The New Forest Inclosures like the ones around Brockenhurst have a good number of interesting flora and fauna, with open rides here the Pearl-Bordered Fritillary can be found in good number throughout May and early June.
New Forest: Pignal and Ramnor Inclosures
The Pearl-Bordered Fritillary is quite common in the rides in and around Brockenhurst. They require good open spaces of coppiced woodland and good amounts of Dog-Violets growing in the ditches and banks along the rides.
The Raft spider is Britain's second biggest spider lives in wet areas like ditches and pools of water, in the rides, and are quite common walking through the rough tussock grass on the sides of the rides. Not for the squeamish!
Female Broad-bordered Chaser these are fairly common in the Inclosures breeding in the wet areas, and can be seen flying up and down the rides taking prey on the wing.
Britain's most common lizard the Common Lizard can be seen in all the Inclosures, when its warm during the day they can be seen basking on logs.
Probably not a species that everyone wants to see but up close the Tiger Beetle is quite terrifying to look at with huge jaws in which to catch its prey. Some of the rides can be quite sandy under foot, and here is where you normally find these creatures.
The New Forest in SW Hampshire is now a National Park, having acquired this status in 2005. Whilst its name in modern-day English implies a large wooded area (and almost half of its 150 square miles consists of native deciduous and coniferous woodland), there are also large areas of heathland, as well as a coastal area and a river estuary within the national park boundary.
One of the largest woodland complexes in the New Forest stretches east and south-east from the Lyndhurst-Brockenhurst road towards Beaulieu and is a special place for butterflies. Occupying an area of more than 10 square miles, it consists of a patchwork of 'inclosures', each with their own individual character which reflects in their butterfly populations. For this site feature, I have therefore elected to describe 4 specific areas within this complex, which I refer to loosely as the 'East Inclosures'. This approach affords the visitor the flexibility to explore one or more or these specific locations in-depth or to use any one of them as a gateway to adjoining inclosures within the complex.
This part of the New Forest presently has the largest population of Pearl-bordered Fritillary in Hampshire, assisted by sympathetic woodland management by the Forestry Commission. They are present in several of the East Inclosures including Pignal, Parkhill and New Copse.
Pondhead inclosure is a true inclosure (i.e. fully fenced) with clear evidence of the beneficial effect of reduced grazing on its butterfly populations, including decent populations of Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral.
Hawkhill inclosure contains one of the few woodland-based colonies of Dark Green Fritillary in Hampshire. The area in front of the inclosure also provides a glimpse of heathland habitat with Silver-studded Blue present.
Look out for other woodland dwelling species in any of the East Inclosures such as Speckled Wood, Holly Blue, Brimstone, Peacock and the Skippers (Large/Small/Essex) depending on the time of year.
Pignal and Parkhill are adjoining inclosures located on the western side of the woodland complex, close to Brockenhurst. Both are what I would call archetypal New Forest inclosures, consisting of mixed deciduous and coniferous woodland with wide rides and a good network of gravel tracks and paths. This area does get busy in summer and is popular with cyclists and groups - so perhaps it is not necessarily the best choice for a summer weekend visit, depending on your perspective. The Standing Hat car park is a convenient place to park, giving direct access to Pignal. By taking the left-hand gravel track, heading in an NNE direction, you will reach the boundary with Parkhill after about ½ mile.
There are two resident fritillary species in these inclosures - in May, Pearl-bordered Fritillaries can occasionally be seen flying low and intricately along the margins of the main rides, including along the track heading NNE from the car park, stopping to feed on flowers such as bugle or sunbathe on the track. The main Pearl-bordered Fritillary breeding areas are in clearings, where violets and bugle have become established, and also the scalloped margins of some of the rides. One clearing in Parkhill, shown in Photo 2 and located here is currently used as a breeding area. Whilst this area was felled several years ago and the conifer regrowth has been rapid, sufficient open areas remain to provide suitable Pearl-bordered breeding habitat.
In late June and July, a few Silver-washed Fritillaries, whilst not normally common here, should be encountered flying swiftly along with the rides or stopping to feed on flowers of bramble. In July also look for Purple Hairstreak flitting high in the oaks in the mornings or late afternoon. Common woodland species are also present in these inclosures.
One of the most common of spring butterflies the Orange Tip and always a delight to see and can normally be found in all the rides, where there are flowers to nectar on.
When I visit the New Forest I normally arrive at about 07:00 just as the sun is coming up and normally in the distance you can hear a Cuckoo singing trying to find a mate. Unfortunately this sight and sound is becoming all too rare these days.
New Copse Inclosure is the latest addition to this site feature and is becoming established as another location for Pearl-bordered Fritillary. This is due, in part at least, to the work of the Forestry Commission in thinning out the understorey vegetation, enhancing the biodiversity of the ground flora and in turn providing improved breeding habitat for these spring fritillaries.
New Copse is mainly deciduous with impressive stands of mature oak and beech, but also some conifers. It is located just east of Brockenhurst, sandwiched between the B3055 road to Beaulieu and the mainline railway. By road it is convenient to turn off this road and park close to the entrance gate for the main track here. Once inside the inclosure, head west along the main track, which has wide margins and rough, shallow ditches in places.
In May you should see Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, making their way along the ride margins and ditches, or stopping to bask in the spring sunshine, sometimes on the track itself. The section of track and the clearing on the left just 150m from the entrance gate is normally good for this species. In summer, particularly late June and July, the intricate low flight of the Pearl-bordered Fritillaries is replaced by the powerful flight of Silver-washed Fritillaries, which are often tempted to stop and feed on the plentiful bramble flowers.
Whilst this main track is ideal for observing New Copse's butterflies, there are also open rides running north and south from it at regular intervals. There are also three bridge crossings over the railway close to the northern edge of New Copse for a longer exploration of other parts the East Inclosures, with Pignal for instance, being easily accessible.
The Pearl-Bordered Fritillary is probably the most numerous butterfly in the New Forest Inclosures throughout May, and walking through the rides you cannot help but to see this beautiful insect.
During my Field Trips I try to get to this ride called the 'Frohawk' ride named after a famous Lepidopterist. Here after some good management the Pearl-Bordered Fritillary can be seen i at very close quarters, ideal for photographs and seeing how the butterfly behaves.
Picture Jackie Whitlock