Saturday, 18 July 2015

Yummy Yoesden

It's always a bit of a treat to visit Yoesden Bank, as it's one of our favourite places and we consider it our secret garden. Today was extra special though as BBOWT had invited everyone who donated money to buy it last year, to come on a guided tour of the site. Bug Mad Girl and I parked at a nearby village hall and were transported to Radnage Church, which had been temporarily taken over by BBOWT for the day.

This was no ordinary guided walk, as refreshments were laid on in the churchyard. BMG enjoyed the sandwiches, crisps and cake - in fact she probably ate more than I originally donated to the appeal, but nobody seemed to mind!

Then we set off on the short walk to the reserve, pausing on the way as our guide, Colin, told us a little about the site. It's made up of 5 Ha of chalk grassland that's in great condition, plus the woodland behind the slope and to the side. Usually when we visit we walk down from above the slope appearing in the opposite corner, so it was nice to approach from the other side and get a different view.

I was keen to find out what the plans were for the site, hoping things weren't going to change too much! It sounds like the same group of people that used to look after the site are still looking after it now. A water supply has been installed for the cattle that graze the site over the winter, some of the scrub will continue to be kept at bay and new information boards have been put up. All good news!

Brand new information boards
We walked about half way across the top of the slope, looking at some of the wildflowers, butterflies and other insects that make the site so special. When the sun came out, there were lots of skippers, meadow browns, gatekeepers, marbled whites, small whites, large whites and day flying moths feeding on the knapweed and scabious.

Meadow brown

Small skipper
6-spot burnet moth
It seemed like every flower had a bee, hoverfly or butterfly feeding on it. The place was 'buzzing'!

The grasshoppers and crickets were chirping, whirring and singing all around us. Our guide explained that they have about a dozen different species of grasshoppers and crickets on the site and you can tell each species by the noise they make. We picked out a few different sounds, but I think it would take a bit of practice before I could tell them all apart. As we were talking about them, a great green bush-cricket jumped onto somebodies trouser leg, walked up his leg, up his shirt and sat posing for photos on his shoulder. They are massive crickets (about 5cm long) and it was quite a sight to have one 'perform' for us.
Great green bush-cricket (supposedly sounds like a sowing machine!)
BMG was desperate to hold the giant cricket, so she followed it after it eventually flew off and held it for a minute. It made her day!
Shame about the lack of focus, but you can see how big the cricket was!

Roesel's bush cricket (supposed to sound like a dentist's drill)
The tour was over and everybody headed back to the church for more cake. BMG and I decided to spend a bit more time on the reserve and headed down to the long grass. She was desperate to find more crickets (she found one more great green bush-cricket, but it was a bit more sensible than the previous one and disappeared into the grass). I was hoping to see a chalkhill blue, as they have just started to emerge and are found on the site. I may have seen my first one of the year (can't be sure), but definitely saw a common blue. Either way, they're such beautiful butterflies and a real joy to see.

Common blue
As we walked back to the church, buzzards and red kites were flying overhead. Then back at the churchyard, a red kite was sat in a nearby tree watching everybody.

Red kite
A great visit, with cake! Thanks BBOWT!!

(updated 19/7: turns out the photo was of a common blue, not a chalkhill blue! Still lovely though!!)


  1. It was a great day and you've captured it beautifully.