Remember the halcyon days of yore when one could walk the British countryside with flowers blooming off to the horizon, butterflies settling in numbers on the Scabious, Yellowhammers ‘little bit of bread and no cheesing’ at regular intervals and coveys of Grey Partridges scuttling into hiding? Gone, at least for now, in much of the country, but there are just a few places where one can experience the countryside of England as it was almost a hundred years ago, and one of the finest of these is Martin Down in the far west of Hampshire close to the borders with Dorset and Wiltshire.
Martin Down’s importance is recognised in its status as a national nature reserve and it is a large one at that, covering 350 hectares. It is an open landscape with long horizons and wherever one looks it is full of flowers. And butterflies. Perky little Grizzled Skippers will be buzzing about and we’ll see plenty of Dingy Skippers too. What is most evident at Martin Down is the abundance of many of the butterflies that were once common through southern Britain but are now scarce almost everywhere such as Brimstone, Orange-tip, Painted Lady and Green Hairstreak. The first brood of Adonis Blue will already be dazzling the World and Common Blues are…. Well… common! Their diminutive cousin the Small Blue also has a number of colonies here. One of the most beautiful of the UK’s butterflies still survives here in a few small colonies – the Marsh Fritillary.
Martin Down is also well-known for its orchids. Common Spotted Orchids are truly abundant and the last of the Early Purples are likely to be still in bloom. late May is the ideal time to admire the lovely little Burnt-tip Orchid. As we photograph the flowers and butterflies we’ll no doubt hear the lovely ‘purring’ notes of Turtle Doves freshly arrived and sorting out their territories. Corn Buntings ‘jangle’ from any vantage point they can find and we’ll likely see Lesser Whitethroats and might even hear a Quail or two. By the end of the day you’ll be wishing more of England is like Martin Down!
Butterflies, Flowers & Birds.