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Whiteley Pastures has many footpaths criss-crossing the wood, however many of them are very muddy in the spring so care has to be taken when negotiating the ride. Lots of flora and fauna to see like Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Buzzard, Roe Deer, and lots of invertebrates.

Whiteley Pastures and Botley Wood

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Silver-Washed Fritillaries like this female can be seen in all the rides flying up and down and alighting on Bramble to feed or Thistle being another favourite.

The prize is always the Purple Emperor, being very elusive, and has become more of a rarer sight now as the small town of Whiteley expands all around the wood. However it is seen every year, and still alights on the ground to imbibe on mineral salts.

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The White Admiral butterfly is quite common in the wood laying its eggs on the good strands of wild Honeysuckle which can be found around the woodland. This butterfly is often confused with the Purple Emperor, although it is a lot smaller in size and colouration under its wings. It is fairly similar to the female Purple Emperor, but size and flight give it away.

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There are some good stands of Wych Elm in the wood, and there have been some colonies of White-Letter Hairstreak seen over the last few decades. Whiteley Pastures has been earmarked by the FC  to re-introduce this species along with (5) other butterflies, the Brown Hairstreak, Pearl-Bordered Fritillary, Duke of Burgundy, and Marsh Fritillary.

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One of the most common butterflies to see in the rides in the height of the summer is the Gatekeeper butterfly.

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Sallow in the rides are the Purple Emperors caterpillars foodplant, here the buds are just breaking out in April ready for the caterpillars to start feeding again after hibernating through the winter.

Highlights

  • Forest Enterprise managed woodland in South Hampshire.

  • Part of a large woodland complex with most woodland species represented including Silver-washed Fritillary, White Admiral, Purple Hairstreak, Purple Emperor and all the common woodland species.

  • In the adjoining Botley Wood, Grizzled Skipper retain a precarious presence.

Description​

Whiteley Walks (formerly Whiteley Pastures), is a managed woodland (Forest Enterprise) just to the west of Fareham in the south of the county and close to junction 9 of the M27 motorway. Although the area is now on the very edge of the housing, out of town shopping and business park developments, it is still a very good woodland for butterflies, especially if a visit is combined with the adjoining Botley Wood (which is managed by Hampshire County Council). Street parking is available on the Solent Business Park (but especially busy during the working week) or in Whiteley Shopping Centre car parks, which are a few minutes walk from the entrance. It's then a case of making one's way on foot to the Whiteley Walks entrance gate located here. The gravelled track leading from this gate acts as the main ride through the wood.

 

This open ride, with a ditch on the right, is good for the commoner browns such as Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood and also for Skippers (Large, Small, Essex). Brimstones and some of the Nymphalids (Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma) are also likely to be seen here. The oak trees on both sides, but particularly on the right, provide a home for Purple Hairstreaks, and they can sometimes be seen crossing between oaks from one side of the ride to the other. It is also worth keeping one's eyes peeled for Purple Emperor (during July) anywhere along the ride with oaks and sallow never far away, and there are sightings or closer encounters every year. The sections of the track either side of the footbridge (located 'dead centre' of seems to provide the majority of Emperor sightings, including groundings, no doubt due in part to the plentiful sallow in this area.

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Whiteley Pastures has always been a popular Walk during the butterfly season, and being dry in the main ride and with good ride flora, there is plenty to see.

 

As a working woodland, the character of Whiteley Walks evolves according to the cycle of forest operations. So too the distribution of species along the ride also evolves. The half-mile section leading up to the cross tracks (here) at Ridge Copse, and the shady glade immediately beyond it used to be good locations for Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral. Following a number of years of intensive forestry operations, these areas did become less suitable for these species, being too open (or in the case of the shady glade, a bit too shady), however, habitat is gradually improving and Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral numbers are now increasing again.

 

The return is made by retracing the route. Alternatively, a detour can also be made into Botley Wood (Hampshire County Council managed nature reserve). In this case turn right at the cross tracks at Ridge Copse, continue under the power lines to reach a stile and notice board marking the entrance to the Wood. Botley Wood has a slightly different character to Whiteley Walks, having rough grassy rides, as well as areas of wayleave under power lines. It somehow feels more remote and intimate than its neighbour, except for the tarmac road bisecting it (which is not a public right of way) and leads to the electricity substation. In summer, as in Whiteley Walks, you may see Silver-washed Fritillary, White Admiral and even Purple Emperor (where there is plenty of sallow). In spring, Botley Wood is worthy of a visit in its own right, with decent numbers of the commoner spring species (such as Orange Tip, Brimstone, Peacock) but you may be lucky enough to see Grizzled Skipper, which just retain a woodland presence here, though now precarious.  Wayleave between the electricity pylons and the grassy rides with some scrub, where tormentil or wild strawberry grow, are the favoured places to search.

Text Alan Thornbury

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One of the best sights in the rides is seeing the 'rare' Valezina variant of the female Silver-Washed Fritillary, being a silvery-grey colour, it really stands out, and is worth looking out for in the rides.