Fred Taylor stood in for Colin Dibb for the 11.00 a m start under hot cloudless skies. John Lerpiniere provided informed assistance with the large numbers of Butterflies and occasional birds. As we left the Stable Yard and entered the rising evergreen walkway, the first Yew on the left has a large yellow fungal growth. This may prove to be Chicken or Hen of the Wood!
The group, including visitors from Germany and Spain, walked through the Main Garden and noted the flowering Tulip Trees. We then walked across the Railway Park Meadow where large numbers of Meadow Brown and occasional Marbled Whites were seen, noting the brownish under-wing of the latter females. A comma was noted on a newly flowering Bramble patch. There were numerous moths and occasional Small and Large Skippers.
Large areas of turf have been uprooted by the Badgers searching for earthworms. The typical twisted trunks and branches of the mature Sweet Chestnuts were also remarked upon. The walk progressed along the valley bottom through pleasant shade towards the Hidden Valley. Speckled Wood were abundant and several Silver Washed Fritillary were noted. A Brimstone Moth was noted in the Hidden Valley.
The Common Spotted Orchids and Twayblades are now past their best. We did, however, find an excellent example of the Pyramid Orchid. There is an excellent show of other flowers including Perforate St John’s Wort, Figwort, Woundwort and Dark Mullein. The Adders Tongue Fern could not be found in the deep swathe.
Walkers collected the wild strawberries as we returned through the top wood, although the raspberries are not yet ripe. There was birdsong from Blackcaps and a Chiff-Chaff. A small warbler was noted feeding on ripe cherries, although it was not identified. There were several Kites and Buzzards soaring overhead and one of the walkers collected several large Raptor feathers. The summer moult has started!
One walker left the party after 1 hour for an early lunch date but the remainder enjoyed almost three hours of beautiful Basildon sun.
Report by Fred Taylor