Monday, 25 April 2011

2 Easter bluebell woods and a walk to the church

What a fabulous Easter weekend. I only had Saturday and Sunday off as the wheels of industry continue to turn in the working world I inhabit. But two days is more than long enough to demolish an Easter egg or two.

Time allowed over the weekend, apart from eating Easter eggs, gardening and sleeping, to visit 2 bluebell woods in Wiltshire. The first was a private woodland I actually stumbled across near Ramsbury in the East of the county on Good Friday. Driving along a single track road, I literally stopped in my tracks as a flash of blue emanated from the trees. It is so much more thrilling to find something unexpected as I drove around the lanes.

This woodland was a mix of coppiced hazel, ash and other native species and riddled with badger setts so I will not give the exact location away. The woods themselves were about 2 miles long but only a few hundred meters wide as they skirted the ridge of the hill. Just stunning seeing the bluebells in the evening sunshine.

Then on Saturday evening Julie and I went to West Woods just outside Marlborough. Actually we had a little bit of a drive out as it had been such a hot afternoon, pootling about the glorious Wiltshire countryside in the cooler evening was a treat. Given I had seen the wonderful bluebell wood above the day before, I had mixed feelings when Julie suggested we go to West Woods as I'm often disappointed going to well known wildlife spots, in my experience they never quite live up to expectations.

On Saturday evening I was proved absolutely wrong with that thought. These beech woods not 4 miles from Marlborough has a dozen or more cars parked in the carpark. I thought, humm, there'll be a few bluebells and an awful lot people. But no, so vast were the woods that even though there were a lot of people there, it felt like we were alone.

And they were stunning. I've visited a lot of bluebell woods over my time but I have to say this is by far the best one I have visited in 30 years of wildlife watching. It was hard to know what to photograph, where or how, given that there was just a sea of blue, as all the bluebells were in perfect condition all at the same time.

One nice find by Julie was this dor beetle geotrupes stercorarius scuttling along the path. These are fun little beetles who do good work hovering up all that manure left by other animals. I never used to be interested in insect or creepy crawlies until recent years and now the more I found out about their fascinating life cycles and adaptions to their environment, the more I'm fascinated by them. Just wish I knew more about them.

So lets head back into the sunlit West Woods, one more time....

....but not before this most peculiar bit of wildlife spotting, a holly in full berry mode. Now what I want to know is why is it in berry in late April? The berries were fresh too, not dried and remnants from the winter, they looked very fresh indeed.

Just so atmospheric

On the way back home I took Julie to see the woods I'd visited on Good Friday. I'm glad we went that way as we stumbled across 3 red kites. In fact in one small area of Ramsbury, as we stood next to the car, we saw 3 the kites, 1 buzzard, 2 muntjac, a brown hare, 3 grey partridge and a magpie. Can't be bad.

And neither was the sunset...!!

Earlier on Saturday I'd popped over to Ham Hill near the Hampshire border to see if any Duke of Burgundy butterflies were about.

The reserve has changed dramatically since I last visited a few weeks ago. Partly I guess because of the hot dry weather recently but it was alive with insects. Masses upon masses of St Mark's flies, and many brimstone and orange tip butterflies. Sadly no Duke of Burgundy butterflies this visit. But a lovely Dark-bordered Bee-fly, Bombylius major, diverted my attention for a while.

This tiny linear reserve is well known for its wild flowers, with this germander speedwell Veronica chamaedrys showing well against the cow slips.

As was this newly emerging common twayblade, Listera ovata below.

...and the masses of willow down blowing in the hot breeze. Was this really only April 23rd? Felt a lot more like July up there on the chalk downland.

Finally for this posting, yesterday evening when it became cooler, Julie and I had a gentle stroll up to the village church in East Grafton. It was a super evening and lovely to be out for just half an hour as the shadows lenghtened.

Inside the church was an Easter garden made on the Saturday by the village children. I thought this was absolutely charming.

And so Easter Sunday drew a-close and we wandered back round the village green to take in the air, the many thatched cottages and then home for a well earned shandy while watching Julie's favourite film, Seabiscuit.

I know where I'll be on May 7th!!!!!


  1. What amazing bluebell woods - we don't get them as extensive as that around here... but I did spy some twayblade leaves and buds when we were out walking today.

    The Easter Garden is lovely- reminds me of the ones I used to help my Gran to make.


  2. These bluebells are fantastic. Amazing how they are massed in the woods. The little garden in the church looked like a fairy garden to me at first.

  3. Hi Celia, the Easter garden was fabulous, even to a middle aged man like me. As was your photo of the pasque flower.

    Lisa, that's a great way to think about it, a fairy garden.

  4. Two beautiful spring walks, the bluebells woods are wonderful.

  5. Beautiful bluebell woods, Andrew. I haven't seen such a mass of bluebells like that since we went to Nagshead RSPB Reserve a few years back.

    The Easter Garden is lovely.

  6. looks idyllic!!! love the carpets of bluebells

  7. Wonderful pictures especially the bluebells. That beetle is quite lovely.

  8. Thank you for the comments Orchids and Nature, Ragged Robin, Pete, Oldcrow