Mid-July on the reserve and some historic notes

At least some dry weather has arrived and the flowers are doing there best to put on a fine display even if the grass and vegetation is rather lush following the consistent rainfalls throughout spring and early summer. One slight benefit has been probably the latest record of a Pasque flower in bloom during a visit by a Warwick Natural History group to the reserve on 12th July.  I would be interesting to hear (records@fbhh.org.uk) of any later recorded dates from previous years? The warmer drier weather has also brought out the butterflies in reasonable numbers with Meadow Browns, Ringlets and Marbled Whites vying for the top spot on the transect walks. The latest walk added Gatekeeper, Comma and Green-veined white to this years records. Look out for the Chalkhill Blues (pictured above) that are expected to be flying in the next week or so.

With the general floral display probably at its peek now is a good time to visit the reserve and brush up on your flora identification but also keep a look out for Grass snakes (Tim has recently seen a large specimen on site).

I also promised earlier in the year some extracts from the historic Summer Warden reports so here is a taster from 1977 just one year after the site being declared a National Nature Reserve.

“The grassland belongs to the Tor-grass Brachypodium pinnatum Upright Brome Zerna erecta type and contains the whole range of species characteristic of this association. The Man Orchid Aceras anthropophorum is locally abundant and several other orchids are present. The Pasque Flower Anemone pulsatilla occurs frequently and this reserve is one of its main strongholds. The Mountain Everlasting Antennaria dioica is primarily a northern species and is represented on the Hills and Holes by one small patch in the Northants Naturalists area. (Note added: Now designated compartment 1 – South west quarter). This area has the most varied flora which must be partly due to scrub clearance carried out by Trust volunteers.

The last sentance remains true today – (more or less forty years on) and just shows how long term any management strategy needs to be. Perhaps in another forty years the clearance in circa 1999 of the turkey oak trees and scrapping back to bear limestone waste in compartment 4 (South-east quarter) adjacent to the wooded area will show the same benefits. The survey data also shows how management of the reserve (probably consistent annual sheep grazing) has led to a dramatic reduction in the amount of Tor Grass on the reserve with  72% of quadrats surveyed found to containing it in 1978 compared to only 16% in 1996.