Following his inspiring talk earlier in the year, Tony Rayner kindly invited members of the Society to walk round his wildlife haven in Cholsey on the hot and sunny morning of Saturday 5th May. Tony and his wife Ro have created the garden, meadow and orchard from scratch, including features such as half a mile of native-species hedges and several ponds. The meadow and orchard were yellow with a sea of Cowslips. Orange-tip, Brimstone and Large White butterflies patrolled the hedge line, while bees and other insects visited the flowers in the meadow. The hedges are protected by fencing and longer unmown grass is left at the field margins, and this is the preferred habitat of the reptiles. A series of corrugated iron refuges were inspected and 47 Slow-worms and 3 young Grass Snakes were seen. The Grass Snakes darted quickly away, but some of the Slow-worms were more reluctant to move. Tony gently encouraged them to leave, so that they would not be damaged when the iron was put down again. Some buried themselves in holes in the ground, while others slid into the surrounding vegetation. A 3-legged Muntjac deer was spotted on the far side of the meadow, several House Martins and Swallows flew overhead and a Common Lizard was basking on an old oil drum. There is a good-sized pond at the side of the meadow. A Grey Wagtail was running around on the floating vegetation, springing up into the air and twisting in pursuit of insects above the water.
The group then walked round the garden. At the far side is a big patch of Meadow Saxifrage, established more than 10 years ago from a rescue turf. Tony showed another patch which appeared in the lawn by the house last year at a considerable distance from the original plants. It was suggested that perhaps ants are moving the seeds around. Within the garden are 2 more ponds. One had an impressive display of flowering Bogbean. Several Holly Blue butterflies were flying in the garden. Tony had run his moth trap overnight and the visit ended with an inspection of the catch. There were a large number of big Cockchafers in the trap. Moth highlights included Maiden’s Blush; Pebble, Pale and Swallow Prominent; Common and Green Carpet and Nut-tree Tussock. A very tame Robin lurked nearby and managed to pick up some of the released moths.
Pictures by Fiona Brown