Worcestershire Record No. 20 April 2007 p. 52-63
THE LITTLETONS IN 1985 - A NATURAL HISTORY DIARY
The Littletons Women's Institute decided to produce a written record of the villages during 1985 and suggested including a natural history account. The following Notes were made in response and these were subsequently typed up and made into a booklet by the WI. This was sold around the area in 1986. It is now twenty years since the Notes were done and there are already noticeable changes in the wildlife of the villages. Consequently, it seems appropriate to reproduce the text of the booklet here to serve as a more permanent reminder of the Littletons as they were then in order to be able to make comparisons in the future.
A small number of corrections and amendments have been made to the original typescript. Included in these are an up-dating of species names to conform to modern reference books and of place names to conform in general to the Ordnance Survey "Explorer" map (No. 205) and the addition of a few other place names to aid identifying locations. In a few places, additional information has been added within square brackets to clarify locations where significant alterations have occurred since 1985.
This record of natural history observations is intended as an indication of the wildlife existing in the parishes of North and Middle Littleton and South Littleton, Worcestershire in the year 1985.
In general the observations have been made from the public roads and rights-of-way. The emphasis in the report is on plants and butterflies although observations on other animals are included.
As the weather can have a significant effect on observations, an occasional reference to it is given in the notes. Last year (1984) was somewhat exceptional in that almost no rain fell all through the hot summer until September and this was followed by a cold, wet autumn with flooding in November.
1 - JANUARY
(1a) - The first week of the year has seen the first snow of the winter but it is only a light dusting. Birds are the most conspicuous aspect of wildlife this time of the year, particularly the Tawny Owls hooting in chorus from the large Horse-chestnut trees south of South Littleton churchyard in the early hours of the morning. During the day, a flock of Starlings probes for grubs between the headstones. By the side of the bridleway leading to Windmill Hill the Ivy berries in the hedge are starting to turn black and Shepherd's-purse carpets the ground in places. Further along, the Hawthorns in the hedge are draped with the fluffy heads of Traveller's-joy while on the hedgebank the leaf spikes of Lords-and-Ladies are already appearing. Continuing along the bridleway to Cleeve Hill, a flock of twenty Fieldfares is seen looking for food in the short grass of one of the enclosures on Windmill Hill Nature Reserve. Just before the parish boundary, along the side of Littleton Coppice, the Spurge- laurel plants are conspicuous with their evergreen leaves. On the ground around them Sweet Violet plants are growing strongly.
(1b) - Returning along the river bank from Pickersham, fishermen can be seen spaced out on the opposite bank while, on the Littleton side, a Heron is doing its own fishing , flying off ponderously when disturbed. In the shallows, growing through the ice, are the young plants of Yellow-cress and Water Chickweed. A Coot swims about on the water. Crossing the stile, the Heron is seen once more standing in the field about a hundred metres from the bank, probably watching for small animals to eat. Overhead, a flock of Lapwings flies along the meadows and a group of Mallards takes off from the river. On the bank are fresh mounds of earth where a Mole has recently been busy.
(1c) - Towards the middle of the month the snow is still lying about the banks and ice still fringes the river in places. Footprints of Coot and Mallard are all along by the water's edge. Above the weir, a Coot and a small flock of Mallards swim about while a couple of Swans with three Cygnets feed on river-bed weeds in the shallows. One of the hedges in the meadows has a crop of Sloes and from it about a dozen noisy Fieldfares fly off. Downstream, below the weir, a Heron is disturbed and flies off down towards the "Fish and Anchor", after pausing briefly in a tree by Harvington Mill. On the way back to South Littleton via Windmill Hill a flock of about forty Fieldfares is seen flying over Harrow Hill and on towards Offenham. A Kestrel perched on one of the electricity poles glides off to a nearby tree and then flaps and glides low over the crest of the hill towards the west. In gardens in the village, Redwings come and help themselves to ripening berries.
(1d) - Severe frost occurs in the following week and Badgers seize their opportunity to collect the tinder-dry grass for bedding material. At the end of the month there is a change to milder weather. In the pastures between Littleton Brook and Blake's Hill a group of half a dozen Partridges is disturbed and they scuttle off across the fields. Around Ullington the countryside is full of birds. Flocks of Wood Pigeons and Rooks are perched in the trees, while a flock of about two hundred Fieldfares feed in the fields. These fly up into the hedgerow trees too when they are disturbed so that all the trees are dotted with birds.
2 - FEBRUARY
(2a) - The first few days continue mild but by the end of the first week the weather has changed with thick snow and cold east winds causing drifting, eight feet deep in places on Windmill Hill. Blackbirds and Thrushes sit around on fences in the village gardens unable to search for food. After a week of bitterly cold weather the river is frozen right over in many places. By the entrance to the caravan park the two Swans and one remaining Cygnet swim in the piece of free water towards midstream or climb on to the ice along the river's edge. (One of the other Cygnets was later found fatally trapped in the ice at Cleeve Prior.) At the north end of the park the river is completely frozen over for a short distance. On the bank opposite a Little Owl searches along the bank then flies into the river-side Willows. Below the weir about thirty ducks, Mallards and Tufted Ducks, fly off and three Coots take refuge under the far bank. A couple of Moorhens are found perched among Ivy just above ground level on a tree trunk facing into weak rays from the afternoon sun. In other places across the meadows a Kestrel and a few Blackbirds are similarly found trying to gain a bit of warmth. Half way to Pickersham the river is again frozen over and right to Cleeve Prior. Over the other side the Heron is disturbed and flies off. In the tall trees of Littleton Coppice the Rooks sit motionless on the topmost branches while, below, the Wood Pigeons fly aimlessly from tree to tree. Otherwise the countryside is eerily silent and still.
(2b) - By the beginning of the following week the midday sun has started to thaw the snow a bit for an hour or so. Small birds, mostly Great Tits, sing for a while then fall silent again. A Wren can occasionally be seen flitting about in a hedge. In the sheep pastures between Farm Lane and Middle Littleton church a couple of dozen Rooks probe the ground for grubs between the patches of snow. A wader, possibly a Sanderling, flies up from beside the brook which is still practically free of ice. Apparently unaffected by the weather, Moles push up fresh mounds of dark soil through the white blanket of snow. Towards the end of the week the weather becomes milder, the main thaw starts, and birds begin to sing again in the mornings.
(2c) - During the last week of the month the fields around Ullington are full of birds once more. Blue Tits, half a dozen Goldfinches and a Great Tit fly about among the Ash and Willow trees on the roadside and a Wren searches around in the hedge. In the field to the west of Ullington are about a hundred Starlings, fifty Lapwings and thirty Gulls and, in the field to the east, forty Lapwings and fifteen Gulls. A pile of feathers on the verge of Pebworth Road shows where a Sparrowhawk has had a recent meal. Back towards North Littleton, meltwater has collected in the corner of a piece of pasture under a thicket of Willows and a couple of Snipe, on being disturbed, fly off on an erratic course towards Sheen Hill.
3 - MARCH
(3a) - The male Yew tree in Middle Littleton churchyard is thick with flower buds in the first week of the month and Whitlowgrass is starting to flower on some of the stone walls between the brook and East Side. Over the top of Blake's Hill much Wild Privet is conspicuous in the roadside hedges with its darkened overwintered leaves and in a dryish ditch at the foot of one of the hedges there are many Kentish Snails. At the south end of the Nature Reserve the flock of Fieldfares in the fading evening light returns to its usual roost in the Plum thicket.
(3b) - In the middle of the month the rookery between the entrance to Long Lartin and the prison is very noisy and full of activity with about seventy birds flying around and collecting sticks for nest building. Most nests are to the south of Sheenhill Road but a few are on the far side of the pasture to the north. A Hare runs off from under the roadside hedge and across the fields towards Pebworth Road. Coltsfoot plants are flowering in the south verge just east of Long Lartin and a Wild Privet in the hedge is laden with berries. In the remnant hedge bordering the pasture before the prison, an old Robin Hood's Pincushion gall is evident among the bare branches of a Dog-rose. A Wren and Great Tit flit about in the bushes. Opposite the prison entrance, the catkins on a Hazel are now in flower and further along by the start of the footpath to Pebworth Road the leaves of Spotted Medick can be seen.
(3c) - In Main Street, South Littleton opposite Blacksmiths Lane the Whitlowgrass is in flower on the stone walls towards the end of the month. A Hazel sapling growing in the path along the side of the churchyard has flowering catkins and on the path to the church porch is more of the Whitlowgrass. The Elm suckers by the side of the bridleway to Windmill Hill at the parish boundary have now grown to about 100 mm diameter. Further on, a patch of Leeks on the left is covered with Field Speedwell and some Shepherd's-purse while on the right are a few Dandelions, some Red Dead-nettle and some Chickweed in flower. In the edge of a patch of corn are found three Field Gromwell plants. Going along the footpath over Harrow Hill to Three Cocks, a Skylark is heard twittering high above the hill and a couple of Partridges are seen scuttling away through the corn. Between the caravan park and the weir there are isolated Goat Willow bushes with catkins along the water's edge. In the meadows are seen a Mallard, two Redwings and a Magpie. Above the weir the Goat Willows give way to Alders whose long catkins hang among last years seed heads. In the meadows across the river from Pickersham, the Heron stands fifty metres or so from the bank and further away a pair of Canada Geese and five pairs of Mallard graze.
4 - APRIL
(4a) - Upon the stone walls of North and Middle Littleton the Whitlowgrass is in full flower in the first week in April , occurring between the Manor House and old vicarage, between the brook and East Side, half way along and at the north end of East Side. Sweet-grass grows thickly in Littleton Brook in the shade of the two road bridges and Lesser Celandines are flowering at the north end of East Side and beside the footpath across to West Side. In the churchyard the Yew is in full flower and also some Sweet Violets.
(4b) - Towards the middle of the month the Spurge-laurel in Littleton Coppice has almost finished flowering but the Sweet Violets are freshly opened. A Partridge scuttles off across the market gardens in the direction of Cleeve Road. Along the bridleway there are patches of Sweet Violets and of Lesser Celandines each side. In the top hedge of the Nature Reserve a couple of Cherry Plums are now in full blossom and a little further on in the centre of the Blackthorn thicket large patches of Sweet Violet are flowering, as is another one by the reservoir. On both sides of the track down the gully towards the "Fish and Anchor" are further patches containing both violet and white blooms. The dingle on the east side of the track near the bottom of the gully is carpeted with Lesser Celandines.
(4c) - By mid month the Cowslips are in full flower and stud the strip of pasture under Littleton Coppice. At the side of the Coppice on the parish boundary a Deadly Nightshade has just re-emerged after the winter. Among the Coppice trees are seen a Grey Squirrel and a Great Spotted Woodpecker and there is a Badger latrine by the bridleway. At the south end of the Coppice a male Hybrid Black-poplar tree has started to shed its catkins. Nearby a Great Spotted Woodpecker drums on the trees while a Treecreeper climbs systematically up the trunks. Southwards along the path Plums and Blackthorns are in flower and the wood below is full of bird-song; Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Thrush, Pheasant and Robin. At the bottom of "Fish and Anchor" Bank Lesser Celandines occur in both verges and in the triangular thicket adjacent to the caravan park. The thicket consists of three fairly distinct sections, the eastern half being almost entirely Plum which is now in full bloom, a central piece of Hawthorn, and the western quarter consisting of Blackthorn which is now a dense mass of white blossom. On the river bank are more Lesser Celandines while opposite, on the shore of the island, a Redshank searches for food. Along the top of the retaining wall in front of the "Fish and Anchor" are many Whitlowgrass flowers and also on the bank before the ford. Small fish are trying to jump the rapids at the face of the ford.
(4d) - At the bottom of Blacksmiths Lane a Moorhen swims up Littleton Brook towards Farm Lane. On the other side of the bridge three big mats of Water-starwort sway in the midstream current. In Shinehill Lane beyond Mary Brook, dense patches of Daisies occur in the horse pastures and there are clumps of Cowslips in the verge in front of the prison. Opposite the cottages in Buckle Street the wide verge is now dotted with Cowslips and many violet and white Sweet Violets. Cowslips also occur in the paddock at Pebworth Crossroads and in various places along Pebworh Road verges as far as the bridleway. Oregon-grape is common along the road and bridleway, its yellow flowers and dark foliage being very conspicuous in the hedges. Patches of white and violet Sweet Violets cling to the sides of the ditches on the south side of the road opposite the bridleway and by the Willow thicket a little further to the east. Yellowhammers fly about in the hedges round about.
(4e) - Up on the Nature Reserve a Kestrel hovers overhead scanning the ground for prey and a couple of House Martins circle around and then fly off. Birds are singing everywhere on the reserve, Tree Pipit, Willow Warbler, and Blackcap can be distinguished.
(4f) - During the final week, Thrushes are singing loudly around the villages, in South Littleton in the area of Main Street, by the junction of Farm Lane and Shinehill Lane, and at the entrance to Clevedon Green. On the stone walls of Manor House Farm are some Polypody fronds, on the vicarage wall some Whitlowgrass and on the walls of the big house opposite the church the Ivy-leaved Toadflax is in flower. Where the footpath from School Lane to Pebworth Road crosses Littleton Brook the water plants are growing well, the Water-starwort forming dense masses of vegetation in midstream. In the small pond by the path across to Shinehill Lane Water-starwort covers the western half of the water and has flowering heads of Water-crowfoot poking through it. The edges of this part of the pond are thick with Hard Rush. A Fox hurries over the pastures from the direction of Shinehill Lane and heads towards Middle Littleton church as the daylight fades and immediately after a Heron flies over on the same track making for the river. Where the footpath emerges between the houses of Shinehill Lane, Blackthorn bushes in blossom line the west side of the track.
5 - MAY
(5a) - Goldilocks Buttercups are coming out along both sides of the parish boundary at Littleton Coppice. The pasture below "Fish and Anchor" Bank has many Cowslips flowering in the short grass. A Kestrel hovers over the face of Windmill Hill looking for a meal while a Swift darts back and forth along the Nature Reserve catching insects. The Kestrel flies off to hover above the caravan park where the grass is being cut for the first time this year. Hairy Violets are conspicuous in the longer grass of the Nature Reserve and at the south end in the shady places are some Dog-violets. Although cold for this time of year, the new grass is now growing strongly.
(5b) - At the parish boundary at the north end of Cleeve Road the triangular strip of orchard on the east has many flowering Cowslips and there are a few in the adjoining verge together with patches of White Dead-nettle, Red Dead-nettle, Ground-ivy, and Chickweed. Under the hedge by the entrance to Red House Farm are some Lesser Celandines and beyond are patches of White Dead-nettle and Hoary Cress. Outside the bungalow are a few plants of Winter-cress followed by a stretch of verge with Dandelions and White Dead-nettle. Below the young Elms in the hedge of the orchard, patches of Sweet Violets line the ditch and a Holly Blue butterfly is spotted among the Elms. Near the crossroads the flowers on some of the Blackthorns are nearly over but in the verge are blooms of Dandelion and White Dead-nettle. Among the Onions in the adjacent market garden is a thick mass of Shepherd's-purse and a few Field Penny-cress. Back along the west verge towards Cleeve Prior are some White Dead-nettles and a few Dandelions adjacent to market garden land containing Thyme and Asparagus in which a Crow searches around. In the cornfield beyond are some Field Speedwells. Opposite the farm, the access to the next cornfield has a number of Winter-cress plants growing in it and the adjoining Plum hedge shelters a patch of Sweet Violets.
(5c) - Near the bottom of Arrow Lane on the south side under the hedge and Brambles, the Dog's Mercury plants are in flower, mostly male flowers, and further up there is a large patch of Lesser Celandines. Across the road is the start of the footpath towards Island Barn. The hedge on the east side of the path contains some Oregon-grape, and the verge Red Dead-nettle. In the market garden on the other side are some Ivy-leaved Speedwell. A few White Dead-nettles and Dandelions occur in the verge further on and over the hedge in the pasture are Lesser Celandines. In the next pasture (in which is the footpath to West Side) Lesser Celandines and Cowslips dot the ridge and furrow. Beyond the stone road the footpath continues past two strips of orchard running down to the village, the first being thickly carpeted with Dandelions and the other having some Daisies in addition. Further along on the same side the sheep pasture and adjoining market garden are edged with Hoary Cress.
(5d) - Returning from Hoden Lane on the bridleway by the side of Littleton Brook, an unkempt market garden opposite is noticeable for its thick purple covering of Red Dead-nettle. Below the mature Willows on the side of the path are patches of Water-starwort in the water, opposite are a few Lesser Celandines and lower down on the stream banks are some Dandelions and White Dead-nettles. At the start of the cottage gardens a clump of Wood Forget-me-not grows at water level. In the orchard running down to the brook from West Side can be seen a single Cuckooflower and on the stone walls of the cottages are tufts of Wall-rue. There are a few more Cuckooflowers across the footpath from East Side to Shinehill Lane in the pasture containing the pond. In South Littleton churchyard the Bat can now be seen flying around at dusk.
(5e) - The start of the second week of the month brings in the first warm day of the Spring and this brings out the butterflies. Along the bridleway from Pebworth Road to Hoden between the enclosing hedges and adjacent cornfields are seen three Brimstones, a Small White and a Speckled Wood. Big patches of Garlic Mustard flank the track. Further on a single clump of Cowslips is found at the foot of the hedge and more butterflies are seen, four Holly Blues, three each of Brimstone, Speckled Wood, Small White and a Small Tortoiseshell. Yellow fields of Rape come up to the west hedge. Over in the direction of the Lenches a Buzzard can be seen through binoculars, circling very high in the sky, while a Pheasant calls from nearby. Along the south side of Pebworth Road, westwards from where the footpath to the prison starts, the first field with its little thicket of Willows is passed. In the pasture beyond are some Dandelions and Daisies in the middle and round the edge are scattered Cowslips. A Small White butterfly flies over and an Orange Tip flutters about in the roadside ditch. Next comes a cornfield with a track running south down its eastern side in which many more Cowslips grow. On the north verge are a few White Dead-nettles and patches of Garlic Mustard and at the bend in the road there are Dandelions. Beyond the bend, in the north hedge, are some old White Willows.
(5f) - The footpath from Pebworth Road to Norval Farm skirts the pond in the first field. A couple of Crows circle round the Willows on the south and east sides. The field beyond the pond has many Dandelions among the grass and all along beside the path on the hedgebank are wild plants with Dandelion, Daisy, and Cowslip now in flower. The Cowslips continue in places beside the hedge in the following field of corn and also at the far side of the pasture on the other side of the hedge where there are Daisies too. A Magpie and a Brimstone butterfly are seen. Between the cornfield and the farm, the grass has been grazed short by cattle. Returning to Pebworth Road, the footpath towards School Lane is taken which follows the brook through the chicken farm. Blackthorn bushes are in flower between the Willows along the stream bank. Dandelions and Daisies grow in the narrow pasture opposite. The path crosses a footbridge and stile into the field beyond where a Comma butterfly suns itself on the hedge. The fields on either side have Dandelions and Daisies growing in them. The next stile leads into a cornfield where one or two Small White and a Brimstone butterfly are seen above the corn. On the north of the path is a strip of thicket with an Apple tree or two and at places at the edge are clumps of Cowslips. A Skylark hovers and sings high over the corn. After the cornfield the path crosses a field grazed by cattle and three fields grazed by sheep before emerging in School Lane.
(5g) - Another footpath goes from the west end of the chicken farm alongside Mary Brook to Shinehill Lane. Leaving the farm it traverses the long narrow field which is dotted with Dandelions and Daisies. Bushes and trees line the brook, including a few Apples in full bloom, and under the edge of the trees are clumps of Cowslips spaced out all along. A couple of Mallard fly up from the brook and a Brimstone and Small White butterfly flutter about. The other side of the brook the field is colourful with Dandelions and Daisies but further on, where the path crosses to that side, the field is grazed by horses. To reach the road the path goes through other strips of horse pasture, some of them having many Daisies.
(5h) - Towards the end of the second week the ground is very dry but the weather has gone cold again. At the north end of South Littleton the field of grass on the west side of Main Street has much Bulbous Buttercup and Dandelion in it. A few young Sycamore saplings grow in the Hawthorn hedge and there are both Buttercups and Dandelions in the verge. North of the boundary between the parishes White Dead-nettle occurs beside the footway of Cleeve Road and Garlic Mustard in both verges. An Apple tree in full blossom in the hedge standing by a market garden shed has beneath it Lords-and-Ladies and Garlic Mustard. Beyond the little group of houses there is a solitary Ash tree and then Garlic Mustard occurs again with White Dead-nettle and Ground-ivy in places. On the corner of School Lane opposite, there is a large patch of Hoary Cress which extends into the market garden and around the greenhouses. Along the lane to the west of the Manor House the walls on the west side have Duke of Argyll's Teaplant growing on them. The stone walls bordering the lanes around the Manor House have Rue-leaved Saxifrage, a rare plant in Worcestershire, all along in places accompanied by Whitlowgrass. These also occur on the walls on both sides of the road down to the churchyard and on the walls at the east side of the churchyard and round the front of the old vicarage. In the triangular paddock opposite here are some Cowslips.
(5i) - Rue-leaved Saxifrage is also in flower in North Littleton and South Littleton. In the former it occurs on the eastern walls of West Side in many places and on the west wall opposite the footpath to East Side. In East Side it is found on both sides where the footpath emerges and on the western walls up to the north end. In the latter it can be seen on the west side of Main Street opposite Blacksmiths Lane and all down the north walls of Farm Lane as far as the garden of Manor house Farm. Among these plants in Farm Lane, just before the school, are a few Annual Wall-rocket and this also occurs on the wall in the angle of Long Hyde and Main Street. On the walls in the south end of East Side at North Littleton and into the footpath to West Side there is a lot of Duke of Argyll's Teaplant.
(5j) - A week before the month's end the weather is cold and showery but the Cow Parsley is full out. It grows thickly on the east side of the bridleway by Littleton Coppice. In the Coppice a Great Spotted Woodpecker drums on the trees and then flies away eastwards, a Pheasant calls from nearby. On the west side of the track are Ground-ivy and White Dead-nettle and on the flowers of a Field Maple tree are Seven-spot Ladybirds. The newly planted orchard to the east is full of Field Penny-cress, Field Forget-me-not lines both sides of the track and Bluebell grows thickly in the Coppice. Two Green-veined White, a Holly Blue and a Speckled Wood butterfly have been seen. Ground-ivy, Germander Speedwell and Field Forget-me-not make splashes of colour all along the track with, in places, White Dead-nettle. Willow Warbers call from the scrub and Hoverflies dart and hover under the overhanging branches. Further on a Chiffchaff calls. Towards "Fish and Anchor" Bank there is some Cow Parsley on the east side and Garlic Mustard on the west. Three more Holly Blue, a Small White, an Orange Tip and a Brimstone butterfly are seen.
(5k) - The footpath from Honeybourne crossing the railway to the prison enters the parish over a stream with a small pond nearby. The pond is nearly dry at the present but Celery-leaved Buttercup and Water-cress plants grow in the mud. At the edge of the pond are some Winter-cress and a Grey Poplar tree. A couple of Crows fly over and a Cuckoo calls from over by Gate Inn Brook. The path crosses the field which has many Bulbous Buttercup and Meadow Buttercup and some Daisy and Dandelion to the railway. Cow Parsley stands thickly along the railway boundary. A Yellowhammer flies by. A solitary Sycamore tree stands in the field near the crossing. From here a footpath branches off south-westwards to Honeybourne Road. It traverses a cattle pasture where Bulbous and Meadow Buttercup carpet the ridge and furrow. Many wild plants can be found along the sides of the railway. Cow Parsley and Common Vetch predominate but there are also Thale Cress, White Dead-nettle, Hairy Tare, Sticky Mouse-ear and Pineapple-weed in flower and plants of Meadow Vetchling, Wild Basil and Salad Burnet. Along the disused branch line track to the east now grow a couple of Sycamore and a Buckthorn tree. Beyond the railway the cattle pastures to the west and around the farm have some Buttercups growing in them. A couple of Curlews fly in from the west, circle round in front of Sheen Hill and come down in the fields by Mary Brook. Over towards Pebworth Road a Painted Lady butterfly speeds back and forth along the hedgerows.
(5l) - The last few days of May are hot and dry bringing out the butterflies once again. Cow Parsley is growing thickly in the north verge of the bridleway above South Littleton church and in the adjacent field there is some with Buttercup, Beaked Hawk's-beard and Oxeye Daisy. Beyond the orchard on the other side, a Crow flies over the cornfield which is full of Shepherd's-purse. Towards the end of the hay field on the right, the Cow Parsley grows thickly again in the verge. A Blue Tit flits along the hedgerow. Ten butterflies have been seen so far, six Small White, a Holly Blue and three Green-veined White. Beaked Hawk's-beard occurs again in the market garden above the hay field and in the market garden further up on the other side are Field Speedwell and Henbit Dead-nettle. These two continue up in the corn to the start of Windmill Hill. Butterflies have now become numerous twenty more being counted to this point, seven Green-veined White, two Small White, four Small Heath, a Holly Blue, four Large White, an Orange Tip and a Small Tortoiseshell.
(5m) - In the meadows beside the river from Pickersham the Bulbous and Meadow Buttercups colour the grass. Near the end of the first field there are a number of damselflies, male and female Banded Demoiselle and Blue-tailed. Brooklime is flowering at the water's edge in the fifth meadow. A Crow flies over and a Chiffchaff and Blackcap are heard close at hand. In the next field are more Banded Demoiselle damselflies and Rape and Wavy Bitter-cress grow at the edge of the water. Half way across the seventh field a Sparrowhawk circles slowly and quite low directly overhead then glides off towards Harvington. A Moorhen scuttles off across the river and a Great Crested Grebe swims lazily in midstream. Over the surface of the water and into the field a number of Swallows and House Martins skim about catching insects.
6 - JUNE
(6a) - The footpath to Pebworth Road leaves Sheenhill Road east of the prison by a stile into a horse pasture. The ridge and furrow running up the lower slopes of Sheen Hill is studded with Bulbous Buttercup. Three Small Heath butterflies are seen flying about in the warm sunshine. Cow Parsley and Common Vetch grow along the hedge and towards the north end of the field there are quite a few Daisy flowers. Butterflies are numerous this end, three Small White, two Green-veined White and Small Copper being noted. Taking the footpath towards Buckle Street, plants of Common Mouse-ear, Cowslip, Lady's Bedstraw and Lesser Trefoil are seen before leaving the field to cross a track and enter a cow pasture. The path goes over the top of the hill through the pasture past an old solitary Wych Elm with most of its trunk broken off, its lower branches now forming a reasonable crown covered with winged fruits. [This pasture is now divided into two and the eastern half of the first one is now a plantation. The Wych Elm has gone.] The next field is planted with beans, though the corner is full of Cow Parsley. In the beans, Cut-leaved Crane's-bill grows thickly and in the verge under the hedge are patches of White Dead-nettle and Common Vetch. After a while Cut-leaved Crane's-bill becomes more scattered and is accompanied by Field Speedwell. A Green-veined White and a couple of Peacock butterflies fly along the verge. Across the second half of the field Rough Chervil also occurs in places in the verge and Corn Buttercup in the beans, seventeen Buttercup plants being seen from the path. Near to Buckle Street a patch of Field Forget-me-not is found with the White Dead-nettle and Cow Parsley. A Large White and an Orange Tip butterfly are seen in this half.
(6b) - Along Buckle Street towards Pebworth Crossroads Cow Parsley is plentiful. On the first, wide, part of the east verge there is much Common Vetch with some Black Medick and Oxeye Daisy. Orange Tip butterflies are common, nine being seen here. A Yellowhammer flies over and Swallows wheel about looking for insects. The west verge is narrow and has now been mown right across but where it starts to widen out again there are Creeping Buttercup, Common Vetch and some Meadow Buttercups with Cow Parsley. A patch of False Fox-sedge occurs adjacent to the road. The verge opposite the cottages is now coloured with Crosswort among the Violet and Cowslip plants but the few Adder's-tongue ferns are very inconspicuous. Other plants in flower include Bulbous and Meadow Buttercup, Germander Speedwell, Common Vetch and Field Forget-me-not with many other plants yet to flower among the Cow Parsley. From the cottages to Pebworth Crossroads on the east side White Dead-nettle and Nettle occur among the Cow Parsley with some Common Vetch towards the end. On the west verge Meadow Buttercup and Common Vetch grow with Nettle predominating as Pebworth Road is reached. In the western hedge a Dogwood in bud and two Wayfaring-trees, one in flower, are noticed and there is a large Willow near Pebworth Road. More butterflies have been seen, five Green-veined White, three Small White and two Orange Tip. Between Ullington and Blake's Hill a Kestrel flies over the fields and into the Ash tree at the north-east corner of the football ground. It sits there preening itself for a while before flying off beyond the chicken farm. Further towards the village, in the pasture opposite Blake's Hill council houses, a Little Owl flies up out of the field in the direction of the church and alights on a trailer parked at the top of the field. It sits there for a while with Chaffinches on fences around it, watching it, and then flies off back the way it came.
(6c) - The footpath from the top of School Lane over Harrow Hill to Three Cocks starts off as a stone road with verges. Over the hedge on the north side a dozen House Martins collect mud from a puddle in the transport yard. On both verges Cow Parsley grows thickly. There is an occasional Buttercup in the north pasture above the yard and a few large patches of Germander Speedwell in the south verge. Beaked Hawk's-beard is prominent around the top of the factory building area on the south and also opposite in the pasture where it mixes with Common Vetch and Black Medick. Cow Parsley continues on both sides of the road mixed in with a patch of Germander Speedwell and White Dead-nettle on the south and White Dead-nettle, Beaked Hawk's-beard and Daisy on the north and, just before the junction with the middle stone road, Ground-ivy, Common Vetch and Garlic Mustard. Up to this point three Orange tip and two Small White butterflies have been seen. The market garden on the north past the junction has a few Common Fumitory, Field Speedwell, Chickweed and Red Dead-nettle. On the left the verge has Cow Parsley with some White Dead-nettle, Nettle, Common Vetch and Garlic Mustard. The stone road now bends left but the footpath continues on between the corn fields to the edge of Harrow Hill. Plants growing in the corn, and sometimes spilling out onto the track, include Hedge Mustard, Chickweed, Red Dead-nettle, Shepherd's-purse, Hoary Cress, Black Medick, Common Vetch, Ribwort Plantain, Charlock, Field Speedwell and Long-headed Poppy. A Skylark sings high in the sky above the hilltop. Butterflies seen since the junction of the stone roads are three Small White, two Large White, two Orange Tip and a Green-veined White. Beyond the stile the path falls steeply and diagonally over the horse pasture on the escarpment face. Cow Parsley is thick along the top of the scarp but almost immediately the vegetation changes to dry downland turf. Plants in flower here are Ribwort Plantain, Daisy, Bird's-foot-trefoil, Glaucous Sedge, Bulbous Buttercup, Crested Dog's-tail, Hoary Plantain and Meadow buttercup. Many more plants have yet to flower. A Rabbit scuttles for cover beneath a Bramble bush. A Wall Brown, Large White, Common Blue and three Small Heath butterflies are seen.
(6d) - Returning to the stone road, the bridleway to Cleeve Hill is taken. This passes through Windmill Hill Nature Reserve along the eastern boundary. Immediately on entering butterflies are seen, eleven through the Plum thicket at the entrance and out into the open by the reservoir, two Small White, two Speckled Wood, two Orange Tip, two Large White, a Small Heath, a Common Blue and a Wall Brown plus a Blue-tailed Damselfly. A Blackcap sings from the thicket. Beside the path are Bulbous Buttercup, Common Vetch, Oxeye Daisy and Sainfoin. From the reservoir to the first enclosure [now the third enclosure] seven more butterflies are seen, two Large White, a Common Blue, Orange Tip, Wall Brown, Small Heath and Small White. In the enclosure [now the third and fourth enclosures] are some Bulbous Buttercup and Daisy flowers and Cow Parsley lines the path next to the market garden. On the right of the track beyond the market garden a Field Maple and Buckthorn are in flower. Fifteen more butterflies have been counted, three Small White, seven Wall Brown, three Small Heath and two Small Tortoiseshell. In the end enclosure [now the sixth enclosure] are more Buttercup and Daisy flowers and in the track is a large patch of Germander Speedwell. A Willow Warbler sings from near the south end of the enclosure and a Bullfinch flies out of the hedge. A further seven butterflies are seen before the north end of the Nature Reserve is reached, three Large White, two Small White and a Small Tortoiseshell.
(6e) - Towards the end of the first week of June the weather turns cold and wet with flooding in the riverside fields and it remains cold until the end of the month. During the final week it turns more showery. In Long Hyde by the recreation ground Horse-radish, White Comfrey, Cut-leaved Crane's-bill and Charlock are flowering. In the verge on the south side of the road is a patch of Bird's-foot-trefoil and some Hogweed, Red Clover, and Daisy. A few Elder and White Bryony blossom in the hedge. The field at the top of the hill on the left is full of Charlock with some Field Penny-cress. As the road starts to drop down the other side the north verge is covered with Hemlock and in the hedge are a number of Elder and a Dogwood in flower. Some more Dogwood occurs in the hedge on the south side with scattered Hemlock below. Along the flattish section before the road drops down again there is an entrance into the field of wheat rising up the hillside. Here there are Common Vetch, Garlic Mustard and Prickly Lettuce and a Skylark sings overhead. A few more Dogwood, now in bud, are found in the hedge before the drive on the north side where the road falls again. On the east side of the drive are Beaked Hawk's-beard, Common Vetch, Cut-leaved Crane's-bill, Oxeye Daisy, Wild Carrot, White Clover, Black Medick and Hedge Bedstraw, a number of snails are keeping cool on the plant stems. Across the drive are Wild Carrot, Oxeye Daisy, Common Vetch, Lesser Trefoil, Daisy, Beaked Hawk's-beard and White Bryony. Garlic Mustard and Hemlock grow thickly on the hedge bank at the opposite side of the road. On this verge opposite the cottages is a large patch of Ground-elder forming a carpet of white blossom. Below this, before the next group of cottages, a Hedgerow Crane's-bill is found flowering among the Hedge Woundwort, White Dead-nettle, Garlic Mustard, Creeping Buttercup and Goat's-beard.
(6f) - On the upstream side of the "Fish and Anchor" ford is a big bed of Common Club-rush. Above the river on top of the retaining wall is a clump of Horse-radish and another one at the far end with some Hedge Bedstraw and Beaked Hawk's-beard. In the north verge by the entrance to the caravan park can be seen Spotted Medick plants, Horsetail, Yarrow, Dove's-foot Crane's-bill and Common Vetch. Along the side of the thicket are flowers of Dove's-foot Crane's-bill, Meadowsweet, Horse-radish, Hogweed, Green Alkanet and Common Mallow and just beyond Green Alkanet, Yarrow, Hogweed, Meadow Buttercup, Hemlock and Hedge Mustard. There are few flowers in the narrow verge from here to the very steep part of "Fish and Anchor" Bank apart from the occasional White Dead-nettle and Hedge Woundwort. As the verge widens up the hill the number of flowers increases considerably and Rough Chervil, Bittersweet, Black Bryony, White Bryony, Yarrow, Dog-rose, Garden Asparagus, Wild Cherry, Creeping Cinquefoil, Meadow Vetchling, White Clover, Red Clover, Bird's-foot-trefoil, Hop Trefoil, Wild Carrot, Goat's-beard, Rough Hawkbit, Salad Burnet, Black Medick and Wild Liquorice are found. Beyond the bridleway there are similar flowers but there is also an abundance of Grass Vetchling up to the summit of the hill. On the cutting slopes above the entrance to the bridleway on the other side of the road can be found Pyramidal Orchid and Yellow-wort and, towards the summit of the hill, there are a couple of Bee Orchids. From here along Arrow Lane to the crossroads there is not much of interest, a number of Common Poppy flowers can be seen in the corn and some Field Penny-cress in the market garden opposite. Scattered along the rest of the north verge can be found White Clover, Meadow Vetchling, Hogweed, Cut-leaved Crane's-bill, Scented Mayweed, White Bryony, White Campion, Hedge Woundwort and White Dead-nettle. On the wide verge in the south -east angle of the crossroads there is quite a show of Scented Mayweed. A Common Blue butterfly flits around and there are many snails attached to the grass stems.
(6g) - Along Farm Lane in South Littleton the stone walls now have many flowers on them. White Stonecrop is common on the north side and occurs with Biting Stonecrop, Herb-Robert, Hop Trefoil and Annual Wall-rocket. Opposite the school the Parsley-piert is coming into bud and from here down to Manor House Farm Herb-Robert crowds the wall top. Littleton Brook upstream of the bridge is lined on both sides with a tall, thick swathe of Hemlock and in the water on both ends of the bridge there is some Water Forget-me-not. Below the bridge in Blacksmiths Lane a couple of Spotted Flycatchers perch on the barbed wire fence under the Willow branches ready to dart out and catch passing insects.
7 - JULY
(7a) - The weather has turned hot and dry for the first ten days of July making butterflies active once again. From Shinehill Lane across the footpath to Bretforton seven Small Heath butterflies are spotted together with a Marbled White in the hay field. Field Penny-cress is growing in the market garden. Crossing the brook into the mowing grass the drifts of Hemlock have to be negotiated in places along the field edge. Butterflies are abundant in this field, twenty seven Small Heath, eight Meadow Brown and a Common Blue are seen. In places Wall Barley, Cut-leaved Crane's-bill and Meadow Buttercup occur and Curled Dock is plentiful. The hedge contains quite a number of Hop plants, Dog-rose, and White Bryony and on the ditch sides are Hedge Woundwort and Rough Chervil. A Swift and Magpie fly past. In the next field the Hemlock is confined to the northern edge of the grass. Butterflies abound in this field too, fifty six Small Heath, twelve Meadow Brown and a Small Tortoiseshell being recorded. Beside the hedge bank and in the hedge are seen Dog-rose, Bittersweet, Wild Privet, Hedge Woundwort, White Bryony, Dogwood, Black Bryony and Hogweed. Along the footpath to East Side between the gardens of Shinehill Lane the track is lined with many Wild Onion plants. Creeping Cinquefoil, Field Bindweed, Wild Parsnip, Lesser Trefoil, Daisy, Yellow-rattle and Oxeye Daisy can also be found. A Common Blue butterfly flies around in the field beyond the stile where the grass has just been cut. Little evidence is left of the mass of Alsike Clover growing in the field but many of the pods of Yellow-rattle are lying where they fell on the ground. With the removal of the flowers most of the butterflies have gone elsewhere or are lingering around the uncut edges of the field, one Small Heath and two Meadow Brown being seen. A Skylark sings overhead. At the next stile the narrow uncut strip at the foot of the hedge contains many flowering plants including much Grass Vetchling.
(7b) - At the eastern end of Shinehill Lane at its junction with the lane running north to Norval Farm is a patch of Field Scabious. The hedge on this side of Sheenhill Road is thick with the leaves of Hop which continues half way to the pond and is then replaced with Dogwood. A few Common Mallow flowers have come up since the verge was cut. Some more Dogwood and some Buckthorn occur in the hedge beyond. Part of the wide uncut verge by the entrance to Cockharbour is yellow with Lady's Bedstraw and has a few Wild Onions here and there. There are many snails anchored to the grass stems. A Brimstone butterfly flaps slowly across the road by the prison entrance. Another area of uncut verge remains where the footpath past Littleton Pastures to Pebworth Road commences. Here there is more Grass Vetchling . In the horse pasture over the stile are patches of Bird's-foot-trefoil and in one or two of them a plant of Pepper-saxifrage. A Hare speeds off towards the slopes of the hill and a few butterflies are seen, Common Blue, Small Heath and Meadow Brown.
(7c) - On the west side of Buckle Street where the wider verge starts, just south of the cottages, only part of the verge has been mown. The strip of longer grass against the hedge is thick with Meadow Crane's-bill. Further north Wild Onion is evident all along to beyond the cottages and in part of this stretch near the buildings there are twenty five Field Garlic with flower heads ready to open. Also seen are Yellow Oat-grass, Pepper-saxifrage, Meadow Vetchling, Lady's Bedstraw and Spiked Sedge. A Chiffchaff calls from the large Ash tree. Not much of interest is seen from here to Pebworth Crossroads. Along the south verge of Pebworth Road as far as the track to Littleton Pastures are seen half a dozen more Field Garlic with occasional Lady's Bedstraw, Wild Onion, Bird's-foot-trefoil, Agrimony, Rough Hawkbit, Tor-grass, Meadow Buttercup, Yarrow, Creeping Buttercup and Red Clover. All down the rest of the verge as far as Mary Brook there are patches of Hedge Bedstraw, some quite thick. A clump of Hairy St John's-wort is spotted and a Ringlet butterfly.
(7d) - During the middle of the month the weather becomes more cloudy and then showery and cool. Crossing the sheep pasture on the footpath from Clayfield Road to the bottom of Long Hyde a number of species of grasses can be seen on the ridge and furrow. These include Meadow Barley, Yellow Oat-grass, Smaller Cat's-tail and Crested Dog's-tail. Other plants in flower are Meadow Buttercup, White Clover, Red Clover, Common Sorrel, Yarrow, Common Mouse-ear, Bird's-foot-trefoil, Lady's Bedstraw, Selfheal, one or two Daises and, near the bridge over the brook, a Pepper-saxifrage. Many Small Heath and some Meadow Brown butterflies fly around. On the stone bridge are some Creeping Cinquefoil and many Thyme-leaved Sandwort. The field over the bridge has been cut for hay and is of little interest but in the market garden beyond there is a representative sample of garden weeds, Sun Spurge, Field Penny-cress, Groundsel, Shepherd's-purse, Fat-hen, Red Dead-nettle and Smooth Sow-thistle.
(7e) - The Nature Reserve is at its best this time of the year with its usual multitude of butterflies. A walk along the bridleway across Windmill Hill records the following butterflies within three metres of the track - one hundred and fifty Marbled White, thirty seven Ringlet, twenty three Meadow Brown, nine Large Skipper, four Common Blue, four Small Heath, three Small White and one Speckled Wood. Within the same area are seen the following flowers - Tall Melilot, Welted Thistle, Hemlock, Hedge Woundwort, Wild Privet, Smooth Sow-thistle, Wild Liquorice, Nipplewort, Bird's-foot-trefoil, Wild Carrot, Red Clover, White Clover, Field-rose, Common Spotted-orchid, Lady's Bedstraw, Rough Hawkbit, Selfheal, Lesser Trefoil, Dog-rose, Meadow Vetchling, Hop Trefoil, Common Centaury, Field Bindweed, Bee Orchid, Yellow-wort, Field Scabious, Agrimony, Meadow Buttercup, Dandelion, Pyramidal Orchid, White Bryony, Yarrow, Rosebay Willowherb, Creeping Buttercup, Tufted Vetch, Perforate St John's-wort and Bittersweet. Further along the bridleway towards Littleton Coppice a couple of Southern Hawker dragonflies are watched as they patrol back and forth along the path. Returning through the Nature Reserve in the twilight, Bats can be seen darting about along the bridleway at the northern end and by the reservoir. In the early darkness Tawny Owls call from the dingle leading down to the "Fish and Anchor".
(7f) - The last week of July gives a brief period of warm, dry weather. On walking up the footpath from School Lane to Harrow Hill in the middle of the night three Glow-worms, now scarce in the county, are seen shining brightly halfway up the path by the junction of the stone roads.
8 - AUGUST
(8a) - The weather turns un-seasonal once more at the start of the month being cool and showery. Nettles are now thick along the sides of most of the bridleway from Littleton Coppice. Other species growing in some numbers are Hedge Woundwort, Nipplewort, Lesser Burdock, White Bryony and Prickly Sow-thistle. By the side of the Coppice a solitary Meadow Brown butterfly is seen and beside the path Hairy-brome, Barren Brome, Herb-Robert, Welted Thistle, Wood Avens, Upright Hedge-parsley and Prickly Lettuce are found. In the next section there are Traveller's-joy, Hedge Mustard and Dog-rose and then up to the dip by the corn field, Traveller's-joy, Wood Avens, Hairy-brome, False Brome, Spear Thistle, Welted Thistle, Rough Chervil, Greater Burdock, Black Bryony, Hedge Mustard, Bittersweet, Upright Hedge-parsley, Selfheal, Smooth Sow-thistle and Bristly Ox tongue. On the south side of the dip under the hedge the Deadly Nightshade has now grown into a biggish bush and has buds, flowers and large green berries all at the same time. From here to the old fence line there are Traveller's-joy, Rough Chervil, Smooth Sow-thistle, False Brome, Wood Avens, Bittersweet, White Dead-nettle, Hemlock, Bramble, Bearded Couch, Common Couch, Hogweed, Field Bindweed, Greater Burdock and Hairy-brome. A Red Admiral butterfly perches on the vegetation with wings outspread trying to gain a little warmth and a Gatekeeper and a Small White are also spotted. On the way to the road are found Welted Thistle, Spear Thistle, Bittersweet, Rough Chervil, White Dead-nettle, Wood Avens, Hedge Bindweed, Hairy-brome, False Brome, Creeping Thistle, Barren Brome, Smooth Sow-thistle, Bramble, Bearded Couch, Traveller's-joy, Greater Burdock, and where the path opens out onto the verge of "Fish and Anchor" Bank, Wild Liquorice, Large Bindweed, Field Bindweed, Prickly Lettuce and Hoary Ragwort. As the sky darkens in the west from an approaching storm, thirty Swifts race about above the road cutting catching rising insects and a dozen or so more can be seen over the top of the escarpment to the north. Later, as the sun sets over the Vale, a group of forty geese in V-formation fly low over the river from the north, honking noisily as they go, following its course precisely until they disappear from sight by Offenham church.
(8b) - Leaving School Lane by the old school the footpath to Pebworth Road goes across the sheep pasture between the old orchard and Manor Road. Nothing of interest is noticed in this field or the one over Littleton Brook as the grass is so short. However, the brook is now thick with wild plants, the top of which have been browsed by the animals. Much of it is Fool's Water-cress but there is also Sweet-grass, Water Forget-me-not and Common Duckweed. The third field is being grazed having just the occasional Meadow Buttercup and Red and White Clover. Beyond this pasture, at the top of the hill, the path crosses into a wheat field and continues through it alongside its thick hedge and grassy verge. In the corn are Scarlet Pimpernel, Fat-hen, Charlock, Round-leaved Fluellen, Groundsel, Field Speedwell, Field Bindweed, Field Forget-me-not, Sun Spurge and a single seed head of Corn Buttercup while in the verge can be seen Cut-leaved Crane's-bill, Wild Carrot, Stone Parsley and the fruiting heads of Rough Chervil. After passing the small pond on the left the plants seen in the corn are Field Speedwell, Field Bindweed, Cut-leaved Crane's-bill, Round-leaved Fluellen in quantity, Black Medick, Knotgrass, Scarlet Pimpernel, Lesser Trefoil, Fool's Parsley, Sharp-leaved Fluellen and Field Forget-me-not. There are a good many species in the verge, the most common being Wild Carrot and Stone Parsley, together with Bramble, Garden Asparagus, Lady's Bedstraw, Common Restharrow, Fool's Parsley, Field Bindweed, Ribwort Plantain, Sharp-leaved Fluellen, one Field Garlic, Scentless Mayweed, Rough Chervil in fruit, Agrimony, Selfheal, Dwarf Spurge, Charlock, Upright Hedge-parsley, Common Mouse-ear, Common Knapweed, Wild Parsnip, Hedge Mustard, Spear Thistle and three Pepper-saxifrage. As the sun starts to go down a Heron is seen flying its usual route from over Shinehill Lane towards Middle Littleton church. Crossing the pasture beyond, a Hare is spied part way down the long narrow pasture on the right before the chicken farm is reached.
(8c) - Taking the footpath from Pebworth Road to Norval Farm, Celery-leaved Buttercup, Pink Water-speedwell and Water-cress are seen round the edge of the pond. The hay has just been cut in the following field but many plants remain in the hedge and hedgebank. These include Wild Teasel, Autumn Hawkbit, Meadow Buttercup, Charlock, Bramble, Prickly Sow-thistle, Yarrow, Stone Parsley, Goat's-beard, Selfheal, Wild Carrot, Common Knapweed, Upright Hedge-parsley, Black Medick, Tor-grass, White Campion, Field Scabious, Spear Thistle, Red Clover, Hedge Woundwort, Wild Parsnip and Perforate St John's-wort. The next field contains wheat in which are the two Fluellens, Dwarf Spurge, Fool's Parsley, Field Bindweed, Knotgrass, Cut-leaved Crane's-bill, Prickly Sow-thistle, Scarlet Pimpernel, Black Mustard, Black-bindweed, Common Orache, Fat-hen and Red Bartsia. By the hedge are Stone Parsley, Pepper-saxifrage, Wild Parsnip and fruiting Rough Chervil. In the cattle pasture beyond are a few Meadow Buttercups.
(8d) - From the chicken farm the ditch along the south verge of Pebworth Road is full of Fool's Water-cress, its leaves and flowers rising well above the level of the verge. There are stands of Great Willowherb here and there and the hedge is clothed in Hedge Bindweed and occasional Bittersweet. The bridleway to Hoden has dense vegetation crowding in from both its hedges in places leaving a narrow path which is now churned up into deep mud by horses with water standing on the surface. In more open stretches the path is quite dry. All along the sides are thick with fruiting Rough Chervil and, here and there, are Bramble, Lesser Burdock, Nipplewort and Hedge Woundwort. The fields of Rape have been harvested and opposite the first one Hairy St John's-wort is quite common. Few other plants are in flower, Herb-Robert, Great Willowherb, Tor-grass, Bearded Couch, Hairy-brome, Bristly Ox tongue, Bittersweet, Stone Parsley and White Dead-nettle only being seen.
(8e) - Returning from Cleeve Prior past Island Barn enclosure a patch of Greater Knapweed growing by the parish boundary is now in full flower and has, as in other years, a plant with pure white flowers among the normal plants. A dense mass of Field Pepperwort on the side of a market garden by the path has now podded up. Further on, in the middle of the track by the strips of orchard, are two clumps of Lucerne. An Agrimony is seen here and there. Where the footpath to Cleeve Road crosses the track along to Arrow Lane the hedge contains many Hop plants.
9 - SEPTEMBER
(9a) - The end of August and start of September is hot and sunny for a change. Taking the bridleway from South Littleton church to Cleeve Hill a Hare is spotted in the recently mown field on the right just in North and Middle Littleton parish. It grazes watchfully and when it realises that it has become seen, bolts for a patch of nearby Nettles in the middle of the field. Between Windmill Hill and Littleton Coppice an animal is seen about twenty metres in front bounding along the muddy path, then stopping to poke in the vegetation at the side. Noticing that it is being observed it rises up on its hind legs and gazes for a few seconds when it can be seen to be a Stoat. It pokes about again, moves on a little way, stands up for another look, then disappears into the undergrowth.
(9b) - Back from Cleeve Prior the riverside footpath is taken to look at the water plants which are now at their best. In Pickersham are flowers of Purple-loosestrife, Celery-leaved Buttercup, Water-pepper, Trifid Bur-marigold, Water Forget-me-not, Common Club-rush, Water-plantain, Gypsywort, Brooklime, Great Willowherb, Water Figwort, Flowering-rush, Water Chickweed, Marsh Yellow-cress, Creeping Yellow-cress, and plants of Arrowhead and Branched Bur-reed. In the next field there is some Meadowsweet. A Green Woodpecker flies along a hedgerow half way down the field. On the mud in the shallows of the fifth field are flowering Water-pepper, Celery-leaved Buttercup, Purple-loosestrife, Marsh Yellow-cress, Great Yellow-cress, Brooklime, Pink Water-speedwell, Skullcap, Water Chickweed, Trifid Bur-marigold, Water-plantain, Gypsywort, and Water Forget-me-not. A few Blue-tailed damselflies are around. The next field was cut for hay a few weeks ago and since then some of the Great Burnet plants have thrown up flowers, their dark red heads dotting the grass. Flowers on the mudbank in the south corner of the field are Celery-leaved Buttercup, Purple-loosestrife, Water-pepper, Water Chickweed, Brooklime, Nodding Bur-marigold and Common Orache and in the water are the bottle shaped pods of Yellow Water-lily. The following field has a long length of broad muddy edge on which most of the plants have been cropped by the cattle. However, in the shallows there is a good display of flowers of Flowering-rush and Arrowhead and a bank of Common Club-rush. A Moorhen swims out from a clump of Branched Bur-reed in the shallows and paddles in an agitated fashion in midstream. A single Swallow speeds over the water. Half way across to the hill a Heron is disturbed and flies over into the field to the north. It is good to see a Heron by the river again as, since May, about twenty have been found dead from poisoning between Alcester and Pershore, most between Bidford and Evesham. It is estimated that about half the Worcestershire population of Herons has died recently. Below the weir in the next field there occurs Water-plantain, Bur-marigold, Gypsywort, Water Chickweed, Purple-loosestrife, Water-pepper, Tansy and Great Willowherb, while on the small island containing the Black Poplar can be recognised Purple-loosestrife, Arrowhead, Water Chickweed, Water-pepper, and Yellow-cress.
(9c) - Where the footpath from Honeybourne to the prison enters the parish a few flower heads of Hemp-agrimony are spotted in the watercourse north of the track. The pond is now dried up and the field before the railway is grazed. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flies up from by the railway and flies off back towards Honeybourne. By the side of the railway line at the crossing are seen Sticky Grounsel, Hoary Ragwort, Common Toadflax, Wild Basil, Wild Carrot, Field Scabious, Hawkweed Ox tongue, Glaucous Sedge, Hop Trefoil, Meadow Vetchling, Field Bindweed and Black Medick. A Rabbit scuttles across the line and a few butterflies are seen, Meadow Brown, Small Heath, Large White, Wall Brown and Brimstone. Beside the track up to the farm are noted Hemlock, Bittersweet, Hedge Mustard, Upright Hedge-parsley, Wild Teasel, Creeping Buttercup, Rough Chervil, Stone Parsley, Common Orache, Hedge Woundwort, Creeping Cinquefoil and beyond the right-angle bend up to the farm a number of Wormwood. Between the railway and the bend a Large White, Peacock, Green-veined White and seven Gatekeeper butterflies and a Southern Hawker dragonfly are seen.
(9d) - Butterflies seem to be abundant along the wide verges of Buckle Street. On the east verge at the south end about thirty Green-veined White are counted and on the west verge just north of this up to the cottages a Meadow Brown, Peacock, Small White, two Gatekeeper, three Small Skipper and twenty four Green-veined White butterflies are noted. On this verge are now flowering Meadow Crane's-bill, Common Knapweed, Yarrow, Hedge Bindweed, Agrimony, Strawberry Clover, Cut-leaved Crane's-bill, Spiked Sedge, False Fox-sedge, Goat's-beard, Lady's Bedstraw, Meadow Vetchling, Field Garlic, Hoary Ragwort, Creeping Buttercup, Ribwort Plantain, Bird's-foot-trefoil, Pepper-saxifrage, Creeping Cinquefoil, Common Restharrow and a few others.
(9e) - Returning to the prison from Pebworth Road past Holborn the plants seen bordering the track up as far as the bean field on the left are Common Knapweed, Traveller's-joy, Hedge Bindweed, Great Willowherb, Field Bindweed, Creeping Cinquefoil, Wild Teasel and Meadow Vetchling. Butterflies seen in this length are twenty two Gatekeeper, eight Green-veined White, two Small White, two Peacock and a Meadow Brown. From here to the South Littleton parish boundary sixteen each of Green-veined White and Gatekeeper butterflies are counted and flowering plants seen are Field Bindweed, Hedge Bindweed, Great Willowherb, Lady's bedstraw, Black Medick, Red Clover, Cut-leaved Crane's-bill, Hedge Woundwort, White Dead-nettle and a patch of Silverweed plants.
(9f) - The following few days are showery with a touch of frost, followed by warm sunny weather for most of the remainder of the month. Dragonflies can be seen most days along the top of the escarpment, Southern Hawker and Common Darter at first then Common Darter and Migrant? Hawker towards the end of September.
10 - OCTOBER
(10a) - During the hot sunshine of the first day or two of the month the northern paddock of the Nature Reserve is busy with the flight of dragonflies. Three Migrant? Hawker hunt back and forth over the flat top at the northern end of the paddock while a couple of Common Darter perch on the top of the adjacent fence ready to pounce on passing insects. A Jay is seen flying north along the escarpment and a Green Woodpecker is heard nearby. The Ivy is now well in flower beside the bridleway to Cleeve Hill, its inconspicuous flowers attracting hundreds of hoverflies.
(10b) - Littleton Brook in Blacksmiths Lane at the bridge is full of Water Mint, Water Forget-me-not, and Fool's Water-cress. Along Shinehill Lane beyond Mary Brook there is the occasional White Campion in the north verge up to Long Lartin. Where Gate Inn Brook leaves the estate at the bridge under Withytrees Road it is full of Water Chickweed giving it a pale green blanket through which some Water-cress and Water Figwort emerge. Going up the brook to the fence of the "Unipart" compound Hedge Bindweed, White Dead-nettle, Branched Bur-reed, Yarrow, Hemlock, Wild Teasel, Wormwood and White Campion are seen as well. Near the bottom end of the prison a clump of Black Horehound flowers in the south verge of Sheenhill Road. Further up, where soil was recently imported to form a roadside bund in front of the prison, plants of Eastern Rocket, Sticky Groundsel, Weld and Oxeye Daisy grow. On the other side of the road from opposite the top prison entrance to above the prison are a couple of Musk Mallow, some Common Knapweed and Common Toadflax.
(10c) - Apart from the end of the first week, the month remains dry with some sunny days, Migrant Hawker dragonflies being active right through. Along the verge of Buckle Street, opposite the cottages, the seed heads of the many Hoary Ragwort plants are very conspicuous. Also to be seen are the seed heads of Agrimony and Common Knapweed. Down Pebworth Road from Pebworth Crossroads the north ditch adjacent to the paddock was cleared out earlier in the year and the soil placed on the verge. This now has evidence of many plants, those still in flower include abundant Spear Thistle, some Nipplewort, Common Orache, Burnet-saxifrage, Autumn Hawkbit, Black Medick, Yarrow, Common Knapweed, Rough Hawkbit, Hogweed, Red Clover, Tor-grass, Hedge Woundwort, Smooth Sow-thistle, Black Nightshade, Scentless Mayweed and those not in flower include Agrimony, Common Vetch, Creeping Thistle, Perforate St John's-wort, Lady's Bedstraw, Cleavers, Bittersweet, Meadow Vetchling, Fat-hen, Field Gromwell, Tall Melilot, Creeping Cinquefoil and White Bryony. In the gathering dusk of late October a long straggle of Rooks, a hundred and seventy five or more, flies past from the direction of Ullington Mill south-eastwards over Sheen Hill and on towards Honeybourne Station.
(10d) - Right at the end of the month a flock of about fifty Redwings is seen flying over Pebworth Road towards the north-west. In the trees bordering the bridleway to Hoden two Owls are calling while in the young corn of the adjacent field to the west half a dozen Lapwings search for food.
(10e) - Later in the day a flock of Redwings (the same one perhaps) is seen feeding on the multitude of Buckthorn berries in the thick hedge on the north side of the narrow riverside meadow cut for hay in the summer. At the water's edge in this field Water Chickweed, Celery-leaved Buttercup and Water-pepper are still in flower. There are many Gulls swimming on the water. In the next field south, a little way above the weir, a couple of Moorhens swim for cover to the opposite bank. Here there is more Water Chickweed and Celery-leaved Buttercup and one Water Figwort in flower.
11 - NOVEMBER
(11a) - November starts mostly dry and cold. One of the Sycamores in the front of South Littleton churchyard is full of raucous Starlings. On the stone walls Ivy-leaved Toadflax is in flower. Leaves are changing colour and the Plum and Lime trees in the recreation ground have already shed many of theirs. Near the pavilion is a waste area where grass mowings from the bowling green are tipped. Common Orache, Shepherd's Purse, Chickweed, Annual Mercury, Small Nettle and Black Nightshade are in flower here. Flowers of Common Mallow, Black Horehound and Autumn Hawkbit can be seen on the road verge alongside the recreation ground. At the summit of Long Hyde, in the verge on the inside of the bend , are quite a few Hawkweed Ox tongue and plants of Hoary Ragwort, Smooth Sow-thistle, Stone Parsley, Common Knapweed, Germander Speedwell, Wild Basil, Agrimony and Red Clover can be seen.
(11b) - On the hedge bank opposite the chicken farm in Pebworth Road a Stinking Iris plant is found. Further along the road on the village side of the football ground the north hedge is full of berries, Wild Privet, Hawthorn, some Dog-rose and the occasional Bittersweet. Twenty or so Fieldfares fly over south-eastwards. In the grass is the occasional Autumn Hawkbit, Yarrow, and Red Clover. On the mown verge of Blakeshill Farm a late Rough Chervil is in flower with some Daisies and, in front of the top council houses, a few plants of Bristly Ox tongue are conspicuous. At the bottom of the hill the Dogwood in the hedge is turning colour. Returning along the south side of Blake's Hill occasional Autumn Hawkbit, Red Clover, Prickly Sow-thistle, Goat's-beard and Yarrow are noticed from the top of the hill back down to the football ground. Sixty five Rooks fly over north-westwards. A further hundred or so search about on the ploughed field east of Ullington Mill.
(11c) - Most of the rest of the month is mild and damp or wet but the last week is cold and dry again turning milder on the last day. Some Starlings still remain among the churchyard trees accompanied by a Magpie. In the hedge beside the bridleway to Windmill Hill a Robin and a Great Tit sing. The Hawthorn berries are conspicuous now the leaves have fallen and some bushes are heavily loaded. The few Blackthorn berries are fat and fleshy. Over the crest of Harrow Hill to the west about thirty Rooks circle and sometimes do their characteristic twisting dives. Going along the riverside meadows beyond the caravan park a couple of Magpies are seen but little else. However, in the meadow above the weir the trees are full of noisy Fieldfares, many hundreds of them, by the river and down the hedges adjoining. A couple of fields beyond a Heron flies out from under the trees on the opposite bank and flies upstream to land in the middle of the first meadow in Salford Priors. A group of a dozen Long-tailed Tits flits downstream between bankside trees and bushes, squeaking away as they look for insects, completely unconcerned with any human presence as usual.
12 - DECEMBER
(12a) - The month starts wet and mild. Few plants are now in flower but on top of the walls of the big house opposite the church and of the churchyard in South Littleton many of the Flattened Meadow-grass are at their best. The rest of the vegetation on the village dry-stone walls has now died down revealing many empty shells of the various species of small and minute snails which live between the stones by day and browse lichen and dead vegetation at night. A short section of wall picked at random at the north-east of Farm Lane yielded the shells of half a dozen Door, half a dozen Chrysalis, one Slippery, one Rock and a Beautiful (excentrica) snail.
(12b) - In the verges and hedge banks next year's Cow Parsley is now coming up strongly. It clothes the sides of the bridleway from Hoden to Pebworth Road in fresh green vegetation. A Blackbird is disturbed from the hedge and another one from the hedge along the road towards Ullington. Further along a Blue Tit searches for food among the trees. As usual there are many Rooks around Ullington Mill, twenty in the field to the west, fifty in the trees of the drive, fifty in the field opposite the entrance and fifty in the field to the east. In this last field is also a flock of about a hundred Starlings. Another flock of about a hundred birds, probably Redwings, flies over and heads towards the prison and an Owl calls from over by Norval Farm.
(12c) - In late mid-month there are strong winds which blow off some of the plumed seeds of Traveller's-joy and some of these afterwards can be seen giving a scattered covering to the muddy southern entrance to Windmill Hill Nature Reserve. However, most seeds still remain on the plants and are very conspicuous as they drape over most of the bushes around the south end of the Nature Reserve. By the reservoir a late, stunted, Wild Carrot is seen with a large flower head in full bud. A big flock of the ubiquitous Wood Pigeon is sheltering from the wind in the trees at the bottom of the Nature Reserve. Where the paddocks have been grazed in the summer, new grass has sprung up giving them a lush appearance in places. By the bridleway half way along the hill a Buckthorn tree has started to shoot again. Down "Fish and Anchor" Bank just below the Nature Reserve entrance the hedge on the north side is white from the solid mass of Traveller's-joy plumes covering it.
(12d) - The weather turns cold on the last few days of the month and the wind blows from the east. A search for snail shells on part of the stone walls on the south side of the footpath between West Side and East Side in North Littleton yields fourteen Rock, two Door, one Rounded, one Pellucid, and a Beautiful (excentrica) snail. Crossing the pasture from East Side to Shinehill Lane a flock of Lapwings is seen half way down the fields towards the brook by the footpath to School Lane. They fly up and circle round to join others on a sheep pasture on the side of Blake's Hill. Half way over towards Shinehill Lane a Great Tit searches along the hedge and half a dozen Rooks fly off from over by the brook. Three or four Starlings and about twenty Fieldfares pass over. In the thicket just before the road only a few Blackthorn berries now remain on the trees. Crossing Shinehill Lane and taking the footpath to Bretforton a Pied Wagtail in a flock of small birds is foraging on the market garden land. A Blackbird and Blue Tit are seen in the hedge. At the end of the pasture beyond the brook a few fresh molehills have appeared by the stile. In the bottom of the hedge all along this field Wild Privet leaves can still be seen.
In the countryside generally there is now little of interest at the close of the year. The bare branches of the trees and bushes are dark against the straw-coloured grass. No flowers brighten the scene, no birdsong rises in the air. However, the promise of the coming Spring is now in evidence on closer examination, the conspicuous black buds on the Ash trees, the bright green of the new growth on the Cowslip plants and the call of the Robin from his territory on a warmer day. And so 1985 gives way to 1986 and the annual cycle starts once more.
I am grateful to the Littletons WI for prompting me to write the original Notes in 1985 and for turning them into a nice little booklet. Many thanks to current WI President Val Davies for permission to convert the booklet into the present article, and to Margaret Taylor and Margaret Woodford for permission to use some of their drawings. The latter have been scanned from a photocopy so lack something of the original quality for which the editor offers his apologies.
The small drawings for each month have been left out of this web version of the article, and the two accompanying maps can be found on a separate page as they are rather large.
Terry has also provided indices for locating species and place names that occur in the article.
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