Coatham – Late afternoon on the 19th of July

Posted on 20th July 2015

Cloudy, clearing later, but so windy we all wore coats and I had to put a different hat on.

This was a walk that took a little longer than advertised (well, erm…nearly twice as long) because when I was checking the site the previous day I saw a fabulous flower spectacle that I unilaterally decided everyone who came on the walk shouldn’t miss and it was a bit further away from the Majuba Road car park (where we started) than perhaps was sensible to aim for.

Anyway, we started walking into the dunes with the wind whipping up sand around us making us feel like extras from Lawrence of Arabia (although perhaps set somewhere slightly colder) to look at the two main grasses that hold the sand dunes together, Marram grass with its leaves rolled up to conserve water and Lyme-grass with wide waxy glaucous-blue leaves.


A bit further on we saw Rush-leaved Fescue – a nationally rare grass which needs just the right sort of sand to grow in and we have quite a lot here at Coatham and South Gare.

The sand can shift about a bit in the wind and an exposed large soil bund demonstrated that the dunes next to the caravan park weren’t always there as did a few piles of concrete exposed by shifting sands spotted later. Early maps show the area where we were walking to be flat sand and further inland to be rabbit warrens (yes…Warrenby!).


And so up over the dune systems looking at those dune plants in flower like Common Restharrow and yellow flowering Oxford Ragwort, Common Ragwort, and Cat’s-ear – which had strange swollen stems (galls). The dunes here at Coatham are known for the garden and agricultural escapes that have colonized like Horse-radish and Garden Parsley – the latter showing clearly as scattered yellow flowers throughout the Marram grass  -and Alfalfa or Lucerne in many colours from pale blue through to the deepest purple.


Then we paused to smell Lady’s Bedstraw growing near some Yellow-rattle. And on through the dunes, past a few Pyramidal Orchids now well into their flowering period and looking more oval than pyramidal.


And on up over where the pipeline was put under the dunes and through the wire fences placed to cordon off the area whilst it revegetated. And on until  I stopped point out an unusual white-flowered form of Common Centaury when I asked everyone to look behind me and there they saw about a hundred spikes of Marsh Fragrant-orchid looking very elegant and indeed smelling amazing.


After much photography we were off up and round into a dune slack were we saw more of the Marsh Fragrant-orchid growing near some large Northern Marsh-orchids (of which there are many in the area) just coming to the end of their flowering.

We walked back through the dune slacks amongst the fresh smell of Water Mint, spotted Parsley Water-dropwort just starting to flower and admired the rich red-ish flowers of the grass Creeping Bent waving on mass in the wind.

The walk back was enlivened with some lovely blue-flowered spikes of Chicory, delicate looking White Melilot and its golden-flowered relative Tall Melilot.