The Flora 1991
An Overall Picture
The Parish of Froyle covers a considerable area lying south of the ridge which runs from Farnham to Alton. This ridge consists of chalk which is capped by much clay with flints, this clay would have been deposited at the end of the ice age. Some upper chalk occurs below the clay with flints along the summit, this giving way to middle then lower chalk as one decends towards the south. The upper greensand is then exposed, known locally as malmstone, this was a popular stone used in the area for building, especially before the advent of the railways. Below this we come to the gault clay, which is a natural stream line, where the villages were established in the far off days, some alluvium occurs along the river valley, much of which forms the southern boundary of the parish.
Man has played his part in the topography of the parish, much of the southern slope is farmland, vast areas covered in crops with some ley meadows on which sheep and cattle graze. Remnants of woodland are widespread, remains of coppiced woodland, oak with hazel, are still to be found in the north, some areas have now been planted with conifers, trees which mature much quicker than the native hardwoods. Modern farming methods have led to the destruction of some hedgerows and the use of weed killers and the latest sprays which ensure that a field of rape or flax ripens evenly, lead to the loss of many arable weeds on the headlands.
Along the river valley the water meadows would have been flooded to produce a second crop of hay, a wall built across the valley, with sluice gates may still be seen. The A31 road with traffic rushing by, has left its mark.
There are a number of chalk and malm pits scattered along the slope, many now overgrown, the most obvious scar left by man is of course the quarry in Well Lane, here many acres of chalk downland have gone, but on completion it is hoped that future generations will see nature taking over and the full cycle of plant life return to this new habitat.
These natural and man made features of the parish lend themselves to various habitats and hopefully a wide variety of flowering plants. Sadly the number of plants recorded by Mr. Langridge in the 1950’s is depleted, as is the way with most areas of Britain.
Areas of oak and hazel coppice still retain plants which are indicative of ancient woodland, in High wood, Stenes and Silvesters Copse at least nine of these plants have been recorded, namely wych elm, moschatel, wood speedwell, sanicle, wood spurge, wood sorrel, solomans seal, wood anemone and toothwort. Roadside banks in some areas proved productive, as did some tracks, there are a few areas of chalk downland left, one field belonging to Crest Hill Farm, can boast a number of chalk downland plants, a nearby slope in Highnam copse has a similar flora. The cemetery has an interesting flora, as does the churchyard, but neither is outstanding. A nearby wall proved exciting, surprisingly the A31 had a couple of plants new to the area and finally the water meadows and the fish pond proved a happy hunting ground.
Many of the wooded areas of the parish belonging to Froyle Estates, were surveyed in 1989. The most interesting results of this survey were aspen poplar in Gaston Copse, the soft shield fern in Spollycombe Bottom and violet helleborine and forster’s wood-rush in Hawkins Wood.
The Wooded Areas
We visited High Wood and the surrounding wooded areas on three occasions during 1991. On entering the muddy track, we were greeted by a colourful display of coltsfoot, a one time cure for coughs and a plant almost worshipped by the northern Scandinavians due to its sun like flowers blooming at the end of the long dark winter days. Moschatel, the quaint little plant also known as town-hall clock, due to the cubic flower-heads, lined the track, celandines were in flower and a number of primroses peeped through the leaf litter, wood sorrel, a source of ascetic acid, wood anemone and yellow pimpernel with its bright yellow flowers added to the variety. There was much sweet woodruff, a plant dried by the Elizabethans to sweeten their linen, woodruff contains an aromatic chemical courmarin, which is also present in sweet vernal grass and imparts the odour to new mown hay.
Later in the year the three nerved sandwort, a dainty plant with small white flowers and three veins in the leaves, was found, wood speedwell, yellow archangel, solomons seal, wood spurge and sanicle were among the riot of plants. Sanicle surprisingly belongs to the umbelliferae, the carrot family, another member of this family covered much of the woodland floor, this the earth nut, so named because of the small edible tuber below ground. At this point perhaps it is wise to state that it is now illegal to uproot any plant in the wild, so we are denied the taste of earth nut.
There were two highlights in this area of woodland, several spikes of the all too rare parasite, the attractive toothwort, this lacks chlorophyll, the green colouring which plays a key role in photosynthesis, relying on its host, in this case hazel. The other delight was a mass of early purple orchids, growing beneath beech trees, they ranged between white and purple, a wonderful display.
At the edge of the wood along beside a field, round leaved and sharp leaved fluellen, field madder, pale St.John’s-wort and musk mallow were just detectable having suffered from spray.
In one area the soil must be exceptionally acid, as the congested form of the many-headed woodrush was found and heather or ling typical of acid heathland, occurred. The presence of the clay with flints and leaf litter over the chalk does tend to raise the acidity of the soil. Along some of the muddy tracks a small plant, water starwort was quite common as were water pepper and wavy bittercress, but it was surprising to find brooklime, admittedly in a very wet area, this is a plant of waterlogged ditches and streams. Two varieties of oak were seen, the common oak and the distinctive turkey oak, the acorn cups of the latter being a mas of long spreading scales, two varieties of birch, the silver birch and downy birch, the wild cherry and some really old crab apples. The sweet chestnut in one area had been coppiced, hawthorn and holly were widespread and field maple and ash grow around the perimeter of these woods. The ash an interesting tree in that it appears to be sexually confused; one year it may produce all male flowers and another it could be female and often various branches may be either male or female bearing, varying from year to year.
Shrubs included the elder, the attractive guelder rose, with its shiny red berries, dogwood , so named because the wood was once used for skewers, ‘dag’ being the Saxon word for skewer. Plenty of clematis or travellers joy scrambled over the bushes. This probably called travellers joy because it grew on the limestone ridges, where the way would often be dry compared with the tracks in the valleys below. Much honeysuckle also wound its way among and over low trees and shrubs. Raspberries, red currants and brambles were encountered these being the forerunners of the soft fruits in our gardens. Plenty of ivy crept on the forest floor or made its way up tree trunks in search of light, this is one of the last plants to flower, a wide variety of insects may be seen on the flowers on sunny days in November and December. There are a number of grasses in these woods such as wood melick, wood millet, giant fescue and the attractive tufted hairgrass and a few sedges such as remote and wood sedge.
Lanes & Trackss
A track runs along the northern boundary of the parish, to the north is Sheephouse Copse, but the southern edge of this track was quite productive. Once again the track was muddy supporting water starwort and water pepper, there were patches of the felty marsh cudweed. Fleabane, once used as a strewing herb, being a deterrent against fleas, grew beside a damp ditch with a patch of corn mint nearby. The dainty relative of the willow-herbs, enchanters nightshade had escaped from the nearby woodland and was found growing by the broad leaved willow-herb.
Figwort, with its quaint brownish flowers, occurred at intervals, like celandine,which has a scientific name Ranunculus ficaria, is an old remedy for piles, ‘fig’ being an ancient synonym. Toad rush was quite common beside the path and one attractive plant was hairy brome. The aspen poplar, with its shimmering round leaves, grows in the hedgerow, this is a tree indicative of ancient woodland. At the western end and south of Highnam Copse patches of woodland still survive, though much is now planted with conifers. It was pleasing to find a clump of violet helleborine. Orpine, the attractive relative of the garden sedum grows beside the road as does the common gorse.
Further west a variety of plants inhabit the roadside, crow garlic, the prefix crow, like dog, meaning good for nothing, goats beard an attractive plant, alternatively called ‘Jack go to bed at noon’, because the flowers close at midday, incidentally the plant has the most attractive seed head. The ditches were brightened by patches of tufted vetch with its colourful purplish blue flowers, a small clump of the cross between hedge and marsh woundwort was found in this area. The hedgerow is typical of chalk soil and contains a variety of shrubs, spindle on which the blackfly, the aphid found on broad beans, over winters, wild privet, dogwood, blackthorn and purging buckthorn, the latter used in the middle ages as a laxative. Field maple and hazel occur at intervals with black bryony and clematis much in evidence. There were a variety of grasses in this area, a few of them being false oat, yellow oat, yorkshire fog, and its near relative creeping soft grass and the attractive giant fescue and cocksfoot.
‘Another lane visited was Brockham Hill, it was disappointing, very little out of the ordinary was found. Unfortunately Japanese knotweed has taken hold, there were some patches of cut leaved cranesbill, hop had become naturalised scrambling up the high banks and over the hedges, white bryony which belongs to the cucumber family and not the yams as does black bryony was quite widespread. White bryony has an interesting root and is sometimes known as the English mandrake, the root not unlike the figure of a man.
‘Feverfew, reputed to be a cure for migraine is well established, various trees were recorded including the wych elm English elm, pine, larch, whitebeam both grey and goat willow and ash were but a few. The grasses included rough meadow, red fescue, creeping bent, hairy brome and the smaller catstail.
The lane north of the cemetery was outstanding in that both grey sedge and the near relative Leer’s sedge grow within close proximity, there was a patch of fool’s parsley, as the mane implies, a poisonous herb, hairy tare a dainty but straggling plant was high on the bank in one spot, wild arum displayed its clusters of red berries frequently on the banks.
Saintbury Hill had plenty of ground ivy, this was used to flavour beer before hops came into use. Feverfew was quite frequent, as was the nettle leaved bellflower. Yellow archangel, that attractive member of the dead nettle family adorned the roadside. Redshank, spearleaved orache and red goosefoot all agricultural weeds were recorded.
Bittersweet or woody nightshade, a member of the potato family, with its attractive purple flowers followed by bright red berries is always a joy to find. Gerard describes the berries as ‘glowing like burnished corral’ how apt. It is a plant with varied properties used throughout the ages, both medicinally and as a deterrent against witches and evil spirits.
Further up the lane a few cornfield weeds were found, scarlet pimpernel,the poor man’s weather glass, the flowers only opening in fine weather,dwarf spurge, a dainty member of the family of spurges which exude a poisonous latex and a plant, as in this case, often found in the company of round-leaved fluellen. There was a good stand of stone parsley, a dainty member of the carrot family, being one of the last members to flower, this is supposed to have the odour of nutmeg mixed with petrol. Grasses included wood brome, wood millet, hairy brome and the giant fescue.
The Cemetery & the Churchyard
The cemetery has a wide variety of plants and a number of trees and shrubs, of course many have been planted such as lilac and box. It is interesting to compare the cherry plum, which grows in the hedge on the northern boundary, with the blackthorn near the gate. They are often confused, but a closer look reveals that the cherry plum, which is invariably a tree, has larger flowers than the blackthorn, is thornless and blooms earlier in the year, in February and March. The blackthorn or sloe has a mass of short spines and flowers from March to May and is a suckering dense shrub.
Various chalk loving plants are to be found along the eastern boundary, such as rock rose, wild basil and marjoram. The pretty pale blue slender speedwell was in evidence, this an import in the 1920’s from the caucuses, is becoming well established especially in churchyards, on lawns and other grassy places, the common field speedwell, a garden weed, the birdseye or germander speedwell and wall speedwell have all found a home here, it was nice to find a patch of the pretty musk mallow, with its finely cut leaves and pink flowers. Another interesting plant is the foetid iris, this has insignificant creamy-grey flowers but these are followed by long lasting seed pods containing bright orange fleshy fruits, in country districts this is often called the gladden lily and is also known as the roast beef plant, supposedly the smell is not unlike the odour of roasting beef.
The churchyard flora is unfortunately not outstanding, a wide variety of the more common plants do occur through the year, an additional speedwell to those found in the cemetery is the ivy-leaved. Sweet violets, snowdrops and primroses are much in evidence in the spring, common whitlow grass was to be found on some of the graves and cuckoo-flower in the long grass behind the church, later in the year both rough and common comfrey bloom at the eastern end of the churchyard.
The Wall
West of the church is perhaps the highlight of the village, due to the presence of a rare plant, only recorded in two other sites in Hampshire. It was pleasing to find this still has a good foothold , both on the wall, which once adjoined the kitchen garden at Froyle Place and a few plants at the base of the wall. This treasure, the slender sandwort, is an insignificant little plant, an annual, erect and much branched with small white flowers. The similar and more common thyme-leaved sandwort also grows on the wall, as does the three fingered saxifrage and thale cress. Two grasses fern grass or hard poa and flattened poa are other inhabitants of this area, so a site to be preserved for future generations.
The area of downland to the east of Highnam Copse has a varied flora. This is an area of chalk downland, but with much clay with flints, supporting a number of chalk loving plants such as burnet saxifrage, a dainty member of the carrot family, salad burnet, the leaves of which have the flavour of cucumber and were once, and probably still are, eaten in salads, the hairy violet was much in evidence, as was the hoary plantain with its mauve flowerheads; small scabious, marjoram and wild basil added a purple tinge to the flora, common milkwort, with its bright blue flowers was revealed by a closer look in the turf, the pinkish flowers of the red bartsia added contrast, as did the yellow flowers of the lesser hawkbit. Restharrow with its pink pea-like blooms was frequent, the strong roots of this plant made cultivation difficult, arresting the harrow, so an apt name for this attractive plant. The scent of the wild thyme, trampled underfoot could not be missed. The bulbous buttercup, with the sepals turned down, grew in the drier areas, whereas the creeping buttercup favoured the damper spots.
Later in the year the autumn gentian or felwort was found in this field, together with the pale yellow mouse-ear hawkweed and smooth hawksbeard. The bane of picnickers, the dwarf thistle was in flower and fairy flax, a dainty flax with small white flowers was quite common. Around rabbit holes the thyme -leaved sandwort took advantage of the bare ground, as did the scarlet pimpernel and fumitory. The occasional musk mallow and harebell were also seen. Among the varied grasses were quaking grass which fascinates both young and old, crested dog’s tail, aptly named, the head so like a dog’s tail, hairy oat grass was also seen and there was plenty of glaucous sedge, a common sedge of chalk habitats.
Nearby in Highnam Copse, the greater butterfly orchid hides beneath shrubs, much crosswort, a member of the bedstraw family, with its yellow flowers grows near the track, rock rose, felwort and twayblade are also to be found.
More Lanes & Tracks
Hussey’s Lane has a lot to offer, it was the only site in which we found black horehound, a member of the dead nettle family, the many chalk loving plants along the track included hoary ragwort, marjoram, burnet saxifrage, hairy violet, wild basil and perforated St John’s-wort, so named because when the leaves are held up to the light, small holes can be seen in them. Weld, a more robust form of mignonette, also called dyer’s rocket denoting its one time use as a dye, was also seen. Another chalk lover and a member of the buttercup family, is goldilocks, this was found towards the northeastern end of the track.
In a disused chalk pit, the lemon balm and apple mint have become established, obviously discarded with garden rubbish, this can be accepted, but the introduction into the wild, of Japanese knotweed is to be deplored. Along the lane moschatel, the town hall clock was found, together with sanicle, early purple orchid, three nerved sandwort and wood spurge, all woodland species, a sign that this area was once wooded and the flora survives in the hedgerows. Other interesting plants were bladder campion, this associated with folklore is that a piece carried in the pocket will ward off snakes, rough chervil,the member of the carrot family flowering after the picturesque cow parsley or Queen Ann’s lace which lines the country lanes with a white cloud in May and June, was quite frequent as was goat’s -beard. This was another area in which stone parsley was found and the meadow vetchling, a straggly plant with yellow pea flowers. Grasses included both giant and red fescue, three meadow grasses, the annual, smooth and rough and the cornfield weed, black grass or black twitch, two sedges the glaucous and wood were noted.
Both white and black bryony scrambled over the hedgerow, as did travellers joy and the occasional hop. The hedgerow consisted of field maple, hazel, hawthorn, spindle, blackthorn, dogwood and guelder rose, with both dog and field rose climbing over the shrubs together with bramble, trees included the occasional ash, beech, goat and grey willow and both pedunculate and Turkey oak.
A track further to the north east produced the long-headed poppy, musk mallow, the attractive yellow oat grass, dwarf spurge, bladder campion, beaked hawksbeard, a member of the daisy family and another member the ox-eye daisy. Swinecress, parsley piert and redshank grew on wasteland. Beside the road along the north east parish boundary Irish ivy has become established, obviously originally planted to camouflage an underground chamber, compared with the common variety this ivy has larger heart shaped leaves on the non-flowering shoots. There are a number of Turkey oaks and the field rose is widespread in this area.
Later in the year I had access to the quarry in Well Lane, on a geological field meeting, it was interesting to record the flora even in December. No doubt some plants would have grown from viable seed in the ground, but others could have been imported either on clothing or by lorries. Some of the plants were scarlet pimpernel, wild carrot, the sharp leaved fluellen and the round leaved variety. One member of the geranium family, common storksbill had not been found elsewhere in the parish, neither had the bristly ox-tongue and the small toadflax, additional plants were wild basil, fumitory and marjoram.
Whilst on the subject of seed being transported by lorries. A small patch of biting stonecrop has found its way on to a bare patch of the central reservation of the A31, this a new record for the area,
During the last few years Danish scurvy grass, a plant of the salt laden rocky shores and walls by the sea, has become established on the A3 in the Milford area and since then on the verges of the roundabouts east of Farnham, and the by-pass. In 1991 a small patch appeared on the central reservation of the A31 in Froyle, obviously the the salt spread on the roads in winter has produced an ideal habitat for this plant, which was once eaten by sailors to supplement their intake of vitamin C and thus help to prevent scurvy.
The Water Meadows
The flora south of the A31 is typical of a wetter habitat. Water figwort, bur-reed, reedmace and watermint grow on the river bank, as does the greater willowherb, known in the country districts as codlins and cream. Smaller plants found by the waters edge are water speedwell, water forget-me-not, water chickweed and brooklime, much common duckweed occurred where there was little movement of water. A wide variety of plants inhabit the damp areas, such as square stalked St John’s-wort, yellow flag, marsh ragwort and its near relative sticky groundsel. Meadow sweet, so named because years ago it was used in the sweetening of mead, and gipsy wort, once used by gipsies to rub on their hands and faces to give them a foreign or middle eastern look, were quite common, marsh bedstraw scrambled around and water starwort, met before on the damp tracks in the woods, was frequent on the bare damp ground. Other inhabitants of these damp areas are fleabane, the lover of damp ditches, water parsnip and nodding bur marigold, in the pond a stand of amphibious bistort made a splash of colour with its pink flowers.
Trees included alder, a tree which has nitrogen fixing nodules in its roots, these help compensate for the lack of nutriments in the waterlogged soil. Crack willows grow along the river bank, some of these support other young trees growing from the pollarded area.
Shade horsetail was widespread between the pond and the river and a variety of grasses included the attractive tufted hair grass, Yorkshire fog and creeping soft grass, timothy, meadow foxtail, giant fescue and at the water’s edge reed grass and floating sweet grass.
One plant which crops up all over the parish is bracken, a shame if this really gets a roothold, as I mentioned previously it is sad to see the patches of Japanese knotweed taking over some of the lanes and by the river, it can so quickly colonise an area. A notable absentee, not found all along the chalk ridge between Alton and Farnham is the wayfaring tree, a lover of the chalk, some have been planted along the A31, but so far I have failed to find one growing wild in this area.
Although a few plants have disappeared during the last 40 years Froyle still has an interesting flora which needs to be preserved.

Gwen Macklin, Farnham, February 1992

My thanks to Messrs, Turville and Mattheson, to Brig. Pollock and Mr. Jordan of Lord Mayor Treloar College for allowing me access to their land. To Sue Clark for organising this and to members of Alton Natural History Society who came along to many of the meetings to assist with recording, my thanks especially to David Fourt, who recorded many of the trees and grasses.