Scorched Earth and Serendipity

Wednesday 22nd April

The culmination of frugal days consisting of long walks and endless searches has subconsciously altered my modus operandi this season; and the delightful swarms seen at Hatchet earlier brought home to me that it’s the days of plenty which I enjoy most.

Those days when the walk takes a back seat and allows you time to stop and take it all in, filling your boots (metaphorical and otherwise) and enjoying the spectacle instead of relentlessly digging through the undergrowth seeking out tenerals.

However at this time of year it helps to just enjoy the walk!

With this in mind I chose a ramble through Town Common on Wednesday – much earlier than I’d usually visit this location – to get a feel for what was about, how the ponds were etc – just a relaxing stroll through a favourite (admittedly extensively managed) pocket wilderness.

Any Odo’s would be a bonus.

There were a few teneral Large Red rising from the heather as I passed and having been satiated I didn’t hunt them down. The only thing which could have disturbed my preamble was a variation in species, but not this day.

No matter – I’m enjoying the walk, remember?

I had a plan to wander a little further south along the old railway track in search of more water bodies, but as I came to the end of the back path I noticed the scorched thicket of gorse to my right.

When I turned the corner and broke out of the shadows I was confronted by a scene of utter devastation. It appears it wasn’t just St. Catherine’s Hill which bore the brunt of the recent arson; a third of Town Common had been laid bare too.

Scorched Earth on Town Common
Scorched Earth on Town Common

Three little words struggled past my lips as my eyes took in the horror. The gorse thicket where the Dartford Warblers frolicked…the deep heather where the Sand Lizards and Smooth Snakes basked and hunted, and feeding Odo’s took time out from the water. Now a bronzed landscape peppered with bronze trees and skeletal stumps.

The experience was shocking and unexpected, delivered in a sudden punch to bring me out of my reverie and cut short my peaceful stroll.

Still reeling from the blow I changed course and headed back across the line to more familiar territory and didn’t look back. Instead I decided to continue my ramble by crossing the road and retreating to Ramsdown, doing the full tour before heading back to the car and moving on to Troublefield where I took time out to just sit by the river and watch the butterflies…and take it all in.

Thursday 23rd April

I needed a change of scenery and subject, so began with a walk around Magdalen Hill before moving on to the tranquility of Noar Hill for some butterfly therapy.

Plenty of opportunity to just sit and drink it all in.

While I was amusing myself with a trio of Dukes and a couple of Dingy Skippers I bumped into another couple of BF nuts, followed by a couple more and accepted this wasn’t going to be a solo venture.

I struck up a conversation with one of the gentlemen regarding butterflies before turning to (my preferred) passion for dragonflies when in a moment of serendipity a Large Red flew in from nowhere and placed itself directly at my feet.

Large Red Damselfly - male
Large Red Damselfly – male

Don’t you just love it when that happens?