : nothing very special, but quite a pleasant change to collect eight species upon one night that month—ALASDAIR E.

ASTON.

Changing Countryside and its Endemic Flora  
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