Site feature providing more detailed description, photos and other information for the butterfly observer
Photo 1 - Main Track in Whiteley Pastures
Forest Enterprise managed woodland in South Hampshire
Good site for woodland species, especially Silver-washed Fritillary, White Admiral and Purple Hairstreak.
Purple Emperor also present and more conspicuous in recent years.
The adjoining Botley Wood also has colonies of Grizzled Skipper and Dingy Skipper.
Whiteley Pastures, despite its name, is a managed woodland (Forest Enterprise) just to the west of Fareham in the south of the county and close to junction 9 of the M27 motorway. Although the area is now on the very edge of housing, out of town shopping and business park developments, it is still an excellent woodland for butterflies, especially if a visit is combined with the adjoining Botley Wood (which is managed by Hampshire County Council). Street parking is available on the Solent Business Park including at end of the road leading to the NATS technical centre, which is very close. It's then a case of making one's way on foot to the Whiteley Pastures entrance gate located here.
As one nears the entrance gate, a minor detour can be made to a single Wych Elm tree which has a small colony of White-letter Hairstreak (best chance of sightings is late June/early July), however you will need to be lucky to see any. Just before the track bends right towards the entrance gate, keep straight on up a minor track. You will reach a brick built hut on the left after about 50m, opposite a small meadow. The Wych Elm is few yards to the right of the track at the back of the meadow.
Now return and enter Whiteley Pastures proper via the main gate and follow the main track (Photo 1). This open ride with a ditch to the right (with regular crossing places) is good for the commoner browns such as Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood and also for Skippers (Large, Small, Essex). Brimstones and some of the Vanessids (Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma) are also likely. The oak trees on both sides of the track, but particularly on the right, provide a home for Purple Hairstreaks, and they can sometimes be seen crossing between oaks from one side of the ride to the other. It is also worth keeping one's eyes peeled for Purple Emperor anywhere along the main track with oaks and sallow never far away, and there are sightings or closer encounters every year. Whilst late June through to mid-July is probably the best time to visit for the main woodland species (White Admirals slightly earlier) commoner butterflies will be seen from April through until early September.
Photo 2 - Shady Glade Beyond The Ridge
As a working woodland, the character of Whiteley Pastures evolves according to the cycle of forest operations, including timber extraction work. So too the distribution of species along the margins of the main track also evolves. The half-mile section leading up to the cross tracks (here) at Ridge Copse, and the shady glade immediately beyond it (Photo 2) are usually as good locations as any to see Silver-washed Fritillary, White Admiral and even Purple Emperor.
The return is made by retracing the route. Alternatively, a detour can also be made into Botley Wood (Hampshire County Council managed nature reserve). In this case turn right at the cross tracks at Ridge Copse, continue under the power lines to reach a stile and notice board marking the entrance to the Wood. Botley Wood has a slightly different character to Whiteley Pastures, having rough grassy glades, both narrow (e.g. here) and wide, as well as areas of wayleave under power lines. It somehow feels more remote and intimate than its neighbour, except for the gravelled road bisecting it (which is not a public right of way) and leads to the electricity substation. In spring especially, Botley Wood is worthy of a visit in its own right, having one of the few woodland populations of Grizzled Skipper in the county (although numbers are very variable), and also a few Dingy Skippers. Look in the wider grassy glades, such as the one here, shown in Photo 3, for both species. It does well for other spring species too, such as Orange Tip and Brimstone.
Photo 3 - Wide Grassy Glade In Botley Wood Providing Habitat For Grizzled And Dingy Skippers