Walks around the Bramshill plantation.Bramshill Orchids 2010
Bramshill and Riseley
Bramshill and Hazeley Heath 2014
Every year I try to make at least one visit to Bramshill Plantation, one of the best wildlife havens in the area. I try to go in early June to catch some of the orchids on display. With everything held back after a cool Spring and early Summer I did wonder if it was a bit early to see much. It has been very dry, and the plantation is in desperate need of a decent amount of rain soon.
The journey did not start well, the road through Heckfield had been closed for road works and I was dismayed to find that the signposted 'diversion' added an extra 15 miles to the trip.
I parked at the north-west corner for a change and started off by following the Blackwater River north to its confluence with the River Whitewater. This is a lovely, quiet stretch of water with reed beds. There were reed warblers singing away and a group of Banded Demoiselles flitting over the river. In the meadow alongside I saw my first Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) of the year. Apparently a spell of southerly winds in the previous week had tempted these intrepid summer tourists over the channel. To complete the idyllic picture I heard a nightingale singing in the woods nearby.
Near the river there were quite a few blue damselflies but also this green one, probably a female Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens).
I made my way towards the centre of Bramshill Plantation and found two male Common Blue butterflies sheltering from the cool and blustery wind.
The ditch to the south of a central pond is the most reliable place to see Bee orchids. There were a dozen or so flower spikes in this area. They all looked in need of rain. I picked this one of the flower opening out rather than my usual picture of it fully open.
I moved on to the only pond that has a fringe of Southern Marsh Orchids, and they were in fine fettle.
Last year by this pond I spotted a banded 'miner wasp' that could not be definitely identified. I looked at the same sandy bank and noticed the strange 'tubes' created as the wasps dig out the burrows. I waited around a fair while but no wasp co-operated in posing for a photograph.
Exploring further I found a group of common spotted orchids. Among them was a pure white form with unspotted leaves.
A Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) decided to lie still on the path out of the cool breeze.
Now two last orchid shots, these were in a ditch which led to the area of Southern Marsh orchids. I still think these are hybrids with the Common Spotted orchids as they are variable from plant to plant with some intermediate features. The common spotted normally has linear loops rather than spots on its lower 'petal', and also normally has spotted leaves.
The second one has its flowers rotated by about 90 degrees giving it a rather unusual form.
There are other flowers at Bramshill too! Milkwort (Polygala vulgaris) remains a favourite with tiny blue flowers.
Last year I was shown where you can find a few Lousewort plants (Pedicularis sylvatica), unfortunately the pictures I took then were out of focus. This year I had more luck - using manual focus on the camera. It is a semi-parasitic plant like Yellow Rattle. and has strange small leaves. There were just a dozen or so plants near marshy ground.
Close by was a day-flying moth, which looks distinctive but defied my limited ability even to suggest a possible identification. An expert later told me it was a Peacock moth.
I mentioned in my last walk that the butterflies that I was hoping to see soon were large and small skippers. Just on cue, I saw a Large Skipper near the end of the eight mile walk.
And finally to end on a shield bug. There are lots of different species I think these subtle camouflage colours make it a Gorse Shieldbug (Piezodorus lituratus).
Bramshill lived up to expectations again this year, many old favourites and some new ones too.