According to John Keats, this is the ‘season of mists and mellow-fruitfulness’. Most flowering plants have bloomed and have set seed or or are heavy with fruit. Birds and small animals are begiining to take advantage of the Autumn bounty, either to assist them in building up fat-supplies for onward migration, or for food-storage for the on-coming lean winter months. Along the track to the Observatory are a variety of planted Wild Plums – quite sweet and tasty, but smaller than ‘domesticated ‘ plums, so you would need a lot to make a pie!. Elsewhere on the Estate, a hybrid between Sloe (Blackthorn) and Wild Plum can be found in the Middle Field. The fruits are larger than Sloes, but they still feel as if they are taking the enamel off your teeth if you bite into them! Here too, the creamy white flowers of Elder have been replaced by the deep purple berries, a favourite for home wine-making.
Much less eatable, (in fact, toxic), the distinctive red fruits of Lords-and-Ladies can be found in the Elms and the large fruits of Japanese Rose are obvious around the Estate..
Some flowering plants are still to be seen around the area. Amongst the most obvious is Common Ragwort, which despite the annual attention of the Observatory’s Conservation Team, is still widespread. There is on-going battle to uproot or in other ways destroy these plants because they are , (allegedly), toxic to livestock and also, (definitely), very invasive, swamping out other plant species. Another orange-flowered plant that occurs as a naturalised species in places around the area is Canadian Golden-rod, while the vibrant pink of Rose-bay Willowherb brightens up shady corners in the Elms and elsewhere.One of the fascinations of doing botany at Sandwich Bay is the likelihood of coming across something rare, unusual or even unique. Back in late-July, on the St. George’s Golf Course, there was a fine display of a number of clumps of Virgin’s-bower. This member of the Clematis family is originally from the Mediterranea but has been naturalised on the Golf Course, since at least as far back as 1927. It is found nowhere else in Kent and is nationally a very local, rare plant.