The Straw Belle moth is now restricted to the North Downs and is found at just one site in Surrey, on National Trust land at Box Hill. It also occurs on a few sites in Kent. Even at Box Hill it is restricted to a small area, where it needs a varied chalk sward providing a range of conditions from bare ground and the short turf ‘hotspots’ needed by larvae, through to grass tussocks and scattered scrub that provide shelter for the adults.
In recent years volunteers from Butterfly Conservation have worked alongside NT to undertake management at Box Hill to secure and enhance the moth’s population. Cattle grazing was introduced at Box Hill in autumn 2013 using Belted Galloways from the Surrey Wildlife Trust herd, and a close eye has been kept on the effects of this on the vulnerable moth population. Cattle were excluded from part of the slope until we were confident that they would not overgraze it. Adult numbers of Straw Belle have remained stable under the new grazing regime.
Grazing pressure has varied over the slope, and last year it was evident that the top edge was becoming too dense and tussocky in places, so some small patches of the densest grass, a few metres in diameter, were strimmed and raked off to enable smaller plants, including Bird’s-foot Trefoil and Fairy Flax, thought to be among the Straw Belle’s larval foodplants, to grow and flower.
This has been successful, and in February this year, on the day when Storm Doris made being out on Box Hill a bracing experience, the new Surrey and SW London Branch conservation volunteer group helped NT assistant ranger Francisco to create further patches.
(from an article by Gail Jeffcoate)
The Friends Summer BBQ was once again held in David Kennington’s garden – and the rain held off after a threatening cloudy start. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves with several new members joining us and many long-standing members getting up to date with each others news.
David Kennington had already retired from NT earlier in the year and the Friends took this opportunity to thank David for his contribution to Box Hill over more than 30 years and wish him well for his future. Lyn presented him with a certificate to give him honorary lifetime membership of the FOBH and with a model of Broadwood’s Tower carved from the Holm Oak that had been growing inside the tower.
Model carved by Iain Hamilton Crafer.
Adonis Blue butterflies are out and about on Box Hill (or at least they were until today’s downpour!). Just in case you’ve missed them here’s a couple of great photos taken by our long term volunteer Francisco while out with his team of volunteers last week. Good to see our scrub bashing and cattle grazing is providing a good environment for the horseshoe vetch to flourish.
All the hard work by the Rangers and volunteers is rewarded by seeing the increase in flora and fauna on Box Hill, especially when somethings as rare and beautiful as the fly orchid puts in an appearance. This year several have been seen and a good increase on previous occasional sightings.
Over 65 people attended the FOBH AGM on Saturday. The Chairman and Treasurer’s reports were presented and accepted and the current committee was re-elected en bloc. The Chairman mentioned in her report that whilst in Stratford upon Avon she had visited New Place, Shakespeare’s home for many years, and was amazed at the bronze sculpture of Box Hill’s well known Hawthorn tree which is sadly no more on Box Hill but lives on in spirit at New Place.
Reports were then presented by the NT Lead Ranger, Mark Dawson, the Box Hill Ranger, David Benjamins, and the Box Hill Education Officer, Catherine McCusker.
At the end of the AGM the Friends were asked to approve giving life membership of the Friends to David Kennington, NT General Manager for the Surrey Hills, who is about to retire and has been a strong supporter of FOBH during his long career at NT. Approval was unanimous. The Chairman said that a full appreciation of David’s contribution to Box Hill would be made at the FOBH Summer BBQ in June.
Following a short break for the traditional tea and cakes the Head of the Field Studies Council London Region, Simon Ward, gave an excellent presentation of the work of the FSC and how it has grown over their 70 years at Juniper Hall. He pointed out how the landscape, flora and fauna, and location of Box Hill made it an extremely popular location for FSC visitors from around the world.
Work is progressing fast on restoring the riverside walk, now that NT has regained control of Lower Boxhill Farm. A fence has already been installed about 10 metres in from the riverbank which will allow visitors to walk beside the river whilst protecting the grazing cattle and wildlife that will be in the adjacent fields. Work is currently progressing on digging a large scrape which will be fed from the river and hopefully become an attractive wetlands area for birds and other wildlife. Three Little Egrets and several Grey Herons have already been seen showing a keen interest! The scrape should also help alleviate the flooding that occurs in this area every winter during periods of heavy rain.
NT are expecting this work to be completed and the riverside walk to be officially re-opened early in the New Year.
Friends and their guests attended a talk and dinner at the Burford Bridge Hotel on Monday, 21st November. Catherine McCusker, the NT Learning and Events Officer, gave a very entertaining talk on what makes Box Hill so special and this was followed by a three-course meal. The Burford Bridge Hotel very generously gave us the use of the magnificent Tithe Barn for the talk and then laid on a superb meal in the Garden Room. The event was extremely popular with over 50 people attending and everyone had a great time and several asking for more events of this type!
The autumn colours are still showing well on Box Hill – but hurry! The wind and rain expected over the next few days might blow the remaining leaves off the trees (they’ll still provide a colourful carpet on the ground though).
Autumn is here and Box Hill is looking stunning in its Autumn colours. Come up and enjoy the walks and the views whilst the trees are at their best. The Friends Autumn newletter is also available and full of information on what’s been going on on the Hill, as well as lots of lovely photographs. Click here to read it.
Friends may remember that some time ago a mould was taken of the Hawthorn on Butterfly Bend. Well, you can see from the photo and article what became of it. It is a nice memento to this lovely tree which subsequently came down in strong winds and was then driven into by a car that missed the bend completely!