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Broughton Down

The main area of Broughton Down where there are good colonies of Silver-Spotted Skipper in the late Summer

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The Silver-Spotted Skipper can be seen in very good numbers here, in fact I think it's the strongest colony in Hampshire.

The Dark-Green Fritillary is easily spotted on the downland in the summer as it has a very powerful flight and will feed avidly on top of the many thistles that abound the downland.

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The Adonis Blue has a small colony on the downland and can be found in small gullies on short turf where its food plant Horseshoe Vetch grows.

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Duke of Burgundy has been seen on the down in some years, although not common there are some areas of Cowslips where the caterpillars have been seen and there is some evidence of the leaves being eaten. So this species does breed here.

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The Green Hairstreak can be quite common in the scrubby Hawthorn strewn areas.

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The Brown Hairstreak has been found here in recent years, with eggs being found on the numerous Blackthorn, worth looking out for in the Autumn

 

Highlights

  • Unimproved chalk downland nature reserve managed by Hampshire Wildlife Trust.

  • Good range of chalk downland butterflies, with resident species including Silver-spotted Skipper, Chalkhill Blue and Dark Green Fritillary.

  • One of a handful sites in Hampshire where the Adonis Blue can be found, albeit in small numbers.

  • Site is also a designated SSSI status and is of archaeological interest with ancient droveway and round barrow.

Description

Broughton Down (location map) is a fine example of unimproved chalk downland lying on a north-east facing escarpment, providing fine views over the Test Valley. It is located several miles west of Stockbridge, close to the border with Wiltshire. The down is fringed by mature woodland including impressive stands of beech at its eastern end and is bisected by a small wooded valley. Broughton Down is managed by Hampshire Wildlife Trust as a Nature Reserve and is also a designated SSSI, taking into account the good range of chalk habitats represented. 

 

All the commoner downland species are present on the site including decent colonies of Chalkhill Blue, Grizzled Skipper, Dingy Skipper and Brown Argus. The site also hosts a decent colony of Silver-spotted Skipper and a small colony of Adonis Blue as well as the fast flying Dark Green Fritillary.

 

The down is most easily approached from Broughton village to the east or from the south along a long and rather bumpy track. My preference is to approach from the village, parking at the end of Buckholt Road and continuing on foot up the hill, skirting Smiths Plantation and then along the track at the top of the down. After about 500m, bear right at a display board to enter the down via a gate just to the west of the wooded valley. Many species can be found on the open downland slope during their flight period, including Chalkhill Blue and a few Silver-spotted Skippers.

 

However, if you continue working your way westwards  you will reach a gate into the most westerly section of the down which includes the round barrow known as "Plum Pudding". Beyond the round barrow, there is a sheltered flower-rich gully (Photo 2) and a narrow "spike" of grassland pointing south. The Adonis Blues tend to be found in this western section - look in the gulley or on the "spike". However their flight period, bearing in mind this is a small colony, can be short, perhaps as little as two or three weeks, so timing is critical. This western end is also one of the areas to see the fast-flying Dark Green Fritillaries. 

 

The gulley mentioned above also continues northwards through a small wooded area, which then opens out into another small downland area here. The species distribution is similar to the main area of the down, however, its relative isolation means their profusion can vary. This is another area where Dark Green Fritillaries can be found during their flight period.

 Text Alan Thornbury

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Broughton down is a quite isolated site, although it is within range of the much larger areas known as Porton Down where several of the species seen here probably originated from. In this picture the magnificent Hampshire countryside from top of the down facing south-east.