Fluttering over the Surrey Hills

Last week Stu and I headed down to the Surrey Hills end of the valley, south of Tongham. The unimproved chalk grassland we manage was alive with butterflies, including the striking Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) and Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus).

Marbled White

There were also plenty of Large Skippers (Ochlodes venata). Keep your eyes peeled along the Hog’s Back.

Large Skipper

Acting Senior Ranger Stuart

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Knolly’s Hill Fencing

Despite the heat the Blackwater Valley Countryside Volunteers joined Bobbie and I at Knolly’s Hill in Aldershot to dismantle old military wooden post and rail fence.

Fence buried in the bushes

Getting stuck in

Despite Bobbie managing to find us yet more Japanese Knotweed to spray the 4 volunteers successfully removed all the fencing (as well as collecting some bags of litter), so much so, it wouldn’t all fit in our biggest trailer!

Completely full trailer

A big thank you to Duncan, David, Andrew and Mike for coming out and working so hard in such heat. Hopefully the ice lollies helped!

Assistant Ranger Laura

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Shiny new task programme for July

Volunteer Task Programme July 2017

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Dashing Demoiselles in Cove Brook

Yesterday at the Cove Brook Fun Day, Bobbie and I showed off pond dipped wildlife from the brook. One notable sighting was this nymph, which is rather on the large side for a damselfly larva. The three leaf-like caudal lamellae that emerge from it’s abdomen are used for respiration. They are also useful for identification, with the two paler bands on the outer lamellae making this a Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens).

Banded Demoiselle Nymph

The adults have iridescent blue or green bodies, with the males showing a distinctive ‘black thumb-print’ pattern on their wings. It’s great to find this nymph since both demoiselle species only breed in flowing water, so are rarely picked up in our pond dipping. Keep an eye out on the Cove Brook and River Blackwater.

Acting Senior Ranger Stuart

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Unexpected Wildlife

Today the volunteers and I are on our barn owl survey. It’s a lovely surprise to unearth two pyramidal orchids on our lunch break in a supermarket car park.

Pyramidal orchids

Acting Senior Ranger Stuart

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Knot More Weed?

Yesterday Bobbie and I again donned our rather warm spray suits to cut and treat most of the remaining Japanese Knotweed in the Valley. If left unmanaged, then this non-native invasive plant forms a dense mono-culture that swaps other vegetation. The stems grow like bamboo up to around 10ft and have large distinctive leaves.

As Laura reported on one of our recent outings, it’s great to see our hard work is paying off. On previously treated areas we are often only finding sparse low regrowth which we can easily spray off.

This year on  plot 105 at Chalk Farm in Wellesley, we cut and treated the remaining half of the Japanese Knotweed.

Stu diving into the undergrowth

The extent of Knotweed in 2016

Newly cleared patch

It’s very rewarding to get on top of this large area and open up the bank. A huge thank you for everyone’s help on this challenging task.

Acting Senior Ranger Stuart

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Northern Walk

My fourth walk of the year for the Blackwater Valley Countryside Trust will be on Saturday June 17th. This will be a circular walk starting at Swallowfield All Saints Church car park at 10:00 and will be about 7 miles long.

We will head back down the Blackwater River to cross where we were on our Eversley walk in Bramshill Plantation, before circling back to the Whitewater River and past Riseley Mill and farm on way back to the start.


Unlike the Caesars Camp walk there are no steep gradients but this time there will be several stiles. We will be walking on the river paths, through fields and farmland and forestry plantation, however there will be some road walking.

Hopefully the sun will shine, red kites will soar and kingfishers will show up!

The car park is off Church Road on the edge of Swallowfield Park with grid reference SU732648 nearest post code RG7 1TH.


Volunteer Paul



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