Sunday, 20 December 2015

A rare trip out

I was very lucky this week to be able to get out as part of work - making a change from the usual back-to-back meetings!

This followed on from a good yomp up to the Clarendon estate last Sunday, up to the see the ruins of the royal hunting lodge (see previous posts), and of course, the llamas! The position of the ruins, high on top of a chalk ridge, with excellent vistas all around, as well as the unusual accompaniment of the llamas, makes it a very atmospheric spot that few experience. 

Then, with a week of Christmassy events - both work and social- our team Christmas meeting involved a trip out to the edge of the New Forest, near Breamore. At Castle Hill, we parked on a ridge overlooking the wide expanse of the River Avon floodplain. The silvery ribbon of the river snaked in wide meanders across the valley, with the colours really popping in the dull winter light. After a bit of a chat about agricultural improvement and runoff of nutrients into the river, causing water pollution, we headed off into the Forest for a very muddy potter amongst the plantation forest. A welcome respite from the mince pies and meetings!

And I've just got back from another good stroll at Martin Down - with all this rain, it's becoming quite limited in finding locations with suitable ground conditions to avoid slipping and sliding around. The sun was shining, but apart from that and some sheep, it was uneventful - not even one bird.

Of course, it's going to be full-on-festivities in the next couple of weeks (I'm lucky enough not to have to work between Christmas and the New Year), so I will be a little quiet on here until probably my birthday weekend. Let's hope that winter gets a little more forceful, as my garlic is already a foot high and will probably need harvesting at this rate! Merry Christmas everyone! 

Friday, 11 December 2015

Great Yews

I've been a bit quiet on here lately - something to do with building a flat pack wardrobe (don't ask, just don't...), Christmas shopping, and various Christmassy events!

Anyway, took the day off today, after a week of meetings, for a nice long walk in the patchy drizzle. I wanted to explore somewhere new, and the Whitsbury area has been one I've had on my 'to do' list for a while. This is the edge of Cranborne Chase, the picturesque area that includes Martin Down.

I started on a track just a little way along from Salisbury Hospital at Odstock. The map showed I had plenty of choice in terms of footpaths/byways, so planning a route was tricky, but in the end, substrate condition forced my hand (i.e. it was very muddy/flooded!). the walk took me passed Clearbury Down - a SSSI chalk downland and hill fort, with the unimproved nature of the grassland contrasting markedly with the intensive grassland and arable surrounding it.

I eventually ended up walking along the county boundary between Hampshire and Wiltshire, with a very distinctive hedge mostly made up of yew, and filled with birds. I heard several farmland bird species that have experienced a rapid population decline in recent decades, including many corn bunting, a flock of fieldfares, yellowhammer, and possibly some linnet. Check out the RSPB website to hear them for yourselves. The corn bunting, in particular, is a speciality of the Chase area, loving the wide open spaces and lack of hedgerows, although is very rare elsewhere.

This took me to the edge of another SSSI (and SAC - of European importance)  - Great Yews. the citation for the site (legal document supporting the SSSI designation) cites it as a nationally-rare habitat, and unusual in being on mostly flat ground and purely yew in some areas. The trees were certainly spectacularly-wide, with estimates of age suggesting most are in excess of 200 years old.

Returning to the path, I carried on up then looped back on myself, affording great views across the undulating landscape, before retracing my steps to the car. There's much more scope for further walks here, with many permutations available - the only trouble is, the byways are so deeply rutted that in wet weather they flood very easily and with the underlying chalk making things very slippery, it can be quite hazardous! I'm certainly glad I braved it though, and will be coming back when perhaps drier!

Friday, 27 November 2015

Fiery horizons

Bit dramatic perhaps, but the sunset after a longer-then-intended walk was pretty amazing last Sunday.

We'd headed up to Pepperbox Hill - at 157m high, it's positively mountainous for our area. It's owned by the National Trust, but access is a bit tricky off the busy A36 on a blind summit, so you have to be pretty brave to go there! It comprises a strip of chalk downland (currently being grazed by sheep and British White cattle) along a ridge, with a 17th century hexagonal folly. We walked along the old droveway on top of the ridge, which links up with the village of Dean eventually.

It was pretty muddy going, but the views were as always stunning. As mentioned, it was the low rays of the sunset casting a fiery glow across the extensive woodland in the distance that really caught our eyes. The woodland forms part of the West Tytherley woods, which includes Bentley Wood (see many previous posts!), and is well known for its small-leaved lime trees and rare butterflies such as the Duke of Burgundy.

Although it was a straightforward walk, on a weekend where winter seemed to have finally arrived, it was the views on the way back that made it particularly memorable - I will let the photos speak for themselves!

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Rain and more rain

It's been a bit of a changeable week! On Sunday, after the morning was largely dry, I popped to Martin Down, whereupon is immediately started to drizzle. However, even in these conditions, the views from the top of the reserve were still beautiful, and it seemed to make it even more tranquil (and of course, few silly people had ventured out like us).

I then spent much of the week indoors at various meetings (which was probably just as well, due to the sharp showers), but yesterday I finally managed to spend a day out in the North Dorset countryside with one of my members of staff. They were visiting farmers managing SSSI and SAC (nationally and internationally-protected) land. Having been born and raised on the chalk, going to the Blackmoor Vale, with its heavy clay soils, was a bit of a change - all the recent rain had certainly had an impact, with wellies definitely required! However, one thing that struck me was the patches of flowers still in bloom - see previous posts about the lack of wintry conditions. I spotted betony and devil's bit scabious, in particular, with the latter being of most interest on our visits.

The sites in questions were hotspots for dense breeding populations of marsh fritillary butterflies (a nationally-declining species), the caterpillars of which feed on the leaves of this flower. This year's monitoring of larval webs by Butterfly Conservation had yielded impressive figures, and a testament to the management being carried out by the landowners.

Well, today winter has certainly hit - glorious blue skies but a biting northerly wind. I think I'll try and find somewhere a bit sheltered to visit on tomorrow's walk!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Will winter ever come?

Last Sunday I had a quick pootle around Langley Wood NNR, to catch the last of the autumnal colours and see my favourite, magnificent beech tree. Although it was raining, and the daylight was fading fast, it was, as always, very atmospheric.

Then, when out in the garden recently, I noticed that the garlic I had recently planted was sprouting, and is now several inches high - crazy!

This comes after an extremely-mild week - I was in London on Tuesday on a training course, and I was trying to explain to them my job, and what the greatest threat facing our planet is - i.e. climate change. They were staggered that it was already impacting on communities (both people and ecosystems) around the world, and had no idea that, as well as the USA and China, that Australia was such a bad polluter and consequent contributor to the atmospheric changes. So, I feel I've done my little bit for raising awareness this week.

It was a much more wintry day yesterday - clear, sunny skies (after initial rain showers - the edge of Abigail or whatever they're calling the latest storm!) - so I headed up to the Ox drove by the racecourse again - this time venturing further along it to a little loop amongst woodland on the Wilton Estate. Although it wasn't a very long walk (an hour or so), I love the feeling you get when you're covering new ground (I had a map with me, unlike the previous times in Bentley Wood - see other posts...). The view back to the edge of the Nadder valley (opposite side to the Ebble) w

as beautiful.

So, I live in hope that at some point we might actually have winter, but this mild weather has really worried me and is quite probably a sign of things to come. Of course, the irony is that I won't be using the heating as much, thereby reducing my own carbon emissions...

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Autumn in the Ebble Valley

For those of you not aware, the River Ebble is a beautiful chalk stream that flows from the west into Salisbury. Interestingly, it isn't legally protected, unlike most of the other chalk streams in the area. In any case, it sits in extremely picturesque surroundings, and its valley formed the basis of my walks last weekend.

I was meeting friends for lunch in The Queen's Head, Broadchalke (close to the Ebble and highly recommended!), so had a bit of time to kill. I opted for a brief yomp along the ox drove from Salisbury racecourse, which forms the watershed for the Ebble catchment.

I'm sure I've talked about these droves before, but we seem to have rather a lot in Wiltshire, probably linked to the rich farming heritage of the area, using the droves to drive cattle and sheep to market. This particular drove runs from the south of Salisbury, pretty much all the way to Shaftesbury! I settled for a quick up-and-down a stretch of the drove, to take in the magnificent autumn colours.

After lunch, we picked our way through another droveway and out across arable land, in a loop back to the pub, taking in the Ebble on our way. It was a very misty day, so the autumn colours really 'popped'. The final stretch was through what would probably have been watermeadow, but with little remaining today, apart from amazing old ash trees, with ancient gnarly trunks joined together in a line - they would probably have formed a hedge at some stage.

As I write this, the gales are blowing autumn off the trees, so I'm quite glad I've managed to had a couple of jaunts out to immerse myself in the colours, smells and sounds of autumn.

An encounter with stags' horns

No, nothing as dramatic as you might think - this is referring to the amazing fungus, the yellow stagshorn.

I foolishly decided the rain wasn't too bad yesterday, for a quick stroll in the New Forest at Wellow Common. Here, the vast closely-grazed lawn, dotted with conifers and gorse, provides an excellent mosaic for a great variety of fungi.

In addition to the staghorn, I'm pretty sure I spotted the sickener (bright red) and the rose russula (lovely light pink) - however, as it was now a steady blustery drizzle at this point, I didn't get the camera out and can't be certain!

Now is a great time to get out there and spot the great variety of fungi we have in the UK - the New Forest is an excellent spot to go on a fungal foray (and, indeed, the Forestry Commission are running such events currently), but there is also a bit of a political storm brewing over collecting fungi for consumption.

It is prohibited to collect for selling to restaurants, but in reality, this is very difficult to enforce. Coupled with the personal allowance being, in my opinion, very high, it could be putting the future of this weird and wonderful group of species at risk.

So, please, look but do not collect when you come across something you think is edible, and leave it for others to enjoy.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Autumn catching up

It's been a funny year, as I've mentioned in previous posts, with flowering times all out of kilter. Even the leaves have taken a while to start turning, but suddenly they have been catching up.

Having friends staying with me last weekend gave me a good excuse to head off to the New Forest to check out the autumn colours there. Our first stop was Bramshaw Wood, in the north of the Forest - the colours were indeed beautiful on a slightly damp and grey day - typical autumn! Beech and bird leaves formed a colourful tunnel along forest tracks and footpaths, with few people to disturb the tranquility.

We then headed off to Bolderwood deer viewing platform, as we were still in the middle of the rut for both fallow and red deer. Alas, no deer at all, but the short walk through the arboretum contrasted well with the native trees we'd experienced earlier - enormous redwoods and more sweet chestnut, with far more people, in this popular spot in the Forest. At this point the rain set in.

The next morning we headed out for the excellent yomp up to Old Sarum - it was a very different day, with glorious sunshine and mild temperatures. The autumn colours were perfectly setting off the blue sky, with the usual beautiful views across the valley and from the top of the hillfort - I am so lucky to have this on my doorstep!

The advantages of getting lost

Yes, yet again the innate ability of the Roses to get lost didn't fail us, when Mum and I went for a walk in Bentley Wood a couple of weeks' ago.

We had decided to walk from a different car park, along the forestry track and then loop back on ourselves - how hard could it be? Well, we should have known better, for it became obvious that we had perhaps turned left a bit early and missed our connection with the main track back to the car park. Heading off in what we thought was the right direction, we soon ended up in a field full of cows - definitely wrong!

Retracing our steps through the woodland compartments - fiery sweet chestnut and beech leaves contrasting against the conifer plantations - our quiet panic was suddenly disturbed by the very-close rumbling roar of a fallow stag in rut - amazing. We'd seen quite a few herds on our meandering route as well.

The fallow roar is very different to that of a red deer, being more guttural and 'gargly' than it's larger, native compatriot. Whereas red deer rut in open areas, aiming to stake their claim to the large harems of does hanging around, fallows sometimes have fewer females, who choose the successful (strongest) male.

So, if we hadn't got lost (and we did soon manage to find our car!) we would never have heard that amazing autumnal sound.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Long shadows

I love this time of year - coming back from meetings in Dorset, I can pop into Martin Down for a quick yomp to blow the cobwebs away with the crisp autumnal wind and long shadows cast by the low sun.

It was looking stunning - as always - and the storm cloud in the distance just heightened the sun catching the top of Hanham hill (the highest point on the Down).

The seedheads of many flowers - still interspersed with some in flower (knapweed, yarrow, hawkbits, devils bit scabious still going strong in parts!) - were beautifully back-lit in the sun. We've used them as table decorations for Christmas lunch before - agrimony, wild carrot and knapweed look spectacular sprayed silver and strung with beads!

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Extended summer

This summer has been a bit of a funny one - after the wash out of August, September was mostly glorious sunshine. I'm not sure if the plants were watching, but whatever the reason, it's quite amazing how so many are still flowering.

On my recent trip up to Scotland, the heather and devil's bit scabious formed beautiful purple carpets, and coming back down south, on a quick foray to Martin Down during the week, the knapweed and rough hawkbit were still very much in flower.

On the flip side, for some plants it seemed that autumn came early this year - though the blackberries were starting at the end of July, they've continued to fruit still, providing a bumper crop for humans and wildlife alike - lots of blackberry jelly this year!

Of course, it's hard to say whether these changes are just one-offs, or whether climate change has a part to play here. I guess this sort of topsy-turvy world is becoming something we are going to have to get used to - but can the wildlife do this too? Hmm...

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Getting out from behind the desk!

Since becoming a Team Leader in June, I've not been out on site for work, which has come as a bit of shock to the system - I'm used to spending at least one or two days a week out in the countryside marvelling at some of the most scarce habitats and species in the country (and sometimes in Europe!).

Finally, on Friday, I was able to get out and show colleagues how working with farmers and fishing clubs can reap great rewards, by visiting a farm on the upper reaches of the River Itchen, near New Alresford (north of Winchester).

The farmer is in an agri-environment scheme - paid for through EU (and a bit of UK Government) funds, encouraging farmers to farm for wildlife and protect the environment. This particular estate is large (about 1000 acres I think) and has the River Itchen Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of conservation (SAC - internationally important) flowing through it. We've worked really closely with them to establish a suitable grazing regime with his wonderful Hereford cattle on the sensitive banks, and liaised with the fishing club to improve conditions for wild brown trout. Indeed, when we visited, there were several huge trout beneath one of the bridges - an indicator things were going OK!

The river is looking great on the whole - so inspiring to see after all that hard work, with the banks having a wealth of plants, connecting the river with the floodplain derelict watermeadows. The chalk stream was filled with aquatic plants ('macrophytes') including water parsnip and starwort - but none of the water crowfoot. Even this high up in the catchment, the water quality is not good enough to support it in places, a result of runoff from farms and other land uses (septic tanks for example).

But it was still great to see the site looking so beautiful - I hope to return invigorated to work on Monday (but also slightly more motivated to get things done as I'm off to Scotland for a week and a bit so no blog next couple of weekends I'm afraid).

Saturday, 5 September 2015

A different Down

Last weekend I managed - in between an amazing baking spree and rain showers - to have a yomp up Camp Hill Down.

This is a piece of SSSI chalk grassland only 20 minutes' walk away from me - the journey there, however, is a tad on the dangerous side.

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CROW 2000) designated many patches of unimproved grassland and heathland as open access - meaning people could walk across it without sticking to any paths. Camp Hill is one such place - the trouble is, quite a lot of these don't actually link up with footpaths, so to get to them is a bit tricky. To get to Camp Hill, I have to walk a bit along the Avon Valley Path - fine so far. Then I come to a rather busy 60mph B road, with limited verge to walk along. I have to walk along this for about 10 minutes, BUT the reward is worth it - if you can find the bit of fence to climb over that isn't covered in barbed wire (I'm really selling this aren't I?!).

I quickly surprised a hare in the grass, as I walked up to the top of the downland, accompanied by a herd of sheep. At this time of year, the flowers are mostly over, but it is devils bit scabious season, so there were quite a few of these dark-purple flowers in among the grass and knapweed. There was also carline thistle - a strange flower in that it looks dried up when it is actually fresh and growing!

Turning around to look at the view, there is a stunning panorama over the river Avon and Woodford valley, with historic parkland estates and old houses and cottages - with views stretching all the way up to Salisbury Plain.

It's not a big site, so once you've admired the view and done a bit of botanising (lots of dwarf thistle!), it was time to once again take my life in my own hands and quickly walk back home. Such a shame there isn't a footpath!

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Wild harvest

I love this time of year - as the evenings draw in, trees and hedgerows are beginning to be laden with fruit. I know it's still August (just about!), but it certainly feels very autumnal!

Last Sunday we started blackberrying, heading up to the drove by Salisbury racecourse, which forms part of the Wilton Estate. The humble bramble is actually a group of many closely-related species (called 'aggregates') that are nigh-on impossible to distinguish unless you're an expert botanist. It's funny how microclimate can play such a factor in ripening, and also the variety of blackberries present. In those sunnier spots, fruit was ripe for picking, but our haul was very low. The berries were also very tight and bristly, so not really suitable for eating straight away - I'm planning on making a big batch of blackberry jelly for Christmas presents (building on last year's blackberry chutney!).

Then after work on Thursday, travelling back from Dorchester, I pulled into Martin Down (of course!) for a quick foray over the road into Kitt's Grave. It's looking beautiful at the moment, with scrub clearance and grass cutting forming a rich mosaic of flower-rich glades and a variety of scrub heights. One glade in particular is wide enough to be mown with a tractor, creating a strangely-out-of-place striped lawn!

The hedgerows were laden - sloes, privet berries (not edible!), elder berries and of course blackberries. The latter were again not quite ripe, needing another few weeks, but in some sunny spots on the edge of glades there were some juicy ones. This variety has much bigger individual berries, so potentially better flavour - we shall see!

And the little carefully-cultivated bramble in my garden is now bearing a handful of fruit, and coupled with the rich bushes across the road on the way to the river, this year's blackberry jelly etc will have come from a wide variety of sources.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Strange sounds

I swear I was woken up to the sound of a calling peregrine falcon the other morning - having heard the distinct call, closely followed by the aforementioned bird chasing a pigeon over our heads in Krakow, I recognised the sound. Bit odd for it to be calling in a quiet Salisbury suburb at 6am!

If it was a peregrine then it is further proof of this species' continued expansion and population recovery. They have moved into urban areas with much success, utilising the cliff-like walls of buildings for nesting sites, and catching other birds that pass through on their migrations, high above settlements. Indeed, analysis of prey remains in urban nests has turned up surprising revelations, including woodcock, not an urban species at all. It just goes to show an awful lot is happening above our heads when we're catching a few zs!

That evening was also the first that I heard my resident tawnies calling again - not the 'to-woo' but the high-pitched screechy 'twe-wit'. According to Wikipedia (!), now is the time of year when young disperse to find territories- so perhaps the resident pair are asserting their claim to this patch, or the young are trying it on!

This week also saw the culmination of this year's fruit and veg harvest - after a reasonable crop of garlic bulbs, and a very disappointing half a raspberry, my Victoria plum tree (planted nearly 3 years ago) has finally produced fruit. Although, as you will see from the picture, it was a very limited crop! It was very nice though - fingers crossed for more next year. My garden does, on the other hand, have a very rich invertebrate population, which has attacked all garden plants and fruit bushes/trees. I like to think I'm doing my bit for wildlife through my almost-impossible garden!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Three butterflies of two species

That was the outcome of the Big Butterfly Count in my garden last Sunday, on the last day of Butterfly Conservation's 'citizen science' initiative. Not bad for 15 minutes on a cloudy and not-terribly-warm day. That was two large whites and a meadow brown, the latter spent the entire 15 minutes on one of my buddleias, thus demonstrating their value as a nectar source. In the sun, I have seen gatekeepers, small tortoiseshells and brimstones flitting by as well, so not bad for a little forgotten corner consisting of a near-vertical slope and a small patch of brambles (lovingly tended for this year's crop).

Later that day I headed out for the customary Sunday afternoon walk, back to Grovely Woods again. I've covered this part of the Wilton estate in previous posts, but it's a very handy local patch, with many permutations of loops to be walked. It's quite difficult to get lost (even for me!), as most of the forestry tracks in this mixed plantation woodland always come back to the main track 'First Broad Drive' through the wood. Lined with magnificent beeches, and stretching off into the distance, it makes for a very good yomp indeed! We took a side track off and found ourselves in a new area we hadn't been to before, along a path seemingly running parallel with the main drive, passing through a band of ancient woodland - a change from the dark depths of the conifers.

Tomorrow I'm hosting Sunday lunch, so the afternoon walk - if we can stir ourselves - will likely be off to Old Sarum again.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Work and play!

So one of the benefits of my role managing a team in Dorset is that this includes National Nature Reserve (NNR) staff, in particular, those that manage the Axmouth to Lyme Regis Undercliffs NNR.

For those of you unfamiliar (I was!), this is a stunning stretch of the Jurassic World Heritage Site coast from Axmouth to Lyme Regis (taking in the world-famous Monmouth Beach ammonite pavement). The undercliffs themselves are a series of constantly slipping blocks of clay. sand and chalk, creating amazing ravines, micro-habitats and rock formations, but making for dangerous walking. Indeed, one part of the south west coast path is still shut here. It's certainly an experience having a guided tour by the NNR staff, with the chosen route yesterday taking in a couple of ascents by short lengths of rope!

It has beautiful views of the coast and turquoise sea, with pockets of extremely diverse chalk grassland and moist fern-rich woodland.

The other end of the reserve at Lyme Regis plays host to the most accessible fossil-hunting stretch, including the ammonite pavement, where you walk on hundreds of these ancient fossils - quite spectacular. As a fossil hunter myself, this trip combined work and play! Last weekend it held the first ever fossilblitz (like a bioblitz but with fossils!) recording over a 1000 records - a great way to get the community and visitors involved.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Walking away stress

This week was the first mentally-tough week in my new job, for a variety of rather boring reasons. And being cooped up in the office at Blandford (which, as you may recall, is on an industrial estate with nowhere to walk) on Monday and Wednesday had me crying out for a bit of the outdoors!

So after work on Wednesday I managed to squeeze in a short walk along Martin Down - one of the good things about my role, is that more frequent commuting to Dorset means I pass right by the NNR.

Perhaps I was just in the mood to enjoy being distracted by anything, but the rosebay willowherb - a very common ruderal plant - was present in stunning pink banks of colour along the Bokerley Dyke, contrasting against the warm ochres of the swaying upright brome grass. I had managed to pick a break in the rainstorms, but the ominous clouds made for a great background, and perhaps mirrored my mood when I started the walk!

Partway along, picking my way through knapweed and marjoram, providing an accompanying scent to my walk, I met one of the local farmers who was checking the sheep whilst the stockman was on holiday - always nice to chat to a like-minded person, out enjoying the countryside.

So, after a quick yomp of 30 minutes or so, I returned to the carpark somewhat refreshed, having mulled over and reflected on the week so far, and hopefully approaching the next day with renewed vigour.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The advantages of getting lost, and other stories

Continuing the theme of butterflies, last Sunday we headed out to Bentley Wood, in the hope of one again seeing the silver-washed fritillary spectacle. Last year they were just amazing - so many of these huge bright orange butterflies flitting through the rides and glades. This year, the weather wasn't quite as good (gusty and a bit cloudy) but it makes a nice walk anyway, so we thought we'd give it a go.

Bentley Wood is a large area of SSSI woodland - mostly conifer plantation, it has remnant areas of ancient woodland, lines of gnarled oaks, and the network of rides and glades makes it one of the top places in the country for spotting a wealth of butterflies, including purple emperors.

Now, I never usually visit my local haunts with a map, being familiar with the various loops we use. However, on this occasion, we both remarked that we had not been up this path before and set off down it. It did not take us where we thought it was going to go, winding its way through conifer plantation instead of being a straight track. Nonetheless, we found ourselves at another carpark - useful to know to explore this other part of the wood. At this point we felt we had better retrace our steps a bit, then took a path that we hoped would link up with one of the forestry tracks.

We found ourselves climbing over various stiles and passing through kissing gates, emerging into a wide meadow area with the path lined with ancient old oaks along the old Anglo-Saxon earth boundary bank. Beautiful flowers and butterflies surrounded us, including betony in the meadows, although no silver-washed fritillaries. The path took us to a confluence whereupon we thought the track looked familiar - this turned out to be incorrect but we persevered and found ourselves along another forestry track that definitely looked familiar this time! We set off in one direction, only for me to realise that we had already passed a particular earth bank before, which meant we were heading away from the carpark. Finally, we knew where we were! A short retracing of steps and we were back at the car, and next time we'll come a bit more prepared to explore this large area we weren't even aware of before.

And yesterday, on a day off, I decided to venture further afield to Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset to drink in the azure blue sea, amazing fossils and landscape, including a spot of underwater photography in the rockpools - beautiful!

Friday, 10 July 2015

Butterfly time

It's amazing how quickly the environment can change - barely two weeks ago I was up on Martin Down marvelling at the orchids and waiting on the butterflies to burst out with the knapweed. I went back last Sunday, and after a 'scorchio' period during the week, all of the fragrant orchids have withered, but the knapweed is out and with it a whole host of butterflies.

Most were marbled whites, but the dark green fritillaries were also making an appearance - I always feel that they're a bit too exotic-looking to belong here. Actually, I feel we're pretty lucky with all our butterflies!

I was out attempting to keep the plants in the garden from completely dessicating this morning, and with the privet hedge in flower, together with the wallflowers, it was abuzz with activity. Lots of meadow browns but also heaps of small tortoiseshells - absolutely beautiful and it only required a little effort to get the garden in order. I need more flowers now but what with the lack of rain, many have - poor lobelias :(