2013 - October

Chilbolton & Wherwell Wildlife

As many of you know, for the past several winters I’ve organized volunteer groups to remove invasive scrub from the steep chalk-slope of West Down. Our main priority has been on maintaining and improving the open sections that still have the original downland flora and fauna. We’ve concentrated on removing small scrub re-growth before it has a chance to grow and overwhelm these particularly important clearings. And we’ve also, with the help of the County Council countryside rangers using brush-cutters, pushed back the boundary of these clearings by cutting back the bigger scrub around the edges. Sometimes it seems a very slow process, and indeed it is. But this year, it was particularly pleasing to see lots of flowers and butterflies in places that I know were previously smothered by ash and sycamore, and to see most of the rarer species still thriving. We saw the rare Cistus Forester day-flying moth, Marbled White butterflies were in profusion, and the less common Grizzled Skipper seemed to have a very good year. One flower that was particularly noticeable this year, was the Dropwort. Several people remarked on the splendid scatter of frothy creamy-white flowers during June, and were keen to know what it was. Those who looked closely, wondered if it was Meadowsweet. But I explained that although they both travel under the same genus name of Filipendula, Dropwort is a much smaller and daintier plant than Meadowsweet. And whereas Meadowsweet is abundant in wet areas, including on our Cow Common, the Dropwort is a species of dry calcareous grassland and one indicator of a healthy chalk flora.

Of course, you guessed it, this all leads me on to say that I’m organizing monthly volunteer working groups again this coming winter. For the last few years we’ve met on Sundays, but this has proved impossible for some and difficult for others. So by way of a change, for the first few months of this winter we’ll go for the third Wednesday of the month; this will hopefully also coincide with volunteer days being organized by the County Council. First session will be on Wednesday 16th October, then dates for your diary are: 20th November, 18th December, and 15th January. As always, wear stout footwear, and bring your own loppers and gardening gloves if you have them. We’ll have a few extra if not. Ideally, meet at 10am at the top car-park, but by all means come and find us somewhere along the slope at any time during the morning or early afternoon; every little helps!

Glynne Evans (hantsbto@hotmail.com)

Additional information