BENTLEY WOOD, ALLNER'S GORSE, AND LULWORTH IN DORSET, WITH DAVID DENNIS 23 – 25 JULY 2019
Tuesday 23 July
On a gloriously sunny day David picked me up at 10am having elected to do the driving on our short trip to Dorset.
Our first stop after a quick sandwich lunch was at Bentley Wood on the Wiltshire/Dorset border where we duly parked. Whilst I was still putting on my boots a Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia var.valezina) paid a visit but had moved away before either of us could get our acts together to grab a photo. The dappled shade was a blessing on what by now was a very hot day. By following the main track and then following our noses we assembled a collection of 17 species, namely: Large White (Pieris brassicae), Small White (Pieris rapae), many Brimstones (Gonepteryx rhamni), Purple Hairstreak (Favonius quercus) and a White-letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w-album), a Dark Green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja), lots of Peacocks (Aglais io), Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), Comma (Polygonia c-album), Marbled White (Melanargia galathea), Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus), Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina), Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus), Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria), Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus) and Small Skippers (Thymelicus sylvestris).
25 minutes after leaving, we arrived at the town of Child Okeford and located our B&B for the next two nights, the Saxon Inn, and immediately sunk a pint. Happy with the rural nature of the pub, and the room was fine.
Wednesday 24 July
Completely missed the continuous lightning that apparently ran through most of the night and met David for breakfast at 8. Set off at 9 and arrived at Alners Gorse half an hour later taking the opportunity to wander down from the gate before returning to meet up with several senior members of Butterfly Conservation. Spent the morning searching in vain for Brown Hairstreak (Thecla betulae) but still very much enjoying this lovely reserve. Followed Martin at 1.30pm to the Fiddleford Arms for a snack lunch, sitting outside with Peter making up the quartet, very sociable and relaxing session.
David and I then called in to the nearby Piddles Wood just gone 3.15pm with its several large, majestic oaks but by now there was little sun and butterflies seemed to have called it a day. On the way back to the Saxon Inn we detoured to take a look at Hodd Hill and Hambledon Hill on the edge of Child Okeford but didn’t leave the car. Reached the B&B around 5pm, and met up at 6 to try out the village’s other pub, the Bakers Arms in the centre.
Additional butterflies logged today were: Green-veined Whites (Pieris napi), Holly Blue (Anthocharis cardamines) & Common Blues (Polyommatus icarus), Brown Argus (Aricia agestis), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas), and possibly Essex Skipper (Thymelicus lineola) too.
Thursday 25 July
David sneaked out at 6am to return to Alner’s Gorse and returned for breakfast having seen a Brown Hairstreak, it being pointed out to him by one of the other early birds there. Nothing ventured, nothing gained but I was still happy to have had a bit more shut-eye. Having settled up we departed for Lulworth stopping first at Winfrith Heath just past the decommissioned Magnox nuclear power station where Martin had predicted an abundance of Graylings (Hipparchia semele). Initially we checked out the small hill on the east of the road and found a trig-point-topping Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera), lots of Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns, an occasional Ringlet and eventually a Grayling or two though photo opportunities were a rarity. Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) were there too. Crossing the road at the cattle grid led us onto the Winfrith Heath Nature Reserve where a very tired Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus) was a pleasant surprise.
Bindon Hill was the final location on this trip, once we’d parked high up in West Lulworth due to family holidays and day trips clogging the village on what was expected to be the hottest day of the year, possibly ever, with temperatures maybe hitting 39°. David knew the least strenuous route onto the hill, a beautiful chalk grassland site, where we were met by a Small Copper on ragwort, a female Wall Brown on the path, all the usual satyrids, but an unexpected absence of Chalk-hill Blues (Polyommatus coridon) – it transpired later that their emergence is much later than for our local Chiltern colony. Dark Green Fritillaries didn’t appear until we reached the south-facing part of the hill overlooking Lulworth Cove and the sea and here they were found a-plenty although well past their best. Lulworth Skippers (Thymelicus acteon) fussed about in their cliff-top enclosure as they had done on previous visits.
A Magnum ice-cream was in order as we reached the Spar shop on the corner of the Durdle Door road and we walked back up to the Castle Inn for a bite of lunch and me a pint. A few drops of rain coincided with our arrival but they didn’t stop us sitting outside.
David had the task of driving back in the heat with the temperature gauge steadily notching up from a reasonable mid-twenties reading to actually showing 39° in the Ascot area and eventually we reached our homes by 5.30pm.