Local Flora

Road Verge Nature Reserves

Road Verge Nature Reserve at Chadlington CrossroadsThere are several Road Verge Nature Reserves near Charlbury which are managed by the Highways and Transport Team of Oxfordshire County Council. They are marked by white posts with a green band at the top and NR in white letters.

Marbled white butterflyThe nearest one to Charlbury is at the crossroads of the Burford road with the Chadlington-Leafield road (map). The range of limestone-loving flowers is magnificent: cowslip, pyramidal orchid, salad burnet, milkwort, bee orchid, hedge bedstraw, rock rose, clustered bellflower, green hellebore, hairy rockcress, meadow cranesbill, common knapweed, and common restharrow. The flowers and insect life, including marbled white butterflies, are magnificent in June and the verges are not cut until the flowers have dropped their seeds in September.

A year of wildflowers along Walcot bridleway taken during 2021 by Rob Stepney

The year starts with winter aconite in January and ends with autumn toadflax. Orchids, woundwort and a score of other species appear in between. By late August, when the barley browns and bows its head for harvest, the wildflowers too have set seed in wait for another year.

While the large fields around Walcot epitomise the monotony of intensive, modern arable farming, the mile-long grassland bridleway from Walcot to Shorthampton is home to an astonishing number of wild flowers and the insects that accompany them.

Now that farmers are being encouraged to re-instate headlands and hedgerows, this narrow stretch of uncultivated land is a powerful example of the flora we could see more of -- and the insect life that comes with it.

Every flower has its season. For some, the season is short. The pyramidal orchid is come and gone within a few weeks, while the meadow cranesbill flowers for many months. Collectively, they offer a truly impressive spectacle.

All photographs were taken on an i-phone during 2021

25/01/21 - Winter aconite
17/03/21 - White violet with bee
17/03/21 - Lesser Celandine (Jan-Apr)
12/04/21 - Crab apple in late snow
22/04/21 - Blackthorn
19/05/21 - Germander Speedwell (Apr-Jun)
19/05/21 - Cowslip (Apr-May)
31/05/21 - Bugle (Apr-Jun)
31/05/21 - Common Vetch with ant (Apr-Sep)
31/05/21 - Red campion (Mar-Nov)
04/06/21 - Hawthorn
04/06/21 - Greater Stitchwort (Apr-Jun)
14/06/21 - Dog Rose (Jun-Jul)
30/06/21 - Pyramidal Orchid (Jun-Aug)
01/07/21 - Meadow Cranesbill  (Jun-Sep) and Hedge Bedstraw (Jun-Sep)
01/07/21 - Hairy St John’s Wort (Jul-Sep)
01/07/21 - Hedge Woundwort (Jun-Oct)
18/07/21 - Agrimony (Jun-Aug)
18/07/21 - Field Scabious (Jun-Oct)
18/07/21 - Ragwort (Jun-Nov)
18/07/21 - Bramble with Meadow Brown butterfly
18/07/21 - Greater Knapweed (Jun-Oct) with Small Skipper butterfly
18/07/21 - Meadowsweet (Jun-Sep)
18/07/21 - Meadow Vetchling (May-Aug)
18/07/21 - Burnet Rose (May-Jul)
20/07/21 - Field Bindweed (Jun-Sep)
21/07/21 - Common Poppy (Jun-Oct)
29/07/21 - Rosebay Willowherb (Jun-Aug)
18/08/21 - Yarrow (Jun-Nov)
18/08/21 - Traveller’s Joy (Jul-Sep) followed by fluffy seedheads all winter
28/08/21 - Common Toadflax (Jun-Oct)

Bee Orchids

Bee Orchid flowering in a lawnThe dry spring in 2011 meant that lawn grass didn't grow enough to be cut, so the wild flowers in our lawns had the chance to grow and flower. On 11 June, this Bee Orchid was found in a front lawn of a house on the Woodstock Road. Ron said he was sitting on the bench and thought it was a real bee on a flower, it was the first time he'd seen it flower in the 15 years he'd lived in the house. He now protects the orchid and a second plant has appeared.

The front gardens and grass verges along the Woodstock Road are remnants of the meadow grassland from before the houses were built in 1927 and some still display the typical limestone flora that used to be common around Charlbury before the introduction of modern fertilisers. If you live along here and have patches of "weeds" in your lawn, then try leaving them uncut during June to see what happens - then, if you find they are interesting wild flowers, you might allow them to set seed and spread.