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From Humble Beginnings : 36 years of
Butterflying in Hampshire
I joined Hampshire Butterfly Conservation in 1984, and the Society was still really in its infancy and a lot has happened to the branch in all those years. When I joined the branch I was still in the Royal Navy, so I was away a lot of the time, and when I was in the UK, I spent time in Berkshire where I lived in Reading, coming across into Hampshire on the odd occasion in the summer time to see the elusive Purple Emperor, at Butterwood close to Basingstoke.
The ships I served on were always based in Portsmouth, and so I familiarised myself with several well known sites, these being Portsdown Hill, and Botley Wood, near Fareham. When I visited these sites in the 1980’s butterflies we consider rare now were quite common, species like the Wall Brown, and Dingy Skipper at Portsdown Hill. These could be found without any difficulty, and in the well wooded areas in and around Fareham, the Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary and Pearl Bordered Fritillary frequented themselves in the meadows and rides. This was of course before the invading Whiteley Industrial and retail park, which has grown into a large housing estate and has swallowed up large areas of green space, and threatens to make Fareham into a small City with other ‘New Towns’ being built around the area.
In the Royal Navy part of my job was intelligence gathering and a camera was never very far away, and Macro photography was to become my passion. Never more so than recording many butterflies and moths.
The Newsletter in the 1980's was quite basic but with lots of eye-brow raising information
Portsdown Hill was a sanctuary for me, with such gems as the Dingy Skipper, Small Heath and the Wall Brown all have sadly become extinct, since the 1980's here.
Botley Wood still had small colonies of the Pearl-Bordered and Small-Bordered Fritillaries in the meadows, and rides. But like so many colonies in the country they became extinct in the early 1990's here
Natural chalk downland, untouched by modern agriculture, is now rare. Renowned for its rich flora and butterflies, chalk downland survives only in small, isolated pockets. It once encircled Winchester, but most of it has been lost to housing, roads, golf courses, afforestation and agriculture. These losses make what is left very special. Magdalen Hill Down on the eastern edge of Winchester is a fine example, now restored to its former beautiful state by the Hampshire Branch of Butterfly Conservation.
Years ago, the hillside that now forms the Original reserve was a paradise of wild flowers and butterflies. But by 1989 there was a heavy growth of wild privet, dogwood, bramble and hawthorn, which threatened the delicate flowers and the butterflies that depend on them. The scrub has now been cleared and is kept under control: only selected thickets are retained to give shelter and provide a habitat for birds and other creatures. Many shrubs and trees are the larval food plants for moths.