Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Bramshill; Warren Heath and Hazeley Heath

Bramshill walks

Walks around the Bramshill plantation.

Bramshill Orchids 2010
Bramshill and Riseley
Bramshill 2012
Bramshill 2013
Bramshill and Hazeley Heath 2014
Bramshill 2015

At last, the hot dry spell came to an end with the remnants of Hurricane Bertha bringing rain and cooler conditions. I chose a walk that has been on the list for a long time, I had intended to do part of it three years ago but took a wrong turn. The area takes in the Bramshill and Hazeley areas that are mainly covered with conifer plantation on poor sandy soil. I have been to Bramshill many times before but never explored the much larger area to the south. Here is a Google map of the walk:


View Warren Heath, Hazeley Heath and Bramshill in a larger map

As we are now well into August it is the season to see large numbers of butterflies. Someone told me ten days ago that it was a poor butterfly year, I beg to differ, as I think it has been a better year than many. The first one here is a Brown Argus (Aricia agestis) sitting on a Fleabane flower. I saw this bright yellow flower everywhere.

butterfly,brown argus,Aricia agestis

A little further on I was delighted to see a few flashes of deep yellow. It was a Clouded Yellow butterfly (Colias croceus) and they are flighty things, never settling for long and when disturbed seem to fly a long way off. I have only seen them on a few occasions and never before managed a photograph of one. I did not get a good picture but as this is my first one I thought I would include it. The butterflies are summer migrants, tempted over the Channel in late summer.

butterfly,Clouded Yellow,Colias croceus

I followed a line of electricity pylons south. The areas under electricity cables have to be kept tree-free and so they are often good places for wild-flowers and butterflies. There are some open areas within the forest of Warren Heath which look very promising for wildlife, I did not explore it on this visit. Note the thinly disguised mobile phone transmitter mast as a solitary telegraph pole.

heath view

Much of the Forestry Commission plantation is boring old planted conifers with not much wildlife to speak of.

Warren Heath

I took a path that led down from the flat heath area and there were many ditches and streams draining the area, by the side of a stream I caught my first 'dragonfly'. I think it is a male Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens).

Keeled Skimmer,Orthetrum coerulescens

A little further on and I was delighted to see another dragonfly, this time a male Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea), as big as they get, and I was lucky to catch it resting.

Southern Hawker,Aeshna cyanea

Nearby I looked at the butterflies feeding on the heather and there were the usual meadow browns, gatekeepers but also another new butterfly for me: a Grayling (Hipparchia semele). I thought I had seen one at Bramshill a fortnight ago but wasn't 100% certain of identification. I think this one is pretty clear cut.

Grayling,Hipparchia semele

I left the Warren Heath plantation and crossed the River Hart to then turn back north again towards Hazeley Heath. Here blackberries were already fully ripe.

blackberry

The ancient footpath led to the heath and there was plenty to see here. I think this is a type of gall on oak, but not sure which one.

oak gall

There were plenty of butterflies on the heath including Common blue; Small tortoiseshell and this Comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album).

Comma butterfly,Polygonia c-album

Hazeley Heath has large areas set aside to wild-flowers, and it will be worth a return visit to explore in more detail. For lack of space I will only include this wild parsnip.

wild parsnip

The wooded areas are mainly conifers with bracken understorey.

Hazeley Heath

Heading on the north-eastern boundary I spotted some strange rounded objects. At first I thought they might be very early puffball fungi but they were solid to the touch and I think are 'earthballs' (Scleroderma citrinum).

earth ball,Scleroderma citrinum

I then came to the end of Hazeley Heath, and had seen very few buildings - my path did not take me through any villages. The only grand building I passed was the Bramshill Police College tucked away among all the heath and conifers.

Bramshill Police College

I then had to trace a poorly maintained path to the main road. I quite liked this stone labrador guarding one of the houses.

stone dog

The path led me to an isolated, delightful little pond complete with duck house. On the edge was another species of dragonfly, I think this is a Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum).

Ruddy Darter,Sympetrum sanguineum

The water lilies on the pond looked gorgeous.

water lily

I made my way north towards Bramshill plantation. I had to don waterproofs briefly as a brief heavy shower caught me, however I must not grumble as the forecast predicted this. At Bramshill I saw toadflax in full flower, always a nice bright flower to see.

toadflax

I wandered to the north-west corner of the plantation and was pleased to see another Grayling butterfly, once again feeding on heather.

Grayling,Hipparchia semele

I could include a lot more pictures as I took over 120 in all. I thought it would be appropriate to end with another dragonfly, I think this is another Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum). This area is reputed to be good for dragonflies and damselflies because of the many ditches and small ponds and certainly my walk confirmed that.

Ruddy Darter,Sympetrum sanguineum