|There are about eleven miles of public highways marking the boundaries,
or internal to, the parish of Winsham. Their verges and banked hedges
provide a varied range of habitats fully occupied by a large number of
plant species with their attendant insects. With the present Council
policy of only cutting hard back when the growth becomes a road hazard,
usually in early August, there is a wonderful opportunity to observe the
annual succession of dominant plant species. This is best achieved on
foot (most lanes are single track for cars) or ideally, due to the
steepness of some hills, by modern electric bicycle.
With the altering climate or recent years the marked difference, other than day length, of winter and summer is less well defined. So single plants, from a number of plant species, grace shelter spots. The record stands at 35 species on Boxing Day in 1956. Thus, throughout our winter we may expect to see in flower dandelions, yarrow, hogweed, wild strawberry, several hawkweed species, plantain and a single primrose.
The greatest joy of our lanes comes from the massed flowerings that mark the seasons. First come the snowdrops with the best display around Bridge and approaching Chalkway. These give way to a rather more universal flowering of primroses - rather less noticeable due to the displays of garden daffodils. The next display, about March, is of wood anemone. Best around Hollowells. Then come the bluebells, often glimpsed in the woodlands, but at their most striking along Cow Down Road opposite Leigh Lodge and Leigh Lane.
Around early May the great profusion of flowers begins. Red; led by red campion, herb robert, knapweed, red clover and common vetch. White; represented by stitchwort, white dead nettle, hedge bedstraw and 'donkey' daisies. Blue; by speedwell, tufted vetch, bugle, periwinkle, dog violet and the tallest remaining bluebells. Yellow; by ladies bedstraw, celandine, archangel, St John's Wort, buttercup and dandelion. Purple; by dove's foot cranesbills, vetches and mallow.
The 'rainbow' displays occur at selected spots throughout the parish. Examples are the Winsham road off the A30, Dorman Lane where it nears Lue Farm drive, Pye Lane and spots along Whatley Lane.
Gradually, as summer approaches, there is a great change as the white lace-like tracery of the beaked parsley takes over. The only plants that can compete are rosebay, foxgloves, hedge parsley, hogweed, nettles and bracken. When the verges are cut back, ferns and many flowers have a second flowering. Then, before the farmers cut the tops, there is honeysuckle, bindweed and various wild roses.
Several of the banks directly abut the tarmac and these often have special flowers, as in Colham Lane, of dove's foot geranium or wild strawberries. There are many other special spots like bur marigold (Leigh lane), wood garlic (Whatley Lane), mare's tails (Colham Lane), convolvulus at Street or the wild thyme on the pond wall in Purtington Lane.
It is worth mentioning that the lane with the greatest diversity of plants locally is the Headstock Road beyond the great quarry at Chard junction. This is due to the great Continental River that left the deposits. It also washed away the top layers of the Jurassic period to expose the extra remaining lower lias, similar to that of Lyme Regis.