Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Under the Hawthorn

I decided to go to Aston Rowant Nature Reserve today to have a look round. I should love it, as it's beech woodland and chalk grassland, but I can't seem to get over the fact that the M40 motorway runs straight through the middle of the site. The peace and tranquility is wrecked by the ever present noise from the motorway, which ranges from a hum when you're on the right side of the hill, to a roar when you're above the motorway and the wind's blowing towards you. Who thought putting a motorway there was a good idea?

The reserve is both sides of the motorway
Anyway, I wasn't looking for anything in particular, so headed out along the top of the slope. Within a few minutes I spotted several Early Purple orchids growing amongst the grass.

As I was trying to get a photo of one of them, a flash of purple caught my eye under a nearby Hawthorn. I had a closer look and found a large patch of Early Purples in the shade under the bushes. The slope is very exposed (it was blowing a gale and very cold whilst I was there), so I guess they get a bit of protection under there.
The orchids were growing in amongst the Hawthorn
It was very exciting to find them all huddled in their secret hiding place, so I decided to brave the thorns and crawl in for a better look. Careful not to squash any, I sat in the middle of the hawthorn and admired the orchids. What a lovely moment!

Looking out, from inside the Hawthorn

I crawled out, before anybody saw me and carried on along the path.

Looking back at the clump of Hawthorn shrubs
I found Germander Speedwell flowering, as well as a tiny blue flower on top of the ant hills. I'm not sure of the name of it, but it looked a bit like forget-me-not, only much smaller and hairier.

Germander Speedwell

Tiny blue flower
I wandered around for a while, admired the bumpy yellow meadow ant hills and even saw a Muntjac deer. Then I headed back down the hill to follow a sunken track at the bottom of the slope.
Ant hills

Sunken track at the bottom of the slope
I hadn't seen a single butterfly, which was hardly surprising as it was so windy and cold. However, down there, out of the wind, it was a lovely warm sun trap. My first 2 Common Blues of the year landed briefly next to me, but were gone before I could get a photo. This pretty little bee sat on a dandelion and posed for a photo though.

I found some Horseshoe Vetch in flower on the sides of the sunken path. It's the foodplant of the Chalkhill Blue caterpillar, which are found in abundance on the site later in the year.

Horseshoe Vetch

I walked back up the path through the woods and saw some beautiful ferns growing, as well as Yew trees with amazing roots hanging on to a steep bank.

The woods were full of large ferns

The Yew tree was hanging on tight to the bank
Then back at the car park the verges around the cars were bursting with lovely Greater Stitchwort and Forget-me-nots.

Greater Stitchwort

Driving back to the main road, I ended up stopping the car to take some photos of the bluebells. They were starting to go over, but still looked stunning in the woods and were well worth stopping for.

Bluebells and Greater Stitchwort

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