Monday, 30 May 2016

Flowers galore

Once again, back from a long walk thinking how lucky I am to have all this variety on my doorstep. This time, my destination was a beautiful wet meadow in the Ebble Valley that, being a bit further to walk to from my parents' house, had meant I haven't visited it for a while.

The walk starts with the usual yomp up Harnham Slope - a County Wildlife Site for its mixed semi-natural woodland, which I believe harbours a small population of dormice. You get great views across Salisbury from it, and the paths take you past active badger setts, and through bird-filled woodland. However, today, I veered off up onto the Avon Valley Path, taking in vistas across the sweeping hills, with hawthorn blossom very much evident in the thick, ancient hedges criss-crossing the landscape.

Crossing the main road to Blandford, I continued along a very poorly-maintained path - beware stinging nettles! - before heading out across arable fields. Although on first appearances a wildlife desert, the hedges and some field corners provide welcome respite for species - poppies of course, but whitethroats, chifchaffs and lots of singing skylarks attempting to nest in the barley and wheat fields - let's hope they make it!

Finally, the end was in sight - looping around a pretty little farm and into the meadow. For those of you in the know, I would say MG5 - ragged robin, meadow buttercup, red clover, cuckooflower, a great variety of fine grasses, and meadow thistle. I ventured a little further, crossing over the Ebble itself, spying water crowfoot and flag iris in places, before retracing my steps. 

I did call in on Salisbury Chalkpit just before heading for home - this is a geological SSSI (in that it is legally protected for the rock strata - here Cretaceous layers of chalk great for sea urchins). It being chalk, in varying stages of recolonisation with vegetation, it is also very interesting botanically - common milkwort, hawkbits, bird's foot trefoil - and I know common spotted orchids come along in a little while too. It's a shame it's also the local youths' hang out - lots of detritus around.

So, all in all, a most satisfying day filled with many species to prepare me for surveying on Martin Down later this week, having become very rusty on that front!

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