My mission for today was to see a Wood White, a species I had previously only seen in France. Oaken Wood was the nearest location recommended in David Newland's excellent book Where to see butterflies in England, so off I went. As you can see from the photo above, I was in luck.
Oaken Wood is part of Chiddingfold Forest SSI and the discrete entrance can be found on Plaistow Lane, the road between Dunsfold and Plaistow. The entrance to the 20 acre Oaken Wood is off the main track through this forested area,
The initial narrow path soon opens up into a clearing with a central oak tree. This is identified on the information panel, rather fancifully, as Berkeley Square, although it was helpful to have names fro key areas.
I followed a track beyond the tree into deeper woodland, spotting a female Brimstone, and turned left when I reached the boundary of the wood. Following the path round to the left past a small pond, I emerged into a larger area of scattered trees and bushes, The Meadow, and as I did a small white butterfly flew up beside the track to entertain me: it was my first English Wood White. Here is a view of The Meadow.
I wandered around this area and then followed a path back to Berkeley Sq, and now decided to walk over to an area called Botany Bay along the main path. This soon produced a pristine Speckled Wood ...
... whaich also allowed a nice underwing shot.
Once I had left the edge of Oaken Wood I saw three more Wood Whites in quick succession and, chatting to someone doing a butterfly transect, I learned that an area further along the path was an especially good spot for them. And as I walked through that section of path, I saw another ten!
I also met a charming couple called Maggie and Steve who have been pursuing the obvious but challenging goal of seeing all 59 British species and have three left to go. I admired their determination, e.g. spending six days of a seven day mission to the west of Scotland in search of the Chequered Skipper sheltering from the rain, but seeing one on the seventh. It made me think I should put more effort into increasing my personal tally of a mere 42.
As well as Wood Whites there were a few Brimstones and several lovely Common Spotted Orchids, of which this was the biggest.
A smaller one nearby was host to a large white Crab Spider.
On reaching the road at Botany Bay there was nothing for it but to turn round and head back to the opposite edge of the wood, adding a few more Wood Whites to give a total for the day of 16.
Conditions: sunny, sometimes cloudy, and hot.
Distance: about 4 miles.
Map: Explorer 133 (Haslemere and Petersfield).
Rating: four stars.