Tuesday, 1 December 2015
2015 review: June - July (part one); The great flowering
Sometimes the natural world decides to take you by surprise and bestow memorable moments when you least expect them. The setting doesn't have to be on the top of a Scottish mountain or at the mouth of a powerful estuary - it could take place at a humble piece of chalk grassland only minutes from home...
Park Downs is but a twenty minute brisk walk from my front door. Until this year I have spent little time there, but have been aware of its reputation as a reserve that holds a number of notable species. After visiting the place back in March to pay my respects to the present Stinking Hellebore, I made a mental note to return in the summer. I did so in late June.
I came across two fields in particular that blew me away. They were packed with flower, including incredible numbers of orchids. A careful count suggested 6250 Pyramidal and 354 Bee (both below). But these were just a small part of the mass blossoming that had taken place. From a distance the fields looked as if an artists giant watercolour box had bled colour across the grassland (top), and as June turned into July so the colours morphed.
I commented at the time about the profusion of Dropwort on show, which prompted local botanist John Peacock to suggest that I needed to visit nearby Banstead Downs as the show there was even greater. I did, and he was right, but what stunned me even more were the carpets of Kidney Vetch. They formed great mats across the open downland - I have never seen so much anywhere (below)!
At this same time our local butterflies decided to stop playing silly beggars and emerge. Like the flowers, in number! At 08.30hrs one late June morning I was watching several hundred Marbled Whites already in action, flitting above the meadows at Park Downs. Within an hour they had formed a piebald haze, numbering over 1,000. I moved onto nearby Chipstead Bottom to see if such numbers were replicated there, and they were, with a conservative estimate of 1,760, together with 2,270 Meadow Browns. These few days became some of the most memorable days in the field that I have had - anywhere! I felt blessed.
But my local patches had still much to share with me before these two months were up...