Where has the time gone? Well, despite the radio silence, I have been very busy: Salisbury Art Trail, holiday in Corfu, and enjoying the heatwave!
I have managed to fit in a few walks but only now have the time to write the blog. I've been pottering in the Test Valley by Chilbolton Common, seeking inspiration for my next painting.
I finally made it to Martin Down - it had been ages since I'd last been - but alas the weather has scorched most of the flowers, so it was all a bit brown. The views were still amazing, as we extended the walk up to Pentridge Down and down the other side to the Roman Road in a big loop in the boiling sunshine - perhaps a bit ambitious for the heat of the day! It did guarantee peace and solitude however!
Last weekend we decided to head to Selborne - home to Gilbert White, the 18th century naturalist famed for writing one of the first detailed accounts of wildlife 'the natural history of Selborne'. It is a very pretty village and, with most people being at the beach on another hot day, we had it and the adjacent Selborne Common to ourselves. This part of north-east Hampshire is famed for its hanger woodlands - steep beech and ash woodlands. In fact, it was here that I had a taste of my first woodland survey in 2006 - rather precipitous! The views from the Zig-zag path cut by Gilbert and his brother hundreds of years ago back down to the village and way beyond are stunning, especially on the glorious sunny day when we went. Ambling through parts of the woodland, the recently-cleared glades and small pockets of hay meadows were home to many butterflies, including silver-washed fritillaries. The males perform a looping dance around the female, brushing her antennae with his pheromone-coasted wing hairs - quite a spectacle, and one that is becoming rarer as sunny glades in mature woodland decrease.
And then today - on my way back from collecting a box of neolithic arrow heads bequeathed to me by a friend, I called in at Morgan's Hill Nature Reserve. This is a small chalk downland reserve perched high on the hills above Calne, north of Devizes and owned by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. I looped up and around, abuzz with butterflies and other insects feeding on the fading flowers of knapweed and scabious. Part of my route took me along the Wansdyke - named after Woden and possibly post-Roman/early Anglo-Saxon, and still very obvious in the landscape, with steep banks. These banks were alive with flowers and butterflies, and accompanied by amazing views across the Wiltshire downs. I even spotted several clumps of the rare round-headed rampion, a real chalk-downland specialist.
So, despite the heatwave, wildlife appears to be thriving.