Northamptonshire has never been known for its heathland although little exists east of Northampton at Billing Lings, the name of which reminds us that Ling, Calluna vulgaris, once grew extensively there. By far the largest area of heathland was, and still is, Harlestone Heath.
Sadly, in an act of what today would be called gross environmental vandalism the land, belonging to the Spencer family, was almost completely planted over with conifers around a century ago. No doubt it seemed at the time a reasonable use of agriculturally unproductive land but for a particular suite of plants and animals it was a disaster.
Anyway, in wonderful weather, with the temperature already approaching 20 degrees, four enthusiasts assembled at the entrance to the 'Firs' and we set off 'spirits high and hearts aglow'.
One of the most interesting areas consists of a strip of damp heathland parallel to the Northampton - Rugby railway line. It receives some protection as a nature reserve and the four of us made this our target although predictably we paused en route, distracted by various creatures such as solitary wasps. Indeed, so often did we pause that when we eventually arrived at the reserve we had insufficient time to do it justice.
|Robin, Brian and John, busy along one of the main rides. Harlestone Heath.|
6 May, 2018