Beddington Farmlands Bird Group
Beddington is known for its birds rather than its flowers, however the flora is not without interest. The farm prior to the development was dominated by the numerous sludge drying beds on site. These beds would receive fresh applications of sludge that would gradually dry out. This sludge drying cycle favours annual plants of disturbed habitats, particularly those that like nutrient rich conditions. In the early stages of the cycle when there is exposed wet sludge, Celery-leaved Buttercup and Trifid Bur Marigold are characteristic species. Unfortunately, the latter has not been seen in recent years. Once the sludge has dried out, the beds can be dominated by Tomato, whose seed survive passage through the human gut and sewage treatment process. Other species to appear at this stage are Redshank, Spear-leaved Orache and Scentless Mayweed. These species are followed by members of the goosefoot family, particularly Fat-hen and Red Goosefoot. Some of the rarer goosefoots have also been recorded including Fig-leaved Goosefoot and Oak-leaved Goosefoot. Tall stands of hemlock may dominate the beds at this stage while Nettle and Charlock are common. The banks of the sludge beds provide a more permanent habitat allowing perennials to flourish. Mallow, Mugwort, Broad-leaved Dock and Greater Burdock are amongst the commonest plants on the banks.
The development has led to the loss of over a hundred sludge beds and the disturbance on site has been considerable. One plant to have benefited from the development is Colt’s-foot. The clay bunds have provided ideal conditions with many thousands of plants providing a welcome spectacle in early spring. Purple Loosestrife has colonised the lake edge and Bristly Oxtongue has also increased since the development began.
There have been some interesting plants on site that no longer occur. In 1989, a single plant of Tree Tomato, which arrived as seed amongst the human sewage, was probably the first specimen to be found growing wild in Britain. A small colony of Caper Spurge established near the lake for a few years but has now disappeared. Amazingly, the site can boast an orchid. On an old stockpile predating the development, a single Pyramidal Orchid flowered for a number of years. It was last seen in 2001.
While other interesting plants still can be found. Sea-buckthorn has established itself on Hundred Acre from soil that was brought on site from excavations of the Thames Water ring main in the early 1990s. This species can be very invasive and an attempt was made to eradicate it when a scrape was built. Fortunately, some plants survived since it is the only established colony in Surrey! Changing Forget-me-not was found in 2004; it is not rare nationally but has shown a widespread decline in south and east England since 1950 and was known from only a few localities in London when the LNHS Flora of the London Area was published in 1983. Lastly, Chicory can be found growing in the SE corner.
Although Elder is not rare, the Elder copse in the south-east of the site is unusual in being one of the largest single stands of Elder in the country. But unfortunately was cut down to make way for more settlement beds!