After a two-month break, mid-week walks resumed on Wednesday 17 June when Rob Stallard led a walk at Bramshill in the Blackwater valley near Eversley. Following the Covid-19 regulations, numbers were limited to a maximum of 6 and strict social distancing was maintained. It was a sunny but humid morning, with cloud increasing as the walk progressed. The walk started out westwards from the car park at the south-west corner of Bramshill Plantation. A massive Wood Ants’ nest was found nearby, close to the path. The track passed through an extensive open area where conifers had been clear-felled and replanted. Flowers here included Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil, Creeping Cinquefoil, Heath Bedstraw, Slender St John’s-wort, Bell Heather, Wood Sage, Sheep’s Sorrel, Heath Speedwell, Common Centaury, Tormentil and Goat’s-rue. A Stonechat called from the top of a young pine and Marbled White, Large Skipper and Meadow Brown butterflies were seen. A short detour along a side track led to an area where piles of sand and gravel are stored. Yellow Biting Stonecrop and Common Stork’s-bill were found here, together with Hard Rush and Remote Sedge in a damper area on the other side of the track. The route continued westwards, passing tall spikes of Weld and a single Bee Orchid, before turning northwards up another track which had an interesting damp ditch along its eastern side. Gypsywort, Common Fleabane, Marsh Thistle, Water Mint, Greater Bird’s-foot-trefoil, Water Plantain, Hemlock Water-dropwort, and Lesser Spearwort were found here, together with False Fox, Smooth-stalked, Oval and Hairy Sedge and Heath Wood-rush. A striking Mullein moth caterpillar was feeding on a well-chewed Water Figwort plant, which is apparently a close relative of the Mullein plants on which this caterpillar is more usually found. There were many Common Spotted-orchids, a few Southern Marsh-orchids and a number of intermediate forms. Several fresh Dark Green Fritillary butterflies were nectaring on Bramble blossom on the sunny side of the ride. The route continued northwards to the next ride junction, turned westwards for a short distance, then doubled back southwards along a ditch line which had been cleared of vegetation and then re-excavated about 18 months ago. Walking along the bottom of ditch, it was interesting to see how wetland plants were recolonising the habitat. They included Creeping Forget-me-not, Cyperus Sedge, Skullcap and many of the plants which had been noted in the previous ditch. Up on the bank above the ditch, a Common Lizard scurried under cover, several Common Blue Damselflies were resting on the vegetation, a female Common Blue butterfly was seen and Heath Milkwort and Ragged-robin were found.
Next stop was a big pond which was occupied by some very noisy frogs of the ‘green frog’ species – Pool, Marsh or Edible Frog. A pair of Coots had two large youngsters. Also seen here was a family of Dabchicks. One adult, carrying two youngsters on its back, skulked under the bankside willows, while the other called loudly as it swam on the open water, diving frequently. A number of dragonflies flew across the water, including a Four-spotted Chaser which perched obligingly on a reed stem. Continuing eastwards along the next ride, Small Skipper, Speckled Wood and Ringlet were added to the butterfly tally. The next destination was an open grassy area which is mown occasionally. Here there were many Pyramidal Orchids, plus a few Bee Orchids and Southern Marsh Orchids. An attractive pink rose whose crushed leaves smelled of apple was identified afterwards as Sweet Briar Rosa rubiginosa. A minor track led north then east to a relatively open area where there were many flowering plants of the rare Yellow Bartsia in two main blocks. A female Black-tailed Skimmer dragonfly perched on a stick down on the path and a Comma flew up onto the trackside vegetation. The final section of the walk followed the line of pylons back southwards along the eastern edge of the plantation. Lousewort, Cross-leaved Heath and Common Yellow-sedge on the damp side of the clearing were added to the plant list here. Finally, back at the car park, a Buzzard flew overhead.
Pictures by Rob Stallard and Fiona Brown