Spent the early part of the day in examining the coast at low water
( The time of low water, was apparently about 1.p.m.)
for fuci, confervae and other marine algae, of which there appeared to
be a pretty good variety, but many of them so delicate as scarce to
bear removal from their native situations. Amongst them were a few of
the smaller corallines. Conchology was not just now the object of my
researches, or I should have been inclined to avail myself of the good
situation in that respect which I believe Hastings to be. The few
species of shells which I noticed on the rocks which had been left
exposed by the retreat of the tide were as follows:
Balani (2 species), Mytilus edulis, Buccinum lapillus, Turbo littoreus, Nerita lettoralis, and Patella vulgata.
If these latter be taken by surprise, by a sudden jerk they are easily knocked off, but if first put on their guard by being touched, they immediately exert some additional muscular action, and adhere with such extreme tenacity to the surface upon which they are fastened, that it becomes next to impossible to tear them away from it without injuring the shell. The eatable muscles (Mytili edules) hung in immense clusters, attached to the rocks by their byssus: in some places the stones were quite black with them.
A small Oniscus was very plentiful everywhere crawling amongst the seaweed; I could discern no apparent difference between it and the Asellus aquaticus so common in ditches, but is it likely that the same species should inhabit both salt and fresh-water? After rough weather the coast is covered with Asteriae, varying in size from one to five inches in diameter, but apparently all of the same species. These creatures so abject in appearance, and inert in their motions betray evident symptoms of the low and degraded rank which they hold in the scale of created beings, and show scarce any signs of life itself, beyond that of gently curling up when handled. I observed a boy who was bold enough to eat one of them, but I did not envy him his morsel: the very smell is forbidding enough.
The most curious animals however which I observed were what are commonly called Sea Anemonies. These creatures are of an oval and somewhat conical form, with a single orifice at the smaller end, whose border is beset with innumerable beautiful tentacles, which when fully expanded have a radiated or starlike appearance, but in a state of quiescence and repose are not visible. At the base they are strongly affixed to the rocks: they are chiefly found in the small splashy pools left by the tide, and at first sight much resemble lumps of blubber of an olive green colour.
The above imperfect scrawls just give a rude idea, of the different appearances they put on. The fishermen have an ingenious method of catching crabs and other crustacea: they procure a quantity of small open baskets into each of which they put a piece of putrid fish as bait; these are then let down into the sea where it is shallow, having been first suspended by lines to a piece of cork which floats on the surface. After a short interval they are drawn up one after another, and it rarely happens that they are found empty; and frequently two or three will be in each. For taking shrimps they make use of a large hand net which they push before them, wading into the sea for that purpose, as high as their middles or more.
In my way home, I fell in with a grand depot of Carduus tenuiflorus, which I did not observe yesterday: this plant I had found before at Piddinghoe on the Downs; it does not seem so uncommon as authors represent it to be. Also noticed Trifolium scabrum, and one single specimen of Glaucium luteum, the only one I saw during my stay at Hastings, though before, I had found it so plentiful between Rottingdean and Newhaven. Chironia centaurium grows in great luxuriance everywhere about here.
Went out again in the afternoon for the purpose of visiting some very uneven and wooded ground which lies to the left of Hastings about half a mile below the town. The spot is contiguous to the sea, and is situated just behind a small barrack erected for the accommodation of the Officers and soldiers on the preventive service. A more tempting looking place for the Botanist I never met with, nor did it fail in furnishing me with two or three new species. Had I however been disappointed in that respect, I could not have been in others, as the scenery for so confined a spot was beautiful. Its most striking feature is a running stream of water about four foot across, which trickles down a gradually sloping hill for the length of perhaps half a quarter of a mile, in some places widening considerably: on either side is a thick hanging wood, which meet overhead, in such a manner as entirely to exclude the sun, throwing a gloom over the whole and giving it a very wild and romantic appearance: the bed of the stream consists of irregularly shaped large mossy stones projecting out in such a way as readily to allow of one's stepping from one to the other, by which means I followed it up to its source. In one place there was on my right hand a perpendicular wall of sandstone that rose considerably higher than my head, whose surface was dripping with the water that oozed out of the cracks, and covered with some large Jungermannia which however was not in fructification. The different species of Filices thrived here in prodigious luxuriance, particularly the Scolopendrium vulgare. The chief acquisitions which I made in the neighbourhood of this spot, were Veronica montana, Malva moschata, and Cardamine hirsuta. The latter was in great plenty, but almost off, though not quite.
In one place I also found a profusion of the Chrysoplenium oppositifolium, but there were no symptoms of blossom, nor even the appearance of there ever having been any that season: I believe May is the month in which this species usually flowers; but it is not a common plant, nor did I ever meet with it before. Digitalis purpurea grew very fine and luxuriously. The cracks and fissures of the large rocky stones, which lay scattered about here and there, were tenanted by immense quantities of a gigantic species of ant, far surpassing in size any I ever saw before: they must have been full half an inch long: Query, if these were the Formica herculanea of authors? They seemed very pugnacious, and of an irritable disposition, displaying their expanded jaws when disturbed in a very hostile and threatening manner, on which account I was unwilling to molest them, as I did not know how strong their forces might be.
Left Hastings at 10 A.M. per London Coach for Tonbridge, where I arrived at 2 p.m.. The road lay through Battel, Robertsbridge, and Lamberhurst. The country about the latter place extremely pretty, but tedious in travelling on account of the many steep sandy hills. Somewhere near here, I discerned from the top of the coach a wood on the left hand full of Epilobium angustifolium, which I grieved exceedingly at not being able to get.
Took up my quarters in
Tonbridge for a single night at the Rose and Crown: one of the most
excellent inns I ever was at. Tonbridge Town, as it is called in
order to distinguish it from Tonbridge Wells, consists of one long
paved street, which is remarkably clean and neat, of considerable
breadth (which gives it a handsome appearance), and abounding in well
build commodious houses. In the afternoon I walked, for about 3 or 4
miles, on the road leading towards Wrotham, and that part of Kent
which lies between Seven Oakes and Maidstone. Country beautiful:
thick woods on each side of the road for miles together. Noticed the
following plants : Smyrnium olusatrum, Epilobium tetragonum, Genista
tinctoria, Hypericum androsaemum, and Taxus baccata really wild.
After breakfast I started along the Seven Oakes Road, with the
intention of reaching the 27th milestone in order to look for the Iris
foetidissima mentioned as growing there by Forster in his Flora
Tonbridgiensis, but for want of time did not get so far. Got nothing
new but Arenaria trinervis and Thlaspi campestre : the latter was
growing abundantly amongst crops of peas.
Had intended in the afternoon to have taken the coach, in its way thro' Tonbridge from London, to the Wells, but that being full, I sent my luggage by a carrier and walked. The distance is only six miles, and perhaps a more beautiful six miles no where exists; the prospects from some parts of the road where it lies high, are of the richest kind: In my way thither found Prenanthes muralis and Trifolium medium in abundance.
Got to Tonbridge Wells at 5 in the afternoon, almost smothered with dust, and went to the Sussex Hotel. Accommodations of the first rate perfection. Tonbridge Wells is a place, the greater part of which is quite of modern date. Its house are good and rapidly increasing in number to meet the demands for them occasioned by the vast influx of strangers every year, that resort to its waters for their health. Consequently, the greater part of them are let for lodgings. Besides these there two grand hotels the Sussex and the Kentish, and one of very inferior reputation by name of Castle Tavern.
The gay time of the year is August, and the place was beginning to fill very fast, during my stay in it. The scenery in the neighbourhood is beautiful, and in some respects perhaps scarcely to be equalled by any in the Kingdom, affording a combination of hill and valley, wood and forrest, wild and cultivated tracts, that present the most lovely prospects in whatever direction the eye is turned. If it has any deficiency it arises from the want of water which is so scarce an article that you may go for miles without meeting with enough to cover your shoes. The soil is at all times a very dry one, being a fine white sand, which in a drought like that which prevailed during the first part of my visit there, accumulates in the roads to such an amount as to be in some places ankle deep. This makes walking unpleasant: in winter time from the same cause the roads must be very heavy.
This was Sunday, in consequence of which I took a holyday and rested from my Botanical labours. In the morning I attended the Chapel where I heard a most excellent discourse, by a person whose name I could not learn, in behalf of a charitable contribution to go towards the erecting of another Chapel which was found necessary in order to accommodate the large number of strangers who annually visit the Wells, amongst whom I then being one, felt personally concerned, and gave my mite with cheerfulness. After church strolled onto the common which lies in front of the chief houses, whose promenades cut in different directions are much resorted to on Sundays by the fashionable company. Very wild and pretty, not like our commons in the fens which are little better than miry swamps, but covered with furze and ferns.
The neighbourhood of Tonbridge Wells is much celebrated for sundry
detached collections of sandstone rocks which are scattered about the
country, and constitute, at least some of them, the chief lions of the
place which all strangers go to see. The most considerable of these
are known by the names of Harrison's Rocks, and the High Rocks, which
being on the largest scale, and piled up in a very irregular manner,
and covered with wood, exhibit a scenery of a very beautifully wild
and romantic nature. As I dedicated afterwards a whole day to each of
these, I need not say more with respect to them at present. Forster
in his Flora Tonbridgiensis talks of Penn's Rocks, but I could find no
one who was acquainted with any of that name. Besides these, there
are some of a far more humble and inferior sort, on several parts of
Tonbridge Wells common and Rusthall common. The most curious of those
on the former, occur just at the entry onto it from the London Road:
Beneath they are hollowed out in places, into caves and halls; on the
top of them I noticed a vast abundance of the Evening primrose
(Oenothera biennis) completely naturalized; but there is no doubt that
they originally escaped from the neighbouring gardens. Forster does
not mention it in his catalogue. Arenaria rubra grows in plenty all
over Tonbridge Wells common.
Started at 10 a.m. on my first botanical expedition in this
neighbourhood: took the road to Frant: but before I had proceeded a
mile was turned by the rain, which suddenly came on quite fast, and
continued for the rest of the day. This tried my temper, however in
the mile I managed to get four new plants, viz. Galium saxatile,
Peplis portula, Senecio sylvatica, and Hieracium sabaudum. As there
was not the slightest chance of its holding up, I returned home.
The rain of yesterday continued all night, and did not fairly cease
till 11 this morning, at which time I again got out, and pursued my
former route along the road to Frant. Before I started I marked down
certain habitats given in Forster's book, for some of the rarer plants
which were amongst my desiderata, and noticed more particularly those
which would fall in the way of this day's expedition. Some of these
I was successful in finding: others eluded my most diligent
researches. Amongst the failures I may reckon Centunculus minimus,
Epilobium angustifolium, and Tormentilla reptans; of the first Forster
says, Sides of the roads from Wells to Frant ; this is a bog plant,
and in one or two places along this road, there was some very wet
swampy ground, but I could find nothing but Peplis portula which was
abundant: this plant when growing out of the water is very small and
stunted, and in such cases resembles the Centunculus which for the
minute I once or twice thought I had found, but presently detected my
error. Of the Epilobium angustifolium he says, In a wood on the left
hand side of the road from Wells to Frant; now I could not discover
any regular wood to the left hand side till one reaches Waterdown
Forest which is all wood for hundreds of acres, so I do not know where
he means. Tormentilla reptans he likewise mentions as growing in Hedges and margins of fields, on the side of the road from Wells to
Frant, but I could see no trace of it.
The little village of Frant is about three miles from Tonbridge Wells: it is surrounded on all sides by extensive woods, which form a part of the Waterdown Forest, and are the property of the Earl of Abergavenny, whose estates in this neighbourhood extend over a prodigious tract of country. Near here, I made several additions to my collection: amongst other things found a single specimen of Hieracium murorum, growing by the roadside about half a mile before you enter the village from Tonbridge Wells. Was the more pleased at finding this, as Forster has not given it in his catalogue. Hieracium sabaudum and umbellatum were every where abundant, but the latter was not yet in flower. The Elms were covered with Porina pertusa, (Greville's Flora Edinensis p.354,) and the Beeches, some of which are large and handsome, with a species of Usnea ? (Grev. Fl. Ed. p.349). The ivy leaved lettuce (Prenanthes muralis) seems one of the commonest plants about Tonbridge Wells; high chalky banks and moist woods are everywhere covered with it: many specimens attain the height of between four and five feet, and make a very conspicuous shew.
Leaving Frant, I continued my way along the road, as far as the eighth milestone, deviating occasionally to the right and left, into the thick woods and plantations on either side; from whence I seldom reappeared without some booty. For part of the way the road skirts Eridge Park, the seat of the Earl of Abergavenny, in which I found Cuscuta epithymum parasitical on Calluna vulgaris and grasses, also in a damp shaded spot the rare Scutellaria minor in profusion: these were two rich acquisitions, and the last which I made in this direction.
As soon as my eyes were sufficiently satisfied with gazing and admiring the beautiful scenery which opens to the view in a very striking manner from several parts of the road about here, I somewhat unwillingly turned about, and began to veer homewards. As far as Frant I retreated by the same route by which I came, but after I was through the village, I struck off to the right, and came a circuit across country, traversing in my way a boggy, heathy, wild sort of common where I gathered beautiful specimens of Erica tetralix, Veronica scutellata, Trifolium filiforme, and Blechnum boreale, with a variety of grasses and other filices which I have not yet examined. Solidago virgaurea was plentiful, but scarcely in flower. Got home at 6 p.m. very well satisfied with the fruits of the day's expedition.