Thursday, 6 June 2013

Selborne and Noar Hill

 Selborne from the top of the zig-zag path

My plan for today was to continue my butterfly sites project at Noar Hill, but rather than just park nearby and wander round the nature reserve, I thought I would make a proper walk of it by starting from nearby Selborne. Selborne is famous as the home of the great, pioneering, 18th century naturalist Gilbert White and I passed his house before parking at the end of the village. My plan was to walk across Selborne Common and then swing round to reach Noar Hill.

I started by climbing the zig-zag path shown on the map. I was delighted to discover that it was cut by Gilbert White and his brother in 1753. The picture below attempts to capture the zigs and zags: the foliage which surrounds the path is carried on a sort of wicker framework supported on posts.

The view from the top is excellent with Selborne in the foreground with Gilbert White's house on the left and the view towards Surrey beyond. White would no doubt have been surprised and probably dismayed to see the yellow fields of oilseed rape.

At the top I entered the wooded common and took a path off to the left of the main drag. This was the signature plant: Sweet Woodruff.

The path continued through sunny glades and areas of deeper woodland. I saw only a few White butterflies.

At the far side of the common, I took a left which took me downhill to a small road and I soon  turned off it to take a path which would bring me to the back of Noar Hill - i.e. the part furthest away from Selborne. This led through more woodland and I noticed this Yellow Archangel.

Emerging into the open, Noar Hill lay ahead.

I followed a field edge path where there was a profusion of delicate yellow flowers beside the ploughed area. It seems familiar, but I have failed to identify it.

A final left turn through more woodland and a short climb brought me to the reserve. It was the site of medieval chalk working and there are numerous banks and hollows. Apparently a large area was scraped back to bare chalk in the 1990s by the Hampshire Wildlife Trust, but now careful management has produced a wonderful mixture of chalk grassland and scrub.

I spent a happy couple of hours spotting and trying to photograph small butterflies on the grassy and bushy slopes. The most common was the Small Heath, although they seldom stayed put for long

I also managed a nice picture of a Common Blue.

And I saw, but failed to capture photographically, the elusive Duke of Burgundy, Grizzled Skipper, Dingy Skipper, and I think a Brown Argus. I clearly need to improve my speed at taking pictures of small butterflies!

Finally, there was this beautiful Heath Spotted orchid, just coming into flower.

Conditions: hot and sunny.

Distance: about 5 miles.

Map: Explorer 133 (Haslemere and Petersfield).

Rating: four stars.

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