Saturday, 27 May 2017


Phew - what a week it's been temperature-wise! Unfortunately, I've mostly been in meetings but did have a couple of opportunities to get out and enjoy the early summer weather.

Last Sunday we headed up to Martin Down. Scarcely had I finished regaling my companion of the wonders of turtle doves, than one was heard calling from the bushes around the Sillens Lane carpark. Such a beautiful sound, and when you consider their population has crashed by 91% in the UK since 1995, it makes it even more precious. Although intensification of agriculture has reduced the arable weeds upon which the doves feed, a significant reason for the decline is actually due to issues in its overwintering and migratory countries, often being shot out of the skies above the Med. Truly appalling it is allowed to carry on.

Our planned route took us across the reserve and up onto Pentridge hill, where we heard several cuckoos - another declining migratory species - as well as mediaeval field systems and an Iron Age hillfort. This area also had swathes of - now sadly gone over - bluebells, in a slightly-more acidic soil as indicated by stands of gorse. The sweeping views across Cranborne Chase are stunning, and the windswept nature leads to interesting tree formations. A most pleasant spot for lunch!

We then returned through the reserve, admiring stands of  early purple orchids and carpets of chalk milkwort and horseshoe vetch. Now is the time for the wondrous Adonis blue butterfly to be on the wing, whose larvae feed on horseshoe vetch - sadly none were seen  that day.

I was also lucky enough to have a working walk on the South Downs on Tuesday, catching up with my manager. We started at the Cheesefoot Head carpark just south of Winchester and more stunning views. when I took a delegation of Danish government ministers and advisors out here a few years ago to see some of the agri-environment schemes we have up and running, they were amazed to be standing somewhere taller than the whole of Denmark!The short route took us down ancient droveways and across arable fields, surrounded by skylarks and calling yellowhammers.

On Wednesday I managed a short walk after work down to the Avon, where once again, more cuckoos were heard (this is the most I've heard ever I think!) and I admired the rising trout catching the emerging mayfly - an idyllic and quintessentially-British scene.

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