26th March 2016
Having always lived in the eastern half of Norfolk there are many Breckland species that I've never seen. A couple of years ago Cathy & I had visited a site on the edge of Thetford to look for a couple of Breckland-specialist speedwells, without success, and at some point I intended to return and look for them. The early Easter weekend presented a good opportunity, so having seen the bad weather forecast for Sunday and Monday, I decided to go on a Brecks plant hunt on Saturday. Cathy wasn't particularly interested in another speedwell hunt, but my friend Ian, a more experienced botanist than me, did want to go, so I picked him up and headed off down the A11.
Upon our arrival at Thetford we started inspecting the relatively short section of verge where Fingered Speedwell and Breckland Speedwell can be found. Both of these are very small, and finding them is complicated by the other more numerous small blue flowers like Early Forget-me-not and Common Field Speedwell. We saw several plants of Fingered Speedwell, but didn't find anything that we were happy with for Breckland Speedwell. I did photograph some leaves that may be Breckland Speedwell, but I'm not sure unfortunately.
Many of the Breckland plants flower in late spring, but there are a few others that can be found in late March. Next on my target list was the native Grape Hyacinth, the wild relative of the commonly planted Garden Grape Hyacinth. It is largely restricted to road verges in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, so we headed to one such roadside nature reserve over the border into Suffolk. Initial signs didn't look promising, but eventually we found about ten flowering spikes. The wild Grape Hyacinth is smaller and darker, but otherwise quite similar to the more familiar version.
We headed to Icklingham, calling in briefly at Rampart's Field. There wasn't much in flower here, but we did see Rue-leaved Saxifrage. Icklingham Triangle was also rather lacking in flowers, although covered in Cladonia lichens. Ian did manage to find some of the small white flowers of Shepherd's Cress amongst the moss and lichen.
We then checked a few more roadside nature reserves, finding Grape Hyacinths at one more site. One of the verges was another site for Breckland Speedwell, but we struggled to pick any out amongst all of the Ivy-leaved Speedwell and Field Speedwell spp. The drizzle was starting to become more persistent, so we decided to call it a day and head for home.