Whiteley Pastures

Site feature providing more detailed description, photos and other information for the butterfly observer

Photo 1 - Main Track In Whiteley Pastures

Highlights

Forest Enterprise managed woodland in South Hampshire

Part of a large woodland complex with most woodland species represented including Silver-washed Fritillary, White Admiral, Purple Hairstreak, Purple Emperor and all the common woodland species

In the adjoining Botley Wood, Grizzled Skipper can also be found

Description

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 a very good 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. The gravelled track leading from this gate acts as the main route through the wood.

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 Nymphalids (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 (during July) anywhere along the main track with oaks and sallow never far away, and there are sightings or closer encounters every year. The section of the main track leading to a footbridge (just visible in the top photo) and just beyond has provided the majority of Emperor sightings, including groundings.

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) used to be good locations for Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral. Following a number of years of intensive forestry operations (including timber extraction), these areas did become less suitable for these species, being too open (or in the case of the shady glade, a bit too shady), however habitat is gradually improving and Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral numbers are now increasing again.

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 rides, as well as areas of wayleave under power lines. It somehow feels more remote and intimate than its neighbour, except for the tarmac road bisecting it (which is not a public right of way) and leads to the electricity substation. In summer, as in Whiteley Pastures, you may see Silver-washed Fritillary, White Admiral and even Purple Emperor (where there is plenty of sallow). In spring, 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. Look in the grassy rides such as the one here. It does well for other spring species too, such as Orange Tip and Brimstone.