Friday, 13 June 2008

Wye Downs National Park

I drove past this national nature reserve on my way to Bonsai Bank without really knowing it was there and decided to return at a later date, so here I am. It is owned by English Nature and I think is actually managed by Imperial College London which is a first. It is another great area of chalk grassland, harbouring many interesting species a few of which I managed to see even though the weather wasn't favourable with the threat of heavy rain.

Walking from the main car park you quickly come across the Devil's Kneading Trough - a steep-sided 'coombe' carved into the chalk escarpment by melt waters from the last ice age. In fact it is the steepness of the landscape that has probably saved it from being turned into farmland.

To try and preserve the chalk grassland habitat it is being grazed and I bumped into a few of the local management team.

Walking along the various trails through the grasslands I flushed a couple of medium sized white moths. These turned out to be black-veined moth, a protected species, restricted to a handful of locations in south-east Kent, it was formerly also found in some other southern counties. It flies during the day, especially in sunshine, and frequents rough downland, pastures and similar grassy places. Given it wasn't that sunny I was quite lucky. The sun did emerge for a brief spell and I was lucky enough to be in the right place for this large skipper to appear.
Large Skipper

I also couldn't resist this iridescent green beetle that was determined to stay on this flower no matter how close I got. Thanks to Greenie, the beetle is a mint leaf beetle, Chrysolina menthastri.

One of the specialty plants of the area is the late spider orchid and I managed to locate a few of this rare Kent species. As per the monkey orchids these plants require some special protection and have to be caged to avoid rabbit predation.

Related to bee orchids they are equally superb flowers.
Late Spider Orchid

It is thought that the seeds of this species have drifted over from the continent as it only has the most tenuous of holds in the UK with all the known plants in the south east part of Kent.


The Public Sector said...

What amazing photographs of the Wye Downs. Truelly fantastic!

BirdingBoy said...

Sounds like a great day! Your spider orchid photos are brilliant. I'm hoping to visit in a couple of days so hopefully I'll be as lucky as you!