Farley Mount Country Park

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

Photo 1 - Area Of Scrub Downland On Pitt Down 

 

 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 provides 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 Purple Emperor.
    Pearl-bordered Fritillary has recently established a foothold in a woodland clearing.

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 and Crab Wood), but unusually for a single site, there is also an area of unimproved chalk downland (Pitt Down). It is this combination of different habitats which makes the park such a good location for butterflies - and to cap it (literally!) the park has a pyramidal shaped monument perched at its highest point (Farley Mount), providing fine views of the surrounding countryside.

 

There are several car parks located along a 2km stretch of the minor road running west along the southern edge of the park (Clarendon Way). For the main recreation area (picnic places, barbecue and public conveniences) use the easternmost car park ( arrowed on this map ). Overall, however, the best butterfly locations are either side of the main 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) 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 (Photo 1 above) 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 by the road on the other is the best for butterflies. The populations and distribution of species between the different sections of the down (eastcentre and west) do vary from year to year according to the management and grazing cycle. Species which should be encountered, depending on flight period, include Dark Green Fritillary as well as common species, such as Marbled White, Small Heath and Common Blue. Clouded Yellow and Grizzled Skipper are also occasionally seen. An exploration of West Wood, covered in the next section can easily be combined with Pitt Down, bearing in mind there are several entrances to West Wood from Pitt Down, including the one here.

West Wood

Photo 2 - Ride In West Wood Where Purple Emperor Are Sometimes Seen 

West Wood is a large mixed wood and, as a working wood, access to specific areas may occasionally be affected by logging operations. In addition to the commoner woodland species, its interest as a butterfly site is enhanced by the presence of Purple Emperor and a recently established fledgling colony of Pearl-bordered Fritillary. 

Purple Emperor could be encountered anywhere in the wood, but especially the rides where there is a decent amount of sallow. In my experience, these are the rides leading from the entrance on Clarendon Way here, the open ride here leading to the centre of the wood (where 5 rides merge ....and a seat!) and the ride here (Photo 2 above). This latter ride eventually exits on to Pitt Down, as mentioned above. These rides are also good for Silver-washed Fritillary and common woodland species, as well as a few White Admirals.


The second of these rides passes an area of regeneration (here) where Pearl-bordered Fritillary are establishing a small colony. Let's hope the habitat remains suitable and the colony can grow from its small beginnings. Look out also for Grizzled Skipper and even the odd Duke of Burgundy in this area.

Crab Wood

Photo 3 - 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.  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 and there are two entrances into the wood along there. 


Once in the wood, there is a network of tracks, but it is not necessary to follow a particular predefined route since the wood is quite compact (1km x ½km) and the butterfly species are not confined to specific localities.   It is, however, recommended to explore the ride running N-S here, and also at least one of the rides running east from it. Woodland species which should be encountered, depending on the time of visit, include Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral, especially in areas where bramble is plentiful, as well as common woodland species such as Speckled Wood, Brimstone and Peacock.

© Copyright Alan Thornbury's Hampshire Butterflies 2020