Looking at the Countryside Group Meetings held in 2014

29th April – Firestone Copse

The venue for the walk was changed from the Belmont area because Park Road, where we were to have met, was closed for road works. However the messages sent out in the few days before were successful and eleven people met on a fine morning after rain to see what we could find in Firestone Copse.

Mary had worked out a pleasant route through lesser walked paths and down to the creek, where there was plenty of mud, however, we managed to avoid the worst. Near the start of the walk we admired a Balsam Poplar, interestingly some people could smell it and others (including me) couldn’t. Another interesting smell was that of the leaves of Foetid Iris (Iris foetidissima) which was variously described as roast beef, OXO cube, and Marmite. The walk took us through beautiful beech woods where the sunlight filtered through the soft green of the young leaves and lit up the masses of Bluebells beneath the trees. David Biggs found several galls including ‘tangled hair’ galls on willow catkins and Redcurrant gall on oak which looks just as its name suggests, it is the spring version of Spangle gall. Another interesting gall was the Ramshorn gall which has arrived from the Mediterranean in recent years. He also found leafminers on Holly and Honeysuckle and a rust that alternates between Spindle and Larch.

There were many wild flowers, including Yellow Pimpernel (Lysimachia nemorum), the pinky Wood Speedwell (Veronica montana),and the brighter blue Heath Speedwell (Veronica officinalis). Sue Blackwell showed us the difference between Barren Strawberry (Potentilla sterilis) and Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca), Barren Strawberry petals are a little wider spaced and have a notch at the top of the petal. There were also Early Purple Orchids (Orchis mascula).

By the creek we saw a Wild Service tree, and discovered that the leaves of the Grand Fir smell of tangerines.

A Buzzard was perched in the trees across the creek, and there were Shelduck, and a Little Egret by the lake. We heard but didn’t see Chiff Chaff, Goldcrest and Blackcap.

At this time of year there are a few Fungi around and we saw a good clump of St Georges Mushrooms (Calocybe gambosa), this fungus is named because it appears around the time of St Georges Day, though usually it is a week or so later, so these were right on time! Also found were some Coral Spot (Nectria cinnabarina) on a log, and a very good piece of wood stained bright bluey-green by the Green Elfcup (Chlorociboria aeruginascens).

A very pleasant and informative two hours in an interesting place and in good company. Thank you Mary for a lovely morning.

15th May – Walters Copse, Newtown

As Lesley Atkins was unavailable to lead the walk in Walters’s Copse, David Biggs led eleven members through mud, mud, glorious mud on a very warm sunny morning.

Vicky Basford gave us some historical information about the site and Helen Parry explained management of the woodland. Under the Biodiversity Action Plan the copse is divided into sections which are cut back in rotation every six years to allow vegetation to regenerate for conservation of butterflies such as White Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillary. She also explained about butterfly transects which she undertakes in the copse. En route David pointed out many fascinating plant galls and rust fungi, notably oak apples on the oaks adjoining the marsh and a rust galling Meadowsweet which Toni Goodley found and which proved to be new to Walters Copse and Newtown Nature Reserve. An area of Ridge and Furrow was pointed out as well as the original boundary banks. On Viburnum opulus (Guelder Rose) were several larvae of the Viburnum beetle.

Robins, Great Tits, Song Thrushes, Black Caps, Chiff Chaffs, and male Pheasants were heard rather than seen, though a female pheasant was observed sitting so still and quiet it was assumed she was incubating eggs.

Very few butterflies were seen, just a small number of Speckled Woods and male and female Orange tips.

Four species of orchid were admired; approximately one hundred Orchis mascula (early purple orchid) and three Listera ovata (twayblade) were in flower while Dactylorhiza fuchsia (common spotted orchid) and Platanthera chlorantha (greater butterfly orchid) had flower spikes still in bud. Other botanical species of special note include Hypericum androsaemum (Tutsan), Sanicula europaea (sanicle), Potentilla erecta (Tormentil) and a small quantity of Ranunculus auricomus (Goldilocks buttercup) identifiable by the very narrow upper leaf segments and bright yellow mis-shapen petals.

At the edge of the copse by Clamerkin Creek where Armeria maritime (sea pinks) were flowering we saw two Whimbrels on late spring migration which a pair of Shelducks flew past. The uncommon coastal plant Seriphidium maritimum (sea wormwood) was growing among other salt-march vegetation such as Triglochin maritimum (sea arrow-grass).

A small spider in its web intrigued us, as the web showed two ‘filaments’ (or stabilimentum) above and below the spider. Les Street made an identification of a young male wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi).

With so much to see and discuss it was a thoroughly interesting outing, much enjoyed by all who attended.

Thank you David for leading the walk and to Sue Blackwell for providing the write-up.

15th July – Brook Down

It was sunny, warm, yet with a nice breeze when 7 of us set out from the road between Brook and Chessel. We went eastwards up the Tennyson trail onto Pay Down. On the way we found many wild flowers notably a very large patch of Rest Harrow by the track, so called because of its woody nature that tangles in the harrow, there were also Harebells and deeper coloured Clustered Bellflowers (Campanula glomerata). There are some barrows in the field and also apparently in the woods. These have yielded many high status grave goods some of which are currently on display in the British Museum as part of the new Anglo-Saxon exhibit. We also learned from Dave Harding that the downs are named according to the slope, and that the name changes at the crest of the down, so we were on Pay Down on the south side of the ridge, but to the north in the woods it is Chessel Down. Evidence has been found of a Jutish settlement in what is now woodland on Chessel Down. Two high status female burials have been found one of which contained a crystal ball. On the edge of the woodland where it was less breezy we saw our first butterflies, Dark Green Fritillaries, and also Meadow Browns. There were also a large number of Burnet Moths. As we entered the woodland we were in a sunlit ride where we saw several butterflies and a large number of tall pale orchids that were probably a hybrid of Marsh and Early Purple Orchids We descended through cool woodland, where there was enchanters nightshade in profusion, also wild strawberries, and currants . David Biggs found a new fungal disease on Sycamore as well as the more common Tar Spot. We crossed the road and walked past Shalcombe Manor, barely visible through the trees. The path went along the wood edge, along the hedgerow on the field side were many blue damsel flies, skylarks were singing above the fields beyond the hedge. On the edge of the wood we found a large Dyads Saddle fungus (Polyporus squamosa) and also some Cramp Balls (Daldinia concentrica). At the end of the wood we turned uphill onto the down. There were many butterflies, Meadow Brown, Marbled White, Small Heath and a few Chalkhill Blues and more Burnet Moths that were identified as 5-spot Burnets, and we found the striped caterpillars of the cinnabar moth on Ragwort. On the top of the down at Five Barrows we admired the views and then went to look at a large disc barrow which is between the barrows on the top of the down and the track. From the barrow we could see Gallibury Hump and Alan told us of the other finds in that area. It was a pleasant walk back to the cars, just near the gate David saw some Ringlet butterflies and a Comma was also spotted. I had a close encounter with a large well marked horse fly with a chequer pattern on the wings. I might have quite admired it if it hadn’t bitten me! A lovely walk with lots of interesting things to see and talk about.

Here are the things I listed as we went along, there were probably lots more flowers.


  • Meadow Brown,
  • Small White,
  • Gatekeeper,
  • Peacock,
  • Chalkhill Blue,
  • Ringlet,
  • Small Heath,
  • Small Skipper (possibly),
  • Dark Green Fritillary,
  • Silver washed Fritillary,
  • Marbled White,
  • Comma,
  • Red Admiral.(13)
  • Burnet Moth (5 Spot)


  • Pyramidal Orchid,
  • Hybrid of Marsh and Early Purple Orchid,
  • Rest Harrow,
  • Harebell,
  • Clustered Bellflower,
  • Birds foot Trefoil,
  • Scabious,
  • Self-Heal,
  • Marjoram,
  • Enchanters Nightshade,
  • Hemp Agrimony,
  • Hairy Willow Herb,
  • Rose-Bay Willow Herb,
  • Herb Bennet,
  • Wild Strawberry (flowers and fruit),
  • Yellow-wort,
  • Yellow Rattle,
  • Marsh Thistle,
  • Musk Mallow,
  • Vipers Bugloss,
  • Centaury,
  • Burdock.
  • St Johns Wort,
  • Thyme,
  • Ladies Bedstraw,
  • Heath Bedstraw. (27),
  • Wild Currant (fruit)

13th August – Froglands and Lukeley Brook

Thirteen people met at the Priory Viewpoint Car Park near the castle on a beautiful bright and breezy morning. It was a particular pleasure to have Bill Shepherd along, he told us of lots of interesting things about his home area. The first thing he told us was about the group of chestnut trees in the field below the car park. There were twelve trees originally, planted to stop cattle straying into the Priory soak away. The lane towards Froglands farm is bordered by mostly Hazel, and has probably been there for over 500 years. In the lane we saw our first butterfly, a comma. 150 years ago wild sour cherries were recorded as growing in the lane and have been seen in recent years but we failed to find them, though there were plenty of Bullace. There is a magnificent ancient oak tree in the lane. At Froglands farm there is a carved brick in the end of a barn. It reads Jane Stark 1779 and is believed to have been carved when the Stark family arrived at the farm as tenants, having previously been at Idlecombe. Froglands farm is very old and like many of the farms in the area was part of the castle estates. At one time the farm was surrounded by elms, which protected the thatched buildings. Early in the year there are violets in the lane that are a distinctive shade of pink only found in the Carisbrooke area.

We continued down a narrow lane between banks and hedges. This lane goes down to where there was a ford at Plaish and is very old. In the lane Selina picked up a coin which is believed to be a Charles I farthing. There were a few butterflies around, Speckled Wood being the most common. Some hazel leaves had grey blisters on them, sign of the Nut Leaf Blister Moth. There were festoons of Black and White Bryony some of the Black Bryony leaves had turned a glossy dark purple. Hedge Bindweed and Greater Bindweed flourished along the side of the path, Sue Blackwell showed us the differences between the two.

PLUTO Pipeline marker

PLUTO Pipeline marker

To one side of the lane is what appears to be an over grown stile, however it is a marker showing the track of the wartime PLUTO pipeline. There is a matching marker across the fields towards Gatcombe and also another on the Tennyson trail above Carisbrooke.

Nearby is a small hill with a man made cliff, this is where the stone was quarried for the 16th century Castle ramparts. .We reached the water meadows at Plaish where we admired the views in both directions. Across the valley at Plaish Farm a Little Owl perched on the top of an open barn door. The water meadows used to be grazed and the Lukely Brook was visible but now Willow Herb has taken over and the brook is barely visible for some distance. Where the course of the Brook can be found it is full of Fools Water Cress. Along the path by the brook we saw Common Blue butterflies, and a Common Red Darter.

On a nettle stem there was seething mass of black spiky, Peacock butterfly caterpillars.

Peacock butterfly caterpillars

Peacock butterfly caterpillars

We also found Strawberry Clover,(Trifolium fragiferum), so called because of its Strawberry like seed head. A Caddis fly was seen near the Sheepwash.

Strawberry Clover

Strawberry Clover

Bill took us to the site of a 18th/19th century paper mill and pointed out the rush of water through the old sluices close to the lane. We then plodded up Constitution Hill to the Castle and strolled along the edge of the moat where there was Wild Parsnip, Ragwort and Scabious in flower. A wild plum tree grows just where the path leaves the castle area, attempts were made to scrump some plums but most of the fruit was too high to reach. We returned to the cars via a hidden pathway just below the level of the road, having seen lots of interesting things and learning a lot more about the area.