Petersfield Area

by Cliff Oakley

Cliff Oakley, together with wife Jill, started the Petersfield Wildlife Group several years ago, and it is flourishing. If you wish to join, please ring 01730 266392 or just turn up at one of their walks. Membership is a fiver a year, there is an artistically produced newsletter, and you may borrow books, tapes, a moth trap, bat detector etc. You are not required to live in Petersfield, passports are rarely checked, and most walks are conducted at sites in Hampshire and West Sussex according to the seasons, and what is likely to be seen. They also organise annual trips for up to a week to birdwatching hotspots, such as Cornwall, Yorkshire or Norfolk. As with all of these organisations, you do not need to be an expert, just love the natural world.

It has the most varied habitat and geology for its size, than anywhere in the UK. It is rich in flora, fauna, landscape and scenery.

(For those interested, here from Jill, is the geology - -

‘’The solid strata of East Hampshire consists mainly of Upper Greensand and Gault Clay, Lower Greensand and Chalk. The main Landscape Character Areas are the Hampshire Downs, South Hampshire Downs, Western Weald Lowland and Heath, and South Hampshire Lowland and Heath.

The landscape types of East Hampshire include Chalk and Clay; Clay Plateau; Pasture (Hangers Associated); Scarps (called Hangers); Heath Associated Pasture and Woodland; Heathland and Forest; Mixed Farmland and Woodland; Downland Scarps; Horticulture and Smallholdings; Urban Areas; Open Arable on Greensand and Hangers on Greensand.)

The following parishes make up the district of East Hampshire:

Rowlands Castle, Horndean, Clanfield, Buriton, East Meon, Langrish, Stroud, Petersfield, Steep, Froxfield, Liss, Hawkley, Colemore and Priors Dean, Greatham. Whitehill, Lindford, Bramshott and Liphook, Lindford, Headley, West Tisted, East Tisted, Ropley, Four Marks, Newton Valence, Selborne, Farringdon, Medstead, Chawton, Worldham, Kingsley, Beech, Wield, Bentworth, Alton, Binstead, Bentley, Froyle, Shalden and Lasham.

For its area, East Hampshire has the most diverse and varied habitats in the country, this is due to the underlying geology.

The following website contains some useful information.

Ron Allen's soil and water pages www.soilandwater.co.uk/index.php?id=2&click=0

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Here are a few walks from Cliff that you may wish to try. Noar Hill alone is renowned for its orchids, 100,000 Cowslips, Duke of Burgundy Butterflies, its historic chalk pits, and the association with Gilbert White, of Selbourne, considered as being second only to Darwin in historical influence in observing and noting wildlife.

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Walk 1: Foley Manor and Folly Pond - Explorer map 133, Haslemere & Petersfield is recommended.

This is a varied and easy walk, that will lead you through a range of habitats and, given good weather conditions, will produce many plant, bird, butterfly and dragonfly species, depending on the season. There are no stiles and no steep hills, but there may be one or two wet patches following heavy rain.

Park on the verge just past the Deer’s Hut at SU 822315.

Take the path that goes through the woods at Holly Hills, and continue through the heathland, roughly following the overhead electric cables. There are Stonechats and Dartford Warblers on the heathland during spring and summer and Cuckoos frequently sit on the electricity cables. Take a path on the left that passes between Reedy Copse and Forest Mere - this area has Marsh Tits all year and Redstarts in summer. (If this path is very wet, return to the heathland and take the path which runs west of Forest Mere until you come to a main junction, then turn left and follow the path along the south of Folly pond past Heath Patch until you rejoin the planned route). After Reedy Copse, turn left when you reach the Forest Mere road, checking Folly Pond where Tufted Ducks nest and Herons and Grebes are common. Next, take the path on the right just after leaving the pond until just before you reach the entrance to Home Farm. Turn left and keep left until you join the Forest Mere road after about 300 yards.

This section of woodland often has Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers. Just before the road crosses the railway line, take the path on the left and follow it close to the edge of Liphook Golf Course. The scrubby woodland here is excellent for Whitethroats and other small summer migrants. When you come to a tarmac road, turn left again and follow the road past Folly Manor. The ponds here are worth checking for nesting Mandarins and Little Grebes, and abounds with Dragonflies in summer.

Follow the signposted path through the buildings of Folly Manor and continue until you reach Holly Hills woods again. The path on the right will then take you back to the Deer’s Hut.

Other places in the area you may like to explore are:

Iping Common: Park in the car park at SU 853220 and explore the Common. Dartford warblers, Nightjars and woodcock are plentiful, together with a good range of other heathland birds. A warm sunny day in June will bring out thousands of Silver Studded Blue Butterflies whilst Adders are common, but secretive.

Noar Hill: Park by the verge at SU 737322 and walk up the track next to Charity Farm; take the footpath on the left then explore the area, which is a reserve of Hampshire Wildlife Trust. Specialities include Duke of Burgundy and Brown Hairstreak Butterflies plus several orchid species. Birds include Turtle Dove.

Chapel Common: Park alongside the rough road at SU 813285 and explore the Common. The various habitats support many small birds, butterflies and flowers and there are numerous dragonflies near the pond. An early morning visit in autumn may produce several migrant birds.

Bentley Station Meadow: Park in the railway station car park at SU 793431. Cross the railway line and follow the path for about 50 yards, then enter the reserve through the gate on the right. This is a reserve of Butterfly Conservation and the many butterfly species include Purple Emperor, Purple Hairstreak and White Admiral.

These then are just a few of the many scenic walks in this rich corner of Hampshire.

Cliff Oakley

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