In typical Lulworth fashion, no sooner had we pasted on the suncream than the sun disappeared and the sea fret drew in, but the thought of a day spent looking for a rare UK endemic plant on the slopes above a wondrous limestone arch was enough to extinguish any bad feelings about the weather (which got better again as the day went on!).
With the help of Dom's keen eye and a trusty handheld GPS, we found healthy populations of Early Gentian at several grid references where they've been seen before in similar surveys back in 2008 and 1998. These plants grow in only the very shortest turf where they don't have to compete with taller grasses, so to find them in the same spot over consecutive surveys is proof that the livestock grazing regime up there is working.
Quadrat sampling with a view
Red pegs were used to mark the locations of clumps of plants
Despite growing in very short turf, it's an inconspicuous plant
Interestingly, some of the largest clusters were growing immediately alongside the steps on the South West Coast Path where it leads down to the Cove, in an area that they haven't previously been recorded and that isn't often grazed. This busy route between Lulworth and Durdle Door is walked by thousands of tourists every summer, and the constant footfall has effectively done the same job as grazing cow - kept the grass short! Footpath erosion isn't usually something to rave about, but in this case it seems to be beneficial!
Ideal Early Gentian habitat alongside one of the busiest footpaths on the south coast
A couple of dazzling Cistus Forester joined in the fun