Written by Graeme Davis
Just up the road from Andover, in Winchester, is one of Butterfly Conservation’s flagship reserves, Magdalen Down.
The reserve has been managed over 50 years, but was in a poor state in 1989, when Butterfly Conservation sought to bring it back to favourable condition through scrub clearing. Since, it has been expanded several times 1995 & 2004, and is without a doubt one of my favourite reserves in the country. Strolling through the fields in the summer sun with a slight breeze, hearing skylarks singing and kestrels above is just an amazing experience.
The reserve boasts, at least, an amazing 30 species of butterfly, including the electric green, green hairstreak, chalk-hill blues, small coppers, brown argus and occasionally visiting painted lady’s. Scrapes created on the site, stripping the soil back to its underlying chalk are of benefit to plants, butterflies and moths alike. These scrapes provide habitat for the small blue butterfly and the rare striped lychnis moth. Heat in these areas is elevated in the summer sun, and encourages sun loving butterflies like the migratory clouded yellow which can often be found, you would have to be quick to get a picture! Fluttering amongst the butterflies are many day time moths like burnet companion and mother shipton. The nationally scarce six-belted clearwing is also present in large numbers.
The site is home to many species of longhorn beetle, which can be found settled on the flowers of umbellifers like hogweed. The golden-bloomed longhorn is one of the most fantastic species present. Adding some colours to the fauna are beetles like the cardinal and the hazel leaf roller, both a vibrant red which can not be missed.
The reserve reminds you of a time gone by with rolling wildflower meadows and clouds of butterflies. A must for any nature lover.