Farley Mount Country Park

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

 

Photo 1 - Pitt Down Eastern Section

Highlights

Large Country park managed jointly by Hampshire County Council and Forest Enterprise, comprising areas of downland and woodland

Visitor facilities include recreation areas, picnic places and a covered barbecue 

The monument (actually a folly dedicated to a horse!) provides fine views in all directions

Choice of car parks provide access to different areas where butterflies characteristic of  chalk downland and woodland can be seen

Key species include Dark Green Fritillary, Silver-washed Fritillary, White Admiral and occasionally, Purple Emperor 

Description

 

Farley Mount Country Park is located about 4 miles due west of Winchester and is deservedly popular with good facilities for visitors. Much of the park is wooded (West Wood, which is a working wood and Crab Wood in particular), but unusually for a single site there is also an area of unimproved chalk downland (Pitt Down). It is this combination of different habitats that makes the park a good location for butterflies - and to cap it (literally!) the park has a pyramydal shaped monument perched at its highest point (Farley Mount) providing fine views of the surrounding country.

There are several car parks located along a 2km stretch of the minor road running west along the southern edge of the park. For the main recreation area (picnic places, barbecue and public conveniences) use the easternmost car park (arrowed on this map). There are occasional sightings of Purple Emperor  from the various car parks including this one, so be aware if you are there during July. Overall however, the best butterfly locations, in my experience, are to the west (Pitt Down) and east (Crab Wood - eastern section) of this recreation area and are described below. A number of the species found around the park are very mobile (Dark Green Fritillary, Silver-washed Fritillary and Purple Emperor (if you are very lucky!), so could be encountered anywhere close to suitable habitat.

Pitt Down

Although Pitt Down occupies a large area, much of it on the south side of the minor road is turned over to farmland. However, a section of unimproved chalk downland remains within the country park and can be accessed from car parks along the minor road. The area of downland bordered by woodland on three sides and the road on the other, is the best for butterflies, and particularly its eastern section (arrowed here) and western section (arrowed here). The distribution of species does fluctuate from season to season and butterfly recently been introduced on the western section. The eastern section (Photo 1), with regenerating scrub  seems currently favoured by the Dark Green Fritillaries, accompanied by commoner species such as Marbled White, Small Heath and Common Blue. Clouded Yellow and Grizzled Skipper are also occasionally seen. 

Crab Wood

Photo 2 - Open Glade In Crab Wood

Crab Wood is not only a fine example of ancient woodland, but was once an important part of Hampshire's hazel coppicing industry. As a means of preserving it, the wood is still coppiced today based on a detailed rotational plan first set out by Hampshire Wildlife Trust in the late sixties. It is a lovely place for a woodland walk with wide rides, clearings and plenty of wild flowers. The wood actually extends to the other side of the minor road running north to Sparsholt, and encompasses the main Farley Mount picnic and barbecue area, however I will concentrate here on the broad-leaved area to the east of this minor road. There is parking for several cars along the side of Lanham Lane (no through road for vehicles) and there are two entrances into the wood along there. I usually use the second one arrowed here.

There is a network of tracks in the wood although they are not shown on the OS Landranger map. Nevertheless, the wood is quite compact (1km x ½km) and the butterfly species are not confined to specific localities, so it is not necessary to follow a particular predefined route.  It is however recommended to explore the Aspen ride (it is the one running N-S close to the minor road mentioned above) also at least one of the rides running east from it. Woodland species which should be encountered, depending on time of visit, include Silver-washed Fritillary and Speckled Wood as well as common species such as Brimstone, Peacock, Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown. White Admiral are also reported from the wood although I have not been successful myself - and I suspect that the wood, whilst beautiful, is a little too open for this species to thrive.