Sunday 26 May 2019

West Dorset

Maiden Newton - warm, dry and sunny - We decamped 200 miles west for a family weekend in deepest Dorset. The landscape could not be more different from the Marsh with Maiden Newton set at the confluence of the rivers Hook and Frome. The rivers had typical wildlife associated with a chalk watercourse including Grey Wagtails, Banded Demoiselles and Brown Trout, while it was good to see and hear plenty of Swifts and House Martins around the village.

                                River Hook

                                Ragged Robin

  On Saturday we visited a couple of old Iron Age hill forts which this part of the country is famous for, including the daddy of them all, Maiden Fort, the largest of its kind in Europe, about the size of 50 football pitches with the most amazing panoramic views from atop the workings; it was possible to see the Purbeck Hills in east Dorset. There was plenty of natural history on offer too with many Common Blue and Small Heath butterflies on the wing, plus two Duke of Burgundy and a Green Hairstreak. Corn Bunting and Skylark were present in good numbers, along with Whitethroat, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Yellowhammer, Kestrel and Buzzard.       

                                Maiden Castle
                                Corn Bunting
                                Red-legged Partridge

  Driving the old Roman Road across the downs I was shocked to find field after field of plastic shrink-wrapped Maize plants, apparently as part of an experiment to encourage the planting of this highly profitable and hungry crop on unsuitable agricultural land; the thin stony, soil of the pilot fields were formerly untilled sheep pasture. The water run-off must be immense, and what on earth do they do with all that plastic once the crop is established?

                                Shrink-wrapped fields of west Dorset

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