Wildlife Notes for Great Ovens Heath by John Wright - August

Rare plants come in many shapes and sizes and some may not impress. However, my walk on 2nd August revealed the presence of a Nationally Scarce plant which made my day. As you can see from the photo, which also includes a 1p coin, Yellow Centaury is easily missed! Although I only found a few plants, it can occur in numbers in winter-wet habitats subject to disturbance. The same day, a Raven flew over and another male Brimstone Butterfly put in an appearance.

Yellow Centaury

Captain Jolliffe - A Seventeenth Century Mariner

The document below dates from around 1700 and lists the local clay pit owners in the seventeenth century and the amount that Captain Jolliffe charged to transport their clay by sea. This may be the same Captain Jolliffe who was awarded a gold medal by King William lll for bravery in capturing a French privateer off the Purbeck coast.

Captain Jolliffe's dealings with Clay Pit Owners


Sandford's Canal Proposal in 1795

In 1795 a canal was planned to link the Bristol Channel to the English Channel to transport coal southwards and clay northwards. The cost of the canal was estimated at £200,000 but the scheme was abandoned in 1803 due to insufficient funds. Only an 8 mile stretch of the canal was ever built near Frome.

1795 Proposed Canal Route

Random Ramblings 3.

I walked out of my front door the other day and something in the eaves caught my eye. Closer inspection (when it had stopped raining) revealed this beautiful wasp nest. Wasps are not popular creatures with many folk, but in reality they are usually far too busy during spring and summer helping gardeners by feeding caterpillars and other grubs to their young to seriously trouble people or sting them. It is only in the autumn, when the young have hatched out and they have nothing else to do that they develop a sweet tooth for fruit and jam, and become a nuisance around the house. 

Wasp Nest 1

Random Ramblings 2.

Many years ago I thought it might be fun to grow a few plants of Great Mullein for their statuesque spikes up to 2 metres tall. Even now I get one or two offspring appearing every year, and in June they are usually devastated by these huge and strikingly marked caterpillars of the Mullein moth which can grow to over 50mm in length. When mature in August it will drop to the ground and burrow to pupate. It will hatch out in March (but sometimes up to 5 years later) as a modest brown moth.

Mullein Moth Caterpillar

Random Ramblings 1.

Hardly a great photograph of a pair of one of our most charismatic reptiles, the Sand Lizard, but nonetheless one I find quite satisfying (the male is the pretty green one). These reptiles are found on the drier and sunnier areas of our heaths, but I also have numbers of them on prostrate conifers in my garden. They only seem to occur in gardens close to Great Ovens Heath, but some readers may be able to expand our knowledge of their distribution in gardens.

Sand Lizards

Please …

I expect many of you will have seen the dreadful pictures of the fire on neighbouring Upton Heath earlier in June 2011. In Wareham St. Martin we have several heathland areas of national importance and desperately want to avoid similar events here.

Upton Heath Fire June 2011