May 2011


Wood Tiger moths on Butser Hill

Wood Tiger moths on Butser Hill

At this time of year the butterflies and moths are widespread across the site and the long dry spell has been very beneficial for them. Both are vital to our biodiversity with an important role in pollinating our native flowers and certain commercial crops.  

Generally the moths are harder to spot when compared to their day flying cousins the butterflies. However the Wood Tiger (Parasemia plantaginis) is often seen during daylight hours.  This uncommon species of woodland, downland and acid grassland has been seen in unusually large numbers across Butser Hill.

Wood Tiger caterpillar

Wood Tiger caterpillar

  The caterpillars feed on dandelion, plantain and hawkbit and are also present in good numbers on the hill.

To be able to monitor moth numbers light traps  are used. These are set at night  and are designed to attract and hold large numbers of insects which can then be identified. In early May, a trap set on the edge of the QE forest produced 21 species of moth including the wonderfully named Orange footman, the White ermine and the Silver ground carpet.  At this time of year there will always be May bugs or Cockchafers which are also attracted to the light.

Cockchafer or Maybug

Cockchafer or Maybug

The most unusual moth found was the Cloaked carpet (Euphyia biangulata) which is quite rare and classified as ‘ a nationally notable nb species ‘, this means that is has been recorded in only 31-100 ten kilometre squares in the whole of Great Britain.

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'Chuck' the ford Ranger

'Chuck' the ford Ranger

At long last the Park is replacing its three ranger vehicles. Due to budget restrictions the lease-hire period on the old ones had been stretched from 6 to 9 years, and this particular model is second-hand, an 09 plate, which has just arrived from the Right of Way section.

Originally christened Chuck, this is a 2.5 litre diesel, Ford Ranger  pick-up, which has spent the last two years with the County’s Parish Paths Project working in the far corners of Hampshire. The project no longer needs a vehicle and so the Park was happy to save Chuck from an uncertain fate at the hands of the auction house.

Having had a good clean and with new logos and wildlife design, Chuck will now spend the next 4 years based at the Park and will soon be joined by the others.
Two of the Park’s team of rangers, Steve (pictured above) and Jason will become his drivers and see that he is well looked after.
 
 
 
 
Raven Field Archery Club members

Raven Field Archery Club members

 Next to QE forest is an area of Forestry Commission plantation which is reserved for club activity of a sort not appropriate in the main country park area. These include 4WD training, motorbike trials and field archery which are all run by local clubs who carry insurance and affiliation to the relevant national bodies.

A recent event in Head Down was put on by the Raven Field Archery Club, a Petersfield based club which promotes archery in all its forms with the exception of bow hunting.

A competition bow

A competition bow

 About 100 competitors attended including team members of the national squad. The day involved a series of targets set at differing sizes and distances.

There are over 50 archery clubs operating in Hampshire most of whom welcome beginners. The lead body is the Hampshire Archery Association who will link up interested individuals with their nearest club or event. The web-site is www.haa.org.uk

Club r&r

Club r&r

360 degree 13 tonne digger in Gravel Hill car park

360 degree 13 tonne digger in Gravel Hill car park

 The wet winter months from November through to February caused a lot of damage to the road and car park surfaces. The tarmac along the 1 mile Forest Drive is fairly thin and after prolonged wet weather the hoggin sub-layer turns to porridge and heavy vehicles can break through the surface.

Tarmac entrance to Gravel Hill

Tarmac entrance to Gravel Hill

 The tarmac extends to the car park entrances and then hoggin or scalpings are used. These are loose graded materials which are rolled down to form a lasting surface. In total 85  square metres of tarmac patching were carried out, a new entrance to the Gravel Hill car park created, and the car park itself was enlarged.

Gravel Hill car park

Gravel Hill car park

 Gravel Hill car park is designated as the horse  box and bike car park and in recent years space had been a problem for both. By extending along the side and the far end of the car park capacity has been increased from 30 to 50 cars.

Alan from RJ Hoares

Alan from RJ Hoares

 Almost without exception all the digger work carried out at QECP over the last 10 years has involved a 13 tonne tracked digger driven by Alan. With a skilled driver the reach and finish is such that a spade or brush becomes redundant. As a consequence he is always a welcome sight for the ranger staff. 

Tarmac patching outside the visitor centre

Tarmac patching outside the visitor centre

On the 14th of May the A3 Tunnel at Hindhead was opened briefly to allow curious walkers to pass through. Although it will not be officially opened to vehicles until July 2011 this long-awaited construction  project, which started in 2007, is nearly complete. As well as resolving a traffic black spot the tunnel will allow the beautiful landscape around the Devil’ Punchbowl to be enhanced.

Butser Hill from the north, early 1900s

Butser Hill from the north, early 1900s

Over the years the road over Butser Hill has been deepened and widened to the present scenario where the Queen Elizabeth Country Park is split in two halves by the same A3, with some 30,000 vehicle each day passing through the cutting.

Butser Hill, a postcard

Butser Hill, a postcard

 These early images, with Butser Hill seen from the north, show just how much the landscape has changed. Although still as impressive as any part of the South Downs, and  Butser Hill is their highest point, a tunnel would still transform this part of the new National Park.

Buriton moth and bug hunt

Buriton moth and bug hunt

 On Saturday the 7th May there was an open day at the Buriton LNR. All sorts of activities were laid on for the local parish residents, and visitors from further afield. These includes moth and bug hunts, guided walks with local historians and ecologists, and hands on activities making things from chalk.

One welcome guest was Damian Hinds the local MP, who is a key supporter of the project. Another visitor, and very welcome also was the Cheese Snail (Helicodonta obvoluta). This is a rare mollusc restricted in the UK to southern England on the South Downs, but also found on the Continent from the Netherlands down to Italy. This was the first  ever sighting of this creature on the LNR and it caused quite a stir when a positive identification was made.

The importance of both community support and rare wildlife species to the success of the project cannot be underestimated.

Cheese Snail

Cheese Snail

The project began in 2007 and was awarded a Heritage lottery Fund grant in 2010. For more details about the open day or the Buriton Project go to http://buriton.info/news/chalk_pits_open_day_great_success

Forest fire

Forest fire

 The prolonged dry spell has left the local heathland and woodland areas vulnerable to fire. Despite several rain storms the risk remains high. This image is from Swinley Forest in Berkshire where over 50 hectares of plantation were destroyed, and 300 ha damaged. Forestry Commission staff and the Fire Service have the situation under control and now the clear up begins. These are said to have been the worst fires for 20 years with a combination of dry conditions and high winds.

The Swinley fire is thought to have been started deliberately, although there is always a danger from bbqs and campfires. At QECP these activities can only take place in designated areas to try to reduce the risk.   

Hampshire Search and Rescue have published a Fire Safety Code to help those using the countryside. This can be found at www.hantsfire.gov.uk/countryside.htm

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