The main ride going up towards the summit of West Harting Down, in the distance can be seen Queen Elizabeth Country Park and the Isle of Wight.
West Harting Down
Painted Lady on Buddliea
Female Silver-Washed Fritillary at rest
Male Purple Emperor
Painted Lady caterpillar feeding on Thistle its main foodplant
Gatekeeper on take off!
Queen Elizabeth Country Park is a large country park situated on the South Downs in southern England. It is located on the A3 road three miles south of Petersfield, Hampshire and lies within the South Downs National Park. West Harting down is part of this large tract of woodland and borders part of the county of Sussex.
The park contains 1,400 acres (6 km2) of open access woodland and downland within the East Hampshire Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, including Butser Hill (886 ft), the highest point on the South Downs, and War Down (801 ft).
The woodland was mostly planted in the 1930s; it consists mainly of beech trees. Several Long-distance footpaths run through the park including Staunton Way, Hangers Way and the South Downs Way bridleway. On a clear day the Isle of Wight can be seen from the top of West Harting Down as it underlates upwards towards the Sussex border.
There are much flora and fauna to observe to the keen and patient eye, but of note is the magnificent Purple Emperor which can be seen in the height of the summer months. There are lot of Beech and Conifer trees along the way towards the summit, and a good number of sallow stands which attracts the female Purple Emperor where it lays its eggs after having mated with the male Purple Emperor. These butterflies are not common but are well worth looking for as they fly up and down the main ride, going towards the summit.
Other butterflies of note are the Silver-Washed Fritillary and this butterfly is fairly common stopping to imbibe on the scattered bramble bushes at the side of the ride. The Dark Green Fritillary can be seen on the main path from Queen Elizabeth Country Park, and will again imbibe on the bramble and Thistles.
There are many birds like woodpeckers and birds of prey to be seen, and the odd Tawny Owl if you are lucky. Roe deer can be heard barking in the forest but are rarely seen.
Dragonflies and other invertebrates are common along the main ride as there are many wildflowers growing in amongst the grasses.
West Harting Down is one of the most popular walks/Field Trips in the field trip calendar and can be quite tiring as the walk is a round trip of a good 5-6 miles. However the wealth of wildlife seen is very memorable, never more so than the time we saw a rather tatty male Purple Emperor on the ride floor, and a female Purple Emperor, was seen after egg laying and looked really all in, but worth seeing nevertheless in 2019.
Along the ride to the summit is strewn with Buddleia bushes and there are multitudes of Vanessids imbibing on the flowers. In 2020 I counted up to (50) Peacocks on the ride path just resting, it was some sight!
Hummingbird Hawk Moth at rest, these can be seen along the main ride feeding on the many buddleia bushes