Thursday, 11 June 2015

Oakridge to Sapperton

Strawberry Banks nature reserve

At last, a lovely sunny day to go butterfly spotting. I wanted to see something new and learning from a recent unsuccessful trip to Lydlinch Common in Dorset, I decided to visit a site where Dave Collins had tweeted that they had recently seen the rare and declining Marsh Frillary. This was the Dorset Wildlife Trust's Strawberry Banks site near Oakridge. A bit of further research established that the Trust had other reserves nearby and that the one at Daneway Banks on the edge of Sapperton was a site where the Large Blue might be seen. I planned a walk linking the two sites.

I walked south from Oakridge following the Wysis Way (a new one on me, it runs from Offa's Dyke to the Thames Path) for a short distance before taking a right to follow a downhill track to emerge at the top of one of the two meadows which make up Strawberry Fields. It seemed quiet at first but within a couple of minutes a small orange butterfly took flight and then landed again: it was a Marsh Frillary. My quest was accomplished just like that.

Gradually, I started to see more and more Marsh Frillary, along with my first Marbled White, Meadow Brown, Small Heath, Large Skipper, Small Blue and Common Blue of the year. This brought my disappointing total for the year to 20 species. Must try harder!

I particularly liked this pristine Large Skipper.

Eventually I found the will power to leave the the exquisite Marsh Frits and walk (very slowly) through the second field to rejoin the Wysis Way. This headed downhill to reach a minor road and then met the derelict Thames and Severn Canal at Baker's Lock. The lock was almost unrecognisable as such and the canal was sadly overgrown with rushes.

 After a while I came to this handsome bridge, with the date 1784 engraved on a stone over the arch.

Passing more locks I passed through the pleasant woodland of Siccaridge Wood (also Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust) to emerge at the Daneway Banks reserve. There were no Large Blues unfortunately, although I did see some Common ones. 

I briskly walked the two miles back to Strawberry Banks and was pleased to see many more Marsh Fritillaries, including this mating pair, who didn't however seem to have quite figured out the right position.

Eventually I managed to drag myself away. It is really clear that if you want to see a new species you have to go to the right place at the right time!

Conditions: hot and sunny.

Distance: about 5 miles.

Map: Explorer 168 (Stroud, Tetbury & Malmesbury)

Rating: four stars.

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