Old Burgclere

Old Burghclere Lime Quarry, Mid-June

David Beeson

This is a Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust Reserve. It is a ‘closed’ reserve, so you need to email them for permission to visit the small site. It is noted for its orchids and butterflies.

The small reserve is the remnants of chalk quarrying, with bare rock and thin alkaline soils. It lies adjacent to the once-extant Didcot – Newbury – Winchester – Southampton railway line that remained active until the 1960s. A link from that line led to the long unused quarry and its lime kiln remains.

It is threatened by invasion of scrub (dogwood) and wild clematis (old man’s beard).

As you enter the open part of the site, on the righthand side, is a small, conical, brick building. This was the dynamite store.

Parasitic, non-photosynthetic broomrape.

Butterflies and chalkland flora, especially orchids, are the specialities on the reserve. The butterfly species range varies with the time of year, however, in Mid-June the following butterflies were observed: meadow brown, marbled white, brimstone, common and small blue, common skipper, red admiral, tortoiseshell and dark-green fritillary. Grizzled skipper, green hairstreaks, holly and chalkhill blues, small copper and silver-washed fritillaries are also found on this rich site.

Red admiral
Fly orchid

Plant-wise you’ll enjoy the fine grasses, semi-parasitic yellow rattle, parasitic broomrapes, yellow hawkweeds, oxeye daisies, thyme, basil and marjoram. The diminutive fairy flax is also there together with madder and bedstraws. At the time of my visit there were large numbers of spotted and twayblade orchids, a few fly orchids but none of the other types that usually flower here.

White helleborine orchids can be spotted on the open chalky slopes, uncommon adder’s tongue fern, kidney vetch and red hemp nettle occur here. The semi-parasitic yellow rattle (an annual) is flowering in June but dies in late summer, so may not be seen.

The green-flowered twayblade orchid

It is fair to say, all these organisms can be found elsewhere in this area, so avoid the reserve if you can!

Beacon Hill, adjacent to the A34 road, has public access and a good range of insects and orchids. The rare burnt-tip orchid occurs in the near locality.

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