30 green places for 30 Days Wild

Hutchinson Bank: Oxeye daisies dot the longer grass - Amanda Tuke

Author Amanda Tuke takes on the challenge of visiting 30 green spaces in London for 30 Days Wild

At the start of June I decided that I would visit 30 green spaces in London which are either remnants of the Great North Wood and/or London Wildlife Trust sites and are in most cases within easy reach of my home in the south of the city.

As a nature writer, botanist and birder, I’m always looking for new experiences and species to inspire my writing. I was familiar with some of these sites but for the rest it was my first visit. For four of them, I knew in advance that the site would be closed but went anyway to familiarise myself with the journey. I also got an intriguing glimpse through gates and fences and will come back once life is back to normality. It’s been an amazing experience and really opened my eyes to the nature on my doorstep.

30 Days Wild Visit number 5. Hutchinson Bank, Croydon, for chalkland plants

Despite Google Maps telling us cheerily that it will take an hour to cycle to Hutchinson’s Bank, it actually takes us two… along a ridiculously circuitous route… and dumps us in New Addington, rather than Featherbed Lane. This is the furthest I’ve been for the Challenge and it takes me at least half an hour to recover. Thankfully I’d already made the decision to save the two adjoining green spaces, Chapel Bank and Three Corner Grove, for another occasion to do them justice.

We find the entrance to the reserve and lock up our bikes.  This feels like the first countryside I’ve been in for a very long time and I’m extraordinarily excited. It’s on the south west side of a chalky hill and is a mixture of grassland – some close-cropped by sheep – and woodland. Just inside the gate we’re greeted with a long stretch of longer grass dotted with oxeye daisies patrolled by sooty meadow brown butterflies.

Ox eye daisy in field

Hutchinson Bank: Oxeye daisies dot the longer grass - Amanda Tuke

Revived by lunch, we begin walking and there’s lots to see.  I particularly enjoy the swathes of yellow rattle with its puffy flower heads and the yellow and tangerine florets of fluffy kidney vetch.

kidney vetch

Hutchinson Bank: Yellow and tangerine of kidney vetch - Amanda Tuke

Being a real anorak, grasses are the thing I really get excited about. I find my favourite, quaking-grass, with its tiny nodding flower heads, a typical chalkland species.

close up of quaking grass

Tiny nodding flower heads of quaking grass - Amanda Tuke

I start becoming aware that my companion’s interest in plant-spotting is waning so we return to our bikes. On the way, I manage to sneak in some photographs of the yellow flower spikes of tall melilot (distinguished from other melilots because the bottom petal or keel is the same length as the side petals or wings) and the swollen flowers of bladder campion, another chalk-loving species.

It’s been fantastic spending time on a chalk grassland which will in future be an easy train and tram ride from home.

Tall melilot - yellow flower in field

Tall melilot in the pea family - Amanda Tuke

Bladder campion close up

Bladder campion with swollen sepal tubes - Amanda Tuke