Sunday, 6 May 2018

Harlestone Heath

North-west of Northampton, near to the villages of Upper and Lower Harlestone lies 'Harlestone Firs'. In fact it should perhaps be called Harlestone Heath, but even that would not quite be correct as the land in question also includes Dallington Heath.
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

I was probably as guilty as anyone, poking around for spiders, bugs and this moth which is, I believe, the Meadow Long-horn, Cauchas rufimitrella. My photograph fails to do justice to the brilliant brassy forewings.

Meadow Long-horn Moth on sycamore. Harlestone Firs, 6 May, 2018
When we finally reached the reserve I was pleased to find Broom, Cytisus scoparius, in full bloom. It is quite widespread across Northamptonshire but less common than
its relative, gorse and I had forgotten that it occurred here. I had hoped to find Gorse Shieldbug on the flowers but had no success. There were worryingly few butterflies on the wing, surely an indication of the devastation our wildlife has suffered in recent decades.
Broom, with its flowers forming golden showers. John examines the
contents of his sweep net. Harlestone Firs, 6 May, 2018
I left the area with a vague sense of dissatisfaction, knowing that a more thorough survey was called for. However, I have a few specimens to sort through including a rather intriguing fly and there could be a surprise. We'll see. 

Footnote  In the event the only species of any interest turned out to be of interest were a conopid fly, Myopa testacea, and a click beetle, Ampedus balteatus. The former is quite common but the latter is rather less so and is associated with birch trees.


No comments:

Post a Comment