Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Horndean - a new opportunity for wildlife and exploration

Having recently moved to Horndean in mid-August, we have been spending some of our free time exploring the local area on foot - heading out to Catherington Down, Catherington Lith, and further afield to Old Winchester Hill via the local network of footpaths, and the Monarchs Way.

Catherington Down, is just a short walk away - this west facing chalk grassland has both natural history and archaeological interest being an unimproved chalk grassland, SSSI and LNR; the grassland is clearly stepped in the ancient farming method of strip lynchets. Over a couple of visits spotted flycatcher, redstart, chiffchaff, - a wayward singing willow warbler, green woodpecker and tawny owl were all noted, along with buzzard and kestrel.

The chalk grassland flora deserves much future attention, as it apparently holds over 100 spp. of flowering plant (Horndean Parish Biodiversity Action Plan), including up to 7 species of orchid (Horndean Parish Council on site interpretation). Several short visits to look for autumn lady's tresses have been unsuccessful.

Two views of Catherington Down

Nearby the bijou Catherington Pond, will warrant more time and exploration for wetland flora and fauna. The Farmer Inn just up the road, has a Tuesday Curry Night, regular bands and is worth the walk homewards, back down the dark, steep, green lane at the end of a day.

Catherington Pond

Having previously arrived at Old Winchester Hill (OWH) by car, or on foot along the South Downs Way from Queen Elizabeth Country Park - exploring a new route across the farmland and downs; and along the Monarch's Way was refreshing; and provided ample vis-mig with redstart, whinchat, chiffchaff, willow warbler, and wheatear seen moving through the hedgerows, and weedy field margins.

On the way to OWH

A brown hairstreak flying at head height surprised us on a blackthorn lined bridleway. East Meon gave great views of buzzard, kestrel, raven cronking over and two red kite riding the thermals. A snail infested ash tree - prompted the purchase of a new ID guide.

OWH never fails to disappoint and during an anti-clockwise circumnavigation of the Iron Age Hill Fort we connected with the target species of silver-spotted skipper and Adonis blue, Roesel's bush-cricket joined us for lunch alighting on my rucksack.

Roesel's bush cricket

Retracing our steps home, we stopped at the Bat and Ball for quiet liquid refreshment, and some time out from the hot August afternoon.

Horndean Parish Biodiversity Action Plan