Posted by: lensweb | May 9, 2017

The Loneliness of the Snakeshead Fritillary

May 8 Monday Snake’s head fritillary –rare flowers  All day 6 mile walk

Car share to Clattinger Farm, Somerford Keynes, Wiltshire

Do you remember in the old days when children used to make it their duty to visit their parents? In these more modern times the parents make it their business to visit their children to forge a relationship with their grandchildren. This being so what better place to take said grandchildren than Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s Lower Moor Farm. The visitor centre is a resource for education groups and volunteers and a replica Iron Age hut is a focus for educational activities. This is how Stuart discovered this gem of a wildlife haven and he was happy to drive over 100 miles to show LENS around the site.

Lower Moor Farm opened in 2007 and is the gateway to Clattinger Farm, Oaksey Moor Farm Meadow and Sandpool nature reserves. From LMF you can explore the other reserves, a mosaic of three lakes, two brooks, ponds and wetland scrapes linked together by boardwalks, ancient hedges, woodland and meadows. The lakes were created by gravel extraction in the 1970s.

First at LMF we inspected the herd of Galloway cattle, they had been rolling in mud, but they weren’t camera shy.

Then we came face to face with a woven wicker weasel.

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Or was it an otter? Armed with a map from the visitor centre we walked along a leafy ride frothy with ladies lace, the sun was shining, the rich moist sheltered environment was an insect fest. Bees (early, common carder and white tailed), beetles (cardinal and leaf beetles), hoverflies (drone flies, delta wing, sawflies and butterflies, mostly flying green veined, orange tips and sunning, speckled woods.

We couldn’t resist the temptation to dip into Clattinger Farm at the first opportunity. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its fabulous wildflowers and is part of a Special Area of Conservation. It lies on the Thames floodplain and its hay meadows drain into the Swill Brook. It is rich in wildlife because the previous owners farmed the land traditionally without artificial fertilisers. Huge fields of short turf covered in cowslips and green winged orchids.

meadow meme - CopyWe had to get down low to photograph the green winged petals which shone translucent with sunshine beaming through to show off the green stripes. Each green winged orchid flower is distinctive, most are shades of magenta, sometimes with a white lip, but there are also pink and white varieties.

There were thousands spilling across the green turf. The yellow of the cowslips though complementary was not complimentary, nature has not yet engaged an interior decorator’s advice. Tiny blue flowers of milkwort hid amongst fragrant downy plantain.A splash of palest pink flowers were our chance to see the rare marsh valerian which here flourishes in the troughs of the lynchetts.

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We walked past ditch meadow and bridge meadow and also Miss Cory’s. Dappled shade in a land of ground ivy, bugle, black bryony and strange purple arum lily, traversing a sunken lane between 2 overgrown ancient hazel hedges, we came upon a convenient hide overlooking a small lake which was surrounded by the willows of wet woodland. On the lake a solitary moorhen confirmed the empty pages in the visitors book. It was warm and peaceful as we listened to willow warbler, green woodpecker, chiffchaff and blackbird. A cuckoo called summer is nearly here!

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Making our way back by the lake butterflies swirled past, brimstones, peacock, small tortoiseshell and holly blue. Azure damselflies ripened on lush green leaves, large red damselflies in full glory and a swirl of yellow as a broad bodied chaser perched impossibly on the very end of a thin branch.chaser meme

But where were the snakeshead fritillary’s you ask? Gradually as we searched the meadows we realised we were too late, the show was over and a solitary snakeshead fritillary was all we could find.

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We will have to return next year and try and get there in time for the flower show!

Marion Bryce 8 May 2017




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