Friday, 30 January 2015

Briefly leaving the patch

Wow - this week has flown by - it's amazing how an impending holiday (in my case, skiing in the French Alps) can speed up the last days of work!

Although I won't be visiting my patch this weekend, I did manage to get a little further afield this week, through a morning of scrub-bashing (technical term!) at Old Winchester Hill NNR.

Now, although nothing can compare to Martin Down NNR as readers will know, Old Winchester Hill isn't half bad, even during the torrential rain and strong gusts that nearly blew us off the side of the hill. It's a large-ish area of chalk downland, yew woodland and scrub in the South Downs National Park - in fact, the  South Downs Way National Trail runs through it, drawing thousands of visitors each year. It has the most amazing views stretching out as far as Portsmouth, Southampton and, even on the murky day we were there, the distinctive local landmark of the Fawley oil refinery on the New Forest coast. It also has a large iron age hill fort - this is where the highest point and best views can be found. In summer, the hillfort in particular is covered in round-headed rampion and field fleawort - both nationally-declining chalk specialities. And of course, the butterflies are something to behold, with a notable population of my favourite, the chalkhill blue.

If I'm trying to sell a place to visit, posting pictures of my morning there will not do it, so here's a picture from a glorious day spent assessing the grassland diversity in June 2012, the stunner that is the round-headed rampion, and a chalkhill blue butterfly to get you planning your visit (although note you'll need to go in August really to see it).

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