On Saturday 19th August, Sarah and Ken White together with Andy Bolton, led an afternoon visit to The Warren at Tidgrove, by kind invitation of the owner Raleigh Place. The farm, comprising some 200 acres, is managed for wildlife under Higher Level Stewardship.
After a brief introduction, Raleigh escorted the group firstly through an area of reverting chalk grassland and scrub to the highest point on the farm, from which we viewed Stone Curlews through a telescope, on an adjacent area of cultivated ground. Initially, we saw only two birds as they hid behind the vegetation, but as they eventually flew off, we counted a total of nine. From the same viewpoint we saw Brown Hares, Skylarks, adult and newly-fledged juvenile Buzzards and two Kestrels, while at least four Red Kites could be seen simultaneously in the sky around the farm. Our next stop was a brief one to view the archaeological excavations of the palace of Henry II and then on to see a new scrape created to attract butterflies. Butterflies here included Common Blue, Brown Argus and Small Heath. There were also Treble-bar and Silver Y moths, as well as some interesting arable plants including Small Toadflax and Dwarf Spurge.
Our last stop was an area of arable land with a very rich flora, most notably good numbers of Red Hemp-nettle, classified as Critically Endangered and now a very uncommon species. Other plants we saw included Scented Mayweed, Scarlet Pimpernel, Common Fumitory, Field Madder, Slender Sandwort and both Round-leaved and Sharp-leaved Fluellen. Raleigh had planted seed crops here including Sorghum, Flax and Millet to provide food for wintering finches and the area will not be cultivated until the early spring, allowing late-flowering arable plants plenty of time to shed seed. Flocks of Linnets, numbering up to 60 birds, were already frequenting this area.
We then retired to the comfort of the fishing hut where Raleigh had generously provided tea and coffee. Swallows and House Martins fed over the lake in front of us, where there were large numbers of Pond Skaters, and various dragonflies and damselflies. Stock Doves and a Heron were seen passing by. Along the new lake edge were Marsh Yellow-cress and Celery-leaved Buttercup.
Report by Sarah White
Pictures by Ken White, Sarah White and Fiona Brown