Last Sunday we went on our annual pilgrimage to Oversley Woods in search of the Purple Emperor butterfly - that most magnificent of butterflies that has enchanted lepidopterists for centuries.
As we walked along this ride from the car park it was obvious that there were loads of butterflies in flight which was a relief considering the paucity of butterflies I've seen elsewhere this year.
Ringlets, Silver-washed Fritillaries and various species of white butterflies were in flight where ever you looked. A White Admiral fluttered past followed by a gentleman in pursuit asking what species I thought it was - I replied it looked like a White Admiral whereas he exclaimed I think I saw a flash of purple as it flew past me! Whatever species it was I wasn't prepared to count it - there is no way I am "ticking" this species unless I get a decent look and 100% positive id preferably with a photo. He did show us a superb photo of a male he had taken earlier that week and told us the best sightings to be had this year were in 2 oaks just to the right of some conifers a few hundred yards past the area known as the "triangle". So instead of heading left at the triangle as we usually do we carried straight on and soon found the area he had mentioned. We spent half an hour there without success although there were many Purple Hairstreaks fluttering around the oak leaves - a species I saw for the first time last year in the same woods. The beauty of this woodland is that, even if you don't see a Purple Emperor, there are still dozens of other butterflies to keep you happy including some very special species.
We returned to the "triangle" and I continued on the path we normally take (I was reliably informed a few years back by the local branch of Butterfly Conservation that this path led to the best area for PE's). Within minutes B and D were shouting and gesticulating and giving a thumbs up sign - I returned and had to disillusion them that the butterfly they were getting all excited about was a White Admiral!
Yet again we failed to connect with the species we had gone to see but we did spend two hours watching many other species - Large and Green-veined Whites, Brimstone, Ringlets, Meadow Browns, Large and Small Skippers, Red Admiral, Comma, Silver-washed Fritillaries galore and more White Admiral and Purple Hairstreak.
Not too many photos this year compared with previous years as the butterflies were rarely alighting to feed (perhaps it was too hot and sunny or late in the day).
The Silver-washed Fritillary and Purple Hairstreak photos are from last year's visit
The edges of the rides are full of wild flowers - a selection in the photos below (sorry, the pictures are a bit "iffy" as I had the 70-300mm lens on my camera which isn't ideal for flower photos).
Despite not seeing any definite Purple Emperors it was a lovely afternoon out. Next year I may go to Fermyn Woods (a more reliable site for PE's) if a trifle further from home. I would love to go to Knepp and see them there along with re-wilding in action but sadly far too far for a day. Perhaps one day in the future.....
I had a day out yesterday with a friend and we decided to go to Packwood House and wander round the gardens. I've only been once this year (back in January from memory).
The House itself dates back to Tudor times but was remodelled by Baron Ash in the 1920's and 1930's when he added rooms and converted a barn into the Great Hall.
We were going to have lunch first but the tearoom was packed with rather a long queue (Packwood does get very busy!) so we went to look at the Carolean Garden first.
One of the many sundials to be found around Packwood.
I think the pollinators had been busy on these Hollyhocks!
The Yellow Border which is crammed full of perennials in pink, yellow, lavender, carmine and scarlet following Loudon's "mingled" style.
The Sunken Garden
Sadly, I couldn't get a photo of the whole sunken area as there were too many people trying to take photos!
Does anyone know the name of this plant? I fell totally in love with it - it looks like a series of pots filled with miniature succulents and a flower climbing up a stem. I don't think I have ever seen anything like it before.
The Rose Bays
Flowers in Herbaceous beds in the centre of the garden.
The Terrace Walk - I think this will be at its best in about a week.
Looking towards the Yew Garden said to represent the Sermon on the Mount
A view of the Sunken Garden
The tearoom was now quieter - so I had an egg, cress and mayonnaise sandwich and a brownie - I was that hungry I forgot to take a photo!
Then a walk round the newly restored Kitchen Garden which was looking delightful and stuffed with flowers (as well as vegetables).
I wish I could remember the name of these flowers - I am sure my grandfather used to grow them.
National Trust gardens are normally buzzing and humming with insects but the low trend this summer of insect sightings continues. There were a few bumble and honey bees and hoverflies about but numbers were much lower than usual and I only saw one butterfly a Meadow Brown :( It is very worrying.
I bought a couple of plants home with me - a Rudbekia and a Lychnis cornonaria (looking forward to seeing the latter in flower as I really haven't a clue what it will look like!).
Welcome to my blog. I have been interested in natural history from an early age and we have tried to create a garden attractive to wildlife. I also enjoy reading, photography, collecting fossils, visiting historic buildings and gardens and supporting Aston Villa. Please feel free to leave a comment and, if you would like to email me, my email address is ciraggedrobinsATgmail.com - remember to replace AT with @. Thank you for visiting.