Chalk downland is a habitat of poor soil and this characteristic ensures that no single species can become dominant, and that a large number of species occurs. Indeed, chalk downland represents some of the finest plant habitat in Britain, and the Hampshire chalk downs are one of the best examples in the country. From our base in the market town of Alton we’ll go in search of a wide variety of plant species, many nationally uncommon and rare, as well as butterflies. Our aim is to gain a better understanding of the ecology of the chalk, and to explore some of the finest examples of chalk downland, plus yew and beech woodland, looking for plants and their attendant insect life.
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Présente le mardi et vendredi toute la journée
Fri 12th Jun - Sun 14th Jun - 560€
Fri 18th Jun - Sun 20th Jun - 560€
* These tours are operated by Naturetrek (ABTA Y6206) for which Nature et Terroir acts as agent.
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Jon graduated in Zoology, Botany and Conservation and works as director of rural programmes for The Tree Council. His work takes him all over the UK and occasionally further afield to Europe, the US and Mexico. As part of his job he is also part of the national committees for Orchards and Hedges. Jon has studied the Wild Gladioli, the life of the Small Blue butterfly and has written/co-written eight books on trees. He was also a trustee of Plantlife for over 10 years. Jon is an enthusiastic, all-round naturalist with a particular interest in plants, birds, whales and Lepidoptera. He is always keen to share his wealth of knowledge of natural history, and has travelled widely throughout Europe, North America and Australia. Jon is based on the south coast of Hampshire where he lives with his wife and two children.
Please note that the itinerary below offers our planned programme of excursions. However, adverse weather & other local considerations can necessitate some re-ordering of the programme during the course of the tour, though this will always be done to maximise best use of the time and weather conditions available.
Meet at the Hotel
We will meet at our hotel base, in the market town of Alton, for an evening meal and subsequent drinks in the bar, providing the chance to get to know everyone. For those who wish to venture out, we will take a trip into the surrounding countryside in search of flowers and wildlife after dinner.
We will make a start after breakfast and travel from our hotel to Noar Hill. This superb area of chalk downland contains many orchid species that should be flowering including Musk, Fly, Pyramidal, Frog and Twayblade. The site also contains the typical plants of any south coast downland, and at this time of year the scents from the herbaceous plants, including Thyme and Marjoram, are intoxicating. Noar Hill is also good for butterflies and we will keep our eyes open for the many blues found upon the Hill. Birds such as Lesser Whitethroat, Yellowhammer and Turtle Dove are also likely to be found and it is not unusual to see the occasional Buzzard or Hobby drift overhead.
In the afternoon we will travel south towards Portsdown Hill. We will pass Old Winchester Hill, where from the Iron Age hillfort on the highest point of this National Nature Reserve, the view extends south across the clean waters of the River Meon to the coast of the Isle of Wight and the New Forest. The woodlands of this reserve are composed of the "Hampshire Weed" - the Yew tree - and left to its own devices the whole reserve would become a Yew wood. However, through management the reserve is a mixture of habitats ranging from Juniper scrub (curiously found on the chalk in the south and on the mountains of the north) to open, short cropped sward. The mixture of habitats leads to the development of a wide range of chalk flowers including large patches of Yellow-wort, Horseshoe Vetch, Kidney Vetch and a large population of the uncommon Roundheaded Rampion. The reserve also has populations of Fragrant Orchid.
Arriving at Portsdown Hill, the most southerly chalk ridge in Hampshire, we shall look for Bee Orchids, Pyramid Orchids, unusual yellow forms of Ivy Broomrape and the extremely rare Field Cowwheat.
This morning we will explore the area south of Selborne. This area is part of the north face of the Hampshire chalk downs, known collectively as the Hampshire Hangers. This north face is dominated by Beech and Yew woodland which contains unusual plants such as the saprophytic Bird’s Nest Orchid but also contains large Hazel coppice stumps amongst the Beech and Yew. In the woods both Redstart and Wood Warbler can be found, alongside Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Cuckoo, Red-legged and Grey Partridges and Hobby. Dormice also occur in the area (although we would have to be very lucky to see one) and White and Green Flowered Helleborine occur amongst the ancient Beech pollards. To add to the natural delights of the area, we also have the historical importance of this region to natural history with Selborne being the home of the famous 18th century naturalist and clergyman Gilbert White. We will probably have a quick lunch locally before deciding how to spend our remaining few hours, however the exact itinerary will be fairly flexible and dependent on what species we have seen and those we have missed. Around mid to late-afternoon we will depart for home.