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Scaynes Hill Village

It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon and I know that all of those who were there would like to thank Mike and Monika for hosting this happy event but also to thank Arthur for sharing his knowledge of butterflies and for being the catalyst that brought us all together.

Two potential days in a week at the end of July were identified when key protagonists, Mike Lavelle and Arthur McCulloch would be available for this venture; Mike, whose meadow we were to visit and Arthur for his knowledge of butterflies. Butterflies come out when the sun does, so weather watching in the few days before was crucial. However, neither day looked particularly promising. The forecast initially indicated Thursday to be the slightly better day but a last minute decision was made to swap to the earlier Tuesday.

Butterfly walk

28 July 2016 Posted by Graeme de Lande Long

It was under slightly overcast skies that a group of a dozen people gathered at Mike's meadow in the early afternoon. Arthur handed out some very useful butterfly identification pamphlets produced by Butterfly Conservation - Sussex, which shows about two dozen of the most common butterflies in Sussex and Mike told us how he had managed the meadow he had created about 12 years ago.  The meadow was looking lovely with a good variety of wild flowers such as knapweed, birds-foot trefoil and meadow vetchling in flower.  Although there seemed to be no butterflies visible we made our way along the paths through the meadow formed by foxes and other wild animals and soon were rewarded by disturbing one or two butterflies, mainly large whites and meadow browns.  Mike quickly got his eye in and pointed out a six-spot burnet moth resting on some grass and then found and photographed a beautiful blue butterfly, which we identified as a Chalkhill Blue.

The weather still being overcast and the butterflies not really much in evidence we visited the little woodland at the bottom of Mike's land where he has created a sizeable pond in what had always been a boggy area.  Although only fed by a drainage ditch he says that the pond has never dried up, even in the driest of summers, and it attracts a variety of wildlife including a heron who feeds lavishly on the rudd that Mike introduced.  Other wildlife that Mike sometimes sees there are small deer and grass snakes, for which he has created natural refuges out of logs and corrugated iron. In the absence of butterflies attention turned to plants and we were able to admire bullrushes, lillies, orchids, yellow loosestrife, dogs mercury, nightshade, figwort, ragged robin, meadow sweet and wild celery amongst others.

Chalkhill Blue

On leaving the wood we returned up the hill to Mike's house via the old Ham Lane path between banks and hedgerows, part of which Mike had laid himself after doing a course in hedge laying.  At the house, a delicious cream tea awaited us which had been beautifully prepared by Mike's wife Monika (of Village Show culinary fame!). Just as we finished our tea the sun burst through so we hasten to the meadow for a second time and were rewarded by the sight of many butterflies flitting around over the wildflowers. In addition to those we had seen earlier, which were now more abundant, there were many Gatekeepers, as well as a Large Skipper and a Peacock.