On this page, I have provided descriptions of the Field Trips we have enjoyed or had hoped to enjoy, this year and in 2019. I hope it will give us all encouragement to think that maybe next year we can get back to organising a full programme.
Wednesday 14 October 2020 Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour
We were unable to go ahead with this guided walk because Dorset Wildlife Trust have cancelled all such group visits.
Regardless of COVID restrictions, the Island is now closed to visitors until the Spring.
We very much hope, of course, to be able to re-schedule this Field Trip for next year.
Saturday 19 September 2020 River Nadder Invertebrates Survey
Lampreys Tiit Hunt, CC BY-SA 3.0 httpscreativecommons.orglicensesby-sa3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Well, some of us were brought up on King Henry 1 having died of a 'surfeit of lampreys', but I doubt anyone thought they (if they had any idea what 'they' were) could be found in our very own Nadder. However, it was Henry who probably 'defined' Clarendon Park, just the other side of Salisbury, and built the Hunting Lodge there - apparently out of Tisbury stone. So maybe it was Nadder lampreys he died of!
This was a great opportunity to see the myriad forms of life that exist in our local river - including, as it turned out, lampreys - under the expert leadership of David Holroyd who is Membership Secretary Teffont Fishing Club and River Monitoring Coordinator for Salisbury and District Angling Club.
As with our Harvest Mice Nest survey, there was a serious side to this. David explains that river quality and wildlife is deteriorating at an accelerating rate. This is particularly so in Wiltshire and Hampshire where 95% of the planet’s ‘Chalk stream habitat’ is located - strictly speaking the Nadder isn't itself a chalk stream although very similar. Because of the threat of continued deterioration and its unique nature and biodiversity, the whole of the River Avon and its four tributaries are designated a SSSI and subject to the status of being a ‘Special Area for Conservation’.
David led members including Izzy Fry and other members of our Young Nature Watch group, to a favourite stretch of river, just outside Teffont Evias, where he collected samples from the river and brought them it to the bank for examination close-up in a sampling tray. As well as the lampreys and a number of insects, there were also brown trout, grayling, chub, dace and minnow. David says that the Nadder is currently in good health and being monitored throughout its length.
Salmon parr (very glamorous!) - photo courtesy Marine Institute
This is especially important as the Nadder is also a key spawning habitat for the Avon Salmon, which is particularly endangered - and indeed, excitingly, salmon parr were also found.David's full account and list of sightings is here and there's an excellent account of the life-cycle of salmon here.
Andrew Graham said how fascinating – and surprising – it was to discover the wide variety of insects that give life to our rivers. He added, 'I have never seen a lamprey before and it opened my eyes to how much is going on in the Nadder, which to my ill-informed eyes, has always looked a bit uninteresting going through the village...'
Certainly, to judge by these photos, a great time seems to have been had, as they say, by all. Great weather, too.
Sunday 16 August 2020 Semley Hill to Gutch Common - Guided walk
The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust succeeded in purchasing the remaining area of Gutch Common Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This ancient site and its diverse habitat is protected and managed as a public nature reserve, connecting with Oysters Coppice SSSI and Wincombe Lane Woods to create an area of 108.59 acres of protected woodland and wet grassland - see this map.
We walked from Semley to Gutch Common - reaching the dizzy height of 241m on the way before slithering down the precipitous hillside, as per the photos below - and Oysters Coppice where we finished with a picnic sheltering from the rain under trees. Along the paths we noticed several bushes with leaves turned into black lace - Alders, with the alder beetle having been at work.
It is magnificent woodland - we passed some 'archaeological' remains of a former farmyard, ie rusting farm machinery; some superb trees including some 'fallen giants'; beautiful fungi; and a tiny frog sheltering among the roots of a tree.
We were led by Debbie Carter who, as well as being on our committee and the Tisbury Tree Warden, looks after the Coppice day-to-day and also Peter Shallcross and Ines Lopez-Doriga: to all of whom warm thanks for a lovely exploration of this ancient woodland. To get an idea of what you too might enjoy, take a look at the most interesting blog written by Glen Coy about the visit he made to Oysters Coppice almost exactly a year ago https://www.hiddenwiltshire.com/post/oysters-coppice-gutch-common .
Another place to read about the route from Semley to Oysters is on the website http://www.discovernadder.org.uk/uploads/images/countryside_activities/Walk9_SemleyAges.pdf which notes local landmarks including the base of a former medieval cross on the outskirts of Semley that has been known as the Plague Stone ever since 1665, when Semley residents left food there for parishioners of Donhead St. Mary during an outbreak of plague - which casts a new light on social distancing and queuing outside the Tisbury Co-op!
Sunday 26 July 2010 Home Farm, Teffont Evias
The members guided walk around Home Farm, Teffont Evias went really well (though sadly a few were forced to drop out when it was deferred by a day to avoid heavy rain). The 23 who came walked in socially distanced groups of five or six with our excellent guides, Jasper Bacon, Peter and Martin Shallcross (and the last two made the journey twice) and came away knowing far more about the geology, topography, history and natural history of the village and its surrounding countryside.
Saturday 11 July 2020 Coombe Bissett Down Nature Reserve Guided walk on the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust (WWT) Open Day
The Open Day was cancelled because of Covid, but the reserve is still open and you can of course visit independently, taking the necessary distancing precautions. Download the information leaflet here. (The photo is of a marsh fritillary, taken on our visit last year.)
Thursday 18 June 2020 Martin Green, Farmer and archaeologist Down Farm, Sixpenny Handley - wildlife and archaeology Virtual field trip
The pond at Down Farm - James Phillips
If it hadn’t been for the corona virus we would have urged you to join an excursion we were due to make to Martin Green’s organic farm at Sixpenny Handley.
When our Chairman Peter Shallcross asked him to give us some idea of what we would miss, Martin replied:
“We have just had an unprecedented number of raptors on the farm & adjacent this weekend. My neighbours cut an adjacent field for silage last week and since it has been a focal point for feeding - a few hundred corvids at least 7 red kites & 10 buzzards and a marsh harrier - not bad!
Anyway my friend James Phillips visited and recorded these species on the farm – around our pond and in a re-wilding area - hopefully gives a feel for what your group may have seen here.
Maybe next year…………….?”
And he copied James Phillips’ message:
“17th May 2020: Around the pond and woodland planting: Highlights were Emperor dragonfly, Azure and Large Red damselfly, Small blue, Common blue, Green hairstreak, Large skipper butterflies, Burnet companion moth plus singing Lesser Whitethroat in the woodland scrub and a pair of Corn bunting and a pair of Yellowhammer on territory around the pond. 12 Hectares: Highlights were Grey partridge on territory calling, 3 pairs of Yellowhammer, a flock of 16 Corn bunting plus 4 pairs on territory, 1 pair of Linnets, 6 singing Skylark and 2 Brown hare with at least 3-4 Red kite over the nearby woodlands towards Wimborne St Giles. It’s was also great to see the Woad still in flower.”
To give you a start on what to look out for when up on Cranborne Chase, here are James's photos and others from our growing photo-library. Should you need help identifying, I do intend to provide a list of the myriad apps now available. For birds, meantime, the British Trust for Ornithology has a wonderful page to help you.
This was the annual Open Day organised by the project, and the weather was absolutely perfect - although we were warned that the great birds often lie low in the heat of the day, we saw several.
We were first driven by landrover well up onto the plain, to a viewpoint from which we could see eight male Great Bustards foraging in some rough vegetation on the hillside opposite.
We were then taken to the hide, from which we could watch an adult female and her 'chick', and another female nearby. There were also some pens where young birds are reared ready for release. Some are from eggs brought from Spain to increase numbers to around 100, at which point it is believed they should be able to maintain themselves as a viable population. Others are from eggs rescued from nests threatened by ploughing or harvesting - the farmers in the area are very supportive of the project and always warn when such activity is planned. The females whose eggs are taken apparently quite happily create alternative nests elsewhere and continue to raise the young there.
The main threats to the eggs and chicks are apparently stoats and raptors, and little can be done to control them. Foxes are also a threat, so attempts are made to keep them away from nests by fencing known sites.
In the winter, the Great Bustards feed happily on young rapeseed, it seems without causing significant loss to the crop. In the summer their food is more of insects.
We didn't see any birds flying, but they do - and unlike eg swans, take off straight from the ground rather than needing a 'runway'.
On Wednesday 10 July a group of 11 members, led by David Rear and Peter Shallcross, visited this large woodland on the ridge to the north of Dinton. The woods are managed by the Forestry Commission on behalf of the owners Wilton Estate and most of them are open to public access. These are long established woods and the compartment names, boundaries and tracks today are essentially the same as those on maps from the late 1800’s. It is this long continuity of woodland cover and management that has enabled so many butterfly species to survive there but current sympathetic management is helping too.
We walked through the parts of the wood known as Dinton Beeches, Snapes and Middle Hills and looked over two open areas of downland sheltered within the woodland’s southern flank. These were carpeted with wild flowers and we had fun trying to identify as many as we could – separating different umbellifers and bedstraws and speculating what Squinancywort was used for (fighting tonsillitis apparently). These downland flowers, and those found in sunlit areas alongside the tracks where trees and scrub have been cleared, were attracting plenty of butterflies. As it was a warm sunny day most were constantly on the move and reluctant to pose for photos, much to our frustration. Between us we saw 19 species of butterfly. Woodland specialists such as the large orange Silver Washed Fritillary and the dark chocolate-brown and white White Admiral looked particularly impressive in flight, while the downland areas proved good places to see numerous Dark Green Fritillaries, Marbled Whites and Small Heaths. The more unusual species we saw were Hairstreaks. Peter was able to lead us to two elm trees where, as he had promised, we were able to see the White Letter Hairstreak which is restricted to this type of tree. Elsewhere we saw a Purple Hairstreak in the upper branches of an oak, its usual home.
Groveley Wood is a very special place and we were fortunate to see it at its best and be guided by people who know it and its butterflies so well. It was a shame we didn’t see a Purple Emperor but that just gives us a reason to go back for another visit.
Eight members of the Society visited the chalk downland reserve of Coombe Bissett, owned by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. We were met by Melanie Evans who is the Friends of Coombe Bissett Down and local schools liaison officer for the Trust. She told us about the history and showed us around. The Trust have recently doubled the size of the reserve with the help of the Lottery Fund and other donors including the Society, and will be reverting the new section of agricultural land to traditional chalk downland meadow with a butterfly bank.
We saw the following butterflies: Grizzled Skipper, Marsh Fritillary, Tortoiseshell, Small Heath, Adonis Blue, Common Blue, Brown Argus and Brimstone. A good selection.
The following birds were seen or heard – Blackcap, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Chiff Chaff, Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer, Swift, Swallow and House Martin, Buzzard and a Kestrel, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and lastly Skylark. A really good number of species.
The wildflowers were disappointing. We did see a few Fragrant Orchids and Common Spotted Orchids but no Burnt tip Orchids. There was a little Blue Milkwort and some Dropwort, Salad Burnet and Rock Roses. There had been plenty of Cowslips.
I think there will be many more flowers in a week or two’s time and more orchids and butterflies. It is a reserve well worth visiting and when the ‘new’ half has been reverted to downland it will be even better.
17 April 2019 Visit to Lower Moor Farm and Clattinger Meadows
A group of eight of us visited Lower Moor Farm, owned by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust since 2007 and connected to Clattinger Farm, Oaksey Moor and Sandpool nature reserves.
There are three lakes which were formerly gravel pits, two brooks, ancient hedges and the SSSI (sites of special scientific interest) meadows of Clattinger Farm. It is rich in wildlife due to the previous owners having farmed traditionally without artificial fertilisers. Visitors come from far and wide to see the snakes head fritillaries and after them the flower rich meadows including many species of orchid.
After being greeted by WWT's Northern Reserves Officer Ellie Jones we walked with her through the lakes to the farm where the belted galloway cattle are overwintered in a round open sided building. They were shortly to be let out onto the spring grass.
First bird heard was a deafening cetti's warbler announcing its presence in the hedge followed by the liquid sounds of willow warblers in the appropriate willows nearby. The chiff chaffs and blackcaps had also completed their migration.
Then onto the wet meadows of Clattingers Farm where we were treated to a carpet of snakeshead fritillaries. They were very short but beautiful and nearly all a deep claret colour with a few cream ones among them. We found one green winged orchid but it was too soon to see any other types but leaves of meadow saffron were evident and many other rare plants.
Although it is a long drive from Tisbury, being near Malmesbury, it is well worth the effort. The postcode is SN6 9TW. Grid ref SUOO7939.