The Reserve here has a wildflower meadow, an area of woodland and a patch of heathland. We explored the beautiful wildflower meadow first, marvelling at the beautiful flowers, alive with insects, full of colour and vitality. As we entered the meadow we startled a roe deer, and watched her retreat into trees at the far side before bounding away. Walking further round we saw two young fawns, who leapt out of sight and were soon hidden amongst the flowers.
We next headed into the woodland, enjoying watching a family of blue tits squabble above us, and listening to a woodpecker drumming high in the trees.
The woodland was very still and quiet. Following through on the path, we soon came to a gate into the heathland area. There is some birch encroaching on to this area, and we talked about how we would like to volunteer with the local Wildlife Trust, perhaps on this reserve (I filled in the volunteer interest form when we got home, looking forward to hearing back from BBOWT!).
The heather was in bloom and there were lots of bees buzzing about.
The area was also clearly popular with spiders, as there were lots of funnel webs over the vegetation, each one containing a spider hidden deep within the funnel, waiting for unsuspecting prey.
Dotted across the heathland area were pieces of corrugated iron for monitoring reptiles. We couldn’t resist having a look under the tins we came across, and were rewarded in doing so. In all, we found eight tins, and found reptiles under five of them.
Here are our results (numbers are those marked on the tins):
1. Grass snake 2. Snake skin and next to it, a deceased slow worm, just part of the skin and the skeleton left, looked like it had been pecked by birds. 3. Ant nest! 8. Four slow worms 10. Another ant nest 11. Slow worm 13. Slow worm 15. Slow worm.
It was fantastic. I haven’t seen slow worms for years, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a grass snake before, so it was very exciting to see so many in one place. We took home the skeleton and snake skin for our nature table. We left the site buzzing with excitement at all we’d seen!
Our second stop took us over the border into Hampshire, where we visited Ancells Farm. This is a heathland site, with cattle grazing and a large pond (which we missed!). We wandered through the reserve, spying beautiful damselflies, and the pretty wildflowers, as well as spying the purple moor grass, causing a problem here, as it does on Chobham Common.
Unfortunately, as we walked through the reserve, we realised that we’d picked up some wildlife of an unwanted kind, and had rather a number of small ticks on our clothing. Ticks are blood sucking arachnids and will use humans as a host. They can also spread lyme disease, so we were keen to get home, wash all our clothes and check each other thoroughly for ticks, so this was the last reserve we visited today (and the reason we missed the pond). Phil had picked up a couple of ticks, and they’d certainly been on my skin too, and we both picked up horse fly bites, but agreed that despite the unwanted wildlife, today had been worth it for the fantastic range of wildlife we did see.
Arriving home, and freshly changed and showered, the storm that had been threatening all day broke, with heavy rain. Time to dance in a downpour! (no pictures of this, I looked ridiculous!). The cold rain was wonderful against my warm skin and the warm, humid air freshened in no time. I bottled up the elderflower cordial, and we made wild cocktails, with the cordial, gin and tonic- delicious!
Later, the sun broke through and a double rainbow shone above the house. Looking up into the night sky late in the evening, the crescent moon poked out from between clouds, with Venus and Jupiter clearly visible close to the moon.