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!

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