The Vanguard Way Blog has been started to complement the Vanguard Way official website: The Vanguard Way is a 66 mile, long distance footpath between East Croydon (South London) and the South Coast port of Newhaven.
Primarily we hope to record interesting sightings along the Vanguard Way with an emphasis on flora and fauna and other 'natural' phenomena. To offer a contribution, please email We will be interested to receive details of what has been sighted, where and when, together with a photo if available.

Thursday 27 August 2015

Mid-summer, maximum growth

Not many more 50th anniversary sectors of the Vanguard Way remain now.  For further details check back to the 6th of April post please.

At the end of July we walked from Poundgate to Blackboys. It was another glorious day of fabulous views and beautiful countryside - not to forget the good company of course.

Everything in the way of plant-life, seemed to be fully grown with seeds and fruits already in evidence.  Animal-wise we were lucky to catch sight of a young deer.  Birds were heard but not seen too much and beetles were about.

This time the photos are in a slide show for you.  If you would like direct access to the web album click on the little square below.

Poundgate to Blackboys
Those of you who still have a copy of the paper version of the Vanguard Way, 3rd edition, will recognise this view of High Hurstwood Church.

Because members of The Vanguards Rambling Club are aiming to walk the entire length of the Vanguard Way this year, Inevitably some people have missed various sections and 'catch-up' walks are taking place.  Gill has provided us with some notes on her recent completion of the very first section from East Croydon to Oxted.  Here are excerpts:
We had chosen a day that was forecast to be fine with some sunshine but we had gentle rain on and off and, as it was quite humid, the rain was refreshing.
We are in mid-summer; the trees are in full, heavy leaf cover, fruits are forming and in the air there is an autumn expectation.  Summer has been achieved.  I hear, “See, this is what you have been waiting for, there are no more surprises, now be prepared for the autumn”.
We had our just desserts, having started from home early (ish) and walked through Croydon’s suburbs, minding the trams as we crossed their tracks arriving at Coombe Wood CafĂ© and what a delight that was.  The flower beds were colourful and obviously well-looked after, the pond full of fish. 
Then it was onward, upwards and into the woods.  Later we would be achieving the dizzy height of 260 metres, which is the highest point on the VGW.  Our minds still on food we noticed two fruiting apple trees, neither with fruit ready for scrumping yet.  The ash trees were full of bunches of seeds ready for wind distribution and the berries on the rowan trees were turning red.  Below hazel trees were unripe hazel cobs, probably torn off by impatient squirrels of which we saw many scampering among the branches.  The ground beneath the sweet chestnut was strewn with the dangly bracts.  I am just going to encroach on Another’s column here, beer can be made from sweet chestnuts and is still produced in Corsica.  China and Korea supply 55% of the chestnuts that we eat in the autumn and winter, perhaps roasting or as a stuffing.
In the hedges, elderberries are formed but not yet ripe and black; old man’s beard has clambered over all the shrubs and is just opening its flower.  These hedges will be white with it when they are fully open. Blackberries have quite a long season; there will be some ready to pick right now (pick those above waist height) but there are still pretty pink flowers waiting for pollination.  Once October comes, though, the devil is in the berries so should not be picked!  Blackthorn trees are ripening their sloes and will be ready to be picked in the autumn for the making of sloe gin.  My experience from taking part in a sloe gin competition back in January, tells me to buy the best gin that I can afford which will give a smooth velvety liqueur.  Rose hips are forming; I have no experience of making a syrup with these.
We saw plenty of rabbits and heard buzzards but could not see them in the air.  Along one footpath we flushed out a brood of young pheasants which fought to get through a fence to escape from us.
In the short grass on the long path towards the microwave relay station, we raised moths and butterflies, perhaps the chalkhill blue being one.  Amongst the grass were vetch, wild thyme and red clover and obviously attractive to butterflies.  Dainty pink and white striped bindweed threaded its way through the grass, but was not appreciated by the gardeners among us.  This is horse country and as we descended from Nore Hill we could clearly hear a riding lesson being given.  Yellow-wort stood tall (100-140mm) in the short grass of these fields.  The yellow flowers open eight petals which is unique in the Gentian family flowering in Britain, four or five being the norm.  Their pointed green-grey leaves are joined by their bases to form a collar around the stem.  The cows were taking it easy lying down in this beautiful valley, they must have known that rain was on its way.  Twice along the way we came across large Roman snails.  Their shell is light brown with dark spiral bands and their shell is about 50mm diameter.  They were introduced to southern England and are now established in a few woodlands mainly on chalk.  You certainly don’t want this guzzler in your garden!
You may search the skies for a landmark as you reach Nore Hill Chalk Pinnacle but you would be looking in the wrong direction.  Look for a fenced depression in the ground towards the top of the hill and having read the helpful information, look for a small pinnacle below ground level now very much covered in foliage.  This is the last of the natural pinnacles that were to be found submerged on this Regionally Important Geological Site (RIGS).
The corn has been harvested in the fields on the North Downs and the straw has been baled into huge cylindrical shapes.  In land set aside I saw poppies, oxeye daisies and thistles.  Now we could see journey’s end, Oxted and a refreshing drink awaiting us just beyond the M25.

Many thanks Gill.

Another group set off from Haxted Mill to Poundgate last weekend too.  They weren't so fortunate with the weather!.

The photos below are in the Haxted Area.  First is of new bullrush flowers at Gabriel's Fishery.  2nd is of a vetch I haven't identified yet and 3rd of a pill box in the 1st field south of Haxted Mill.
(Please excuse the font size and spacing issues with this post)