Beyond the Riverbank's full website:

Friday, 23 August 2013

Purple; King's Wood, Rammamere Heath and Hitchin Lavender

The woods were warm, yet drenched with rain. There is nothing like the smell of a wet woodland on a summers day. The showers persisted, forcing me to decide between being too hot with a mac on but keeping dry, or getting wet, but staying cooler. The dark brown trunks of trees stood tall against the grey skies, the ferns dominated the woodland floor, engulfing the trees in waves of vivid green.

King's Wood
Walking through the woods, not a person to be seen or heard. A muntjac, feeding in the undergrowth, hears me at the last minute. Deer are acutely adapted to sensing predators, and have extremely good senses of smell, vision and hearing. Imagine having letter box pupils and being able to see 310' degrees, twist your ears to hear in all directions, and smell nine times better than any human. They really are incredible animals.

Amongst the woodlands, on the banks of the hillsides, small clearings in the woods allowed patches of heather to grow well. A beautiful pale shade of pink and violet flowers, with an almost silver appearance when caught by the light in the right way. A wonderful summer flower, providing a feast for many passing butterflies, moths and bumblebees!

A spinning abstract of the heather
Bee on Heather
By now, the occasional break in cloud and the showers allowed shafts of light to cut through the tree-top canopy, lighting up grasses like golden fireworks unleashed in the night of the trees' shadows.

Grass catching the light
Large clearings around the site provided great habitat for numerous other species. I imagine it to be a good site for reptiles, with plenty of open south facing banks and lots of cover in the form of long grasses, log piles, and burrows. Plenty of crickets and grasshoppers for the odd snack as well. Whilst on the subject of insects - the butterflies were incredible too! My first small copper of the year so far, speckled wood, silver washed fritillary and common blue. As I sat in the heathland enjoying the warmth of the midday sun, the occasional dragonfly joined me to rest on the open branches of logs and twigs. 

A male Common Darter (welcome to corrections!)

Silver washed fritillary

Common Blue female
Hitchin Lavender. I had driven past this place on numerous occasions, and often wondered what it was like having seen the classic photos of rows and rows of deep purple lavender, leading their way up the hillside into the skyline. Initially, I felt somewhat disappointed by its size, after envisioning endless purple in all directions, the large field of lavender was bordered by fields of grass and crops. Although I can not deny how awesome the field is...

Man picking lavender

As soon as I stepped amongst the lavender, sheer joy at the sight of thousands of insects overwhelmed me. Bumblebees, butterflies, moths and flies feasted on the nectar of the lavender. Swallows cut across the tops of the plants catching insects on the wing. The sound of the constant hum of bees broken only by the tiny winged bodies and red throats of swallows zipping past at high speed. Interestingly, bumblebees used to originally be called humblebees because of the loud humming sound they make when they fly...

Bumbles in the lavender

Common Blue

It takes an awful lot for me to like any of my photos. But the next photo is terrible. I could have pretended to try and capture the spirit of butterfly watching, when often you get a blurry flutter disappear into the distance. But this is my best attempt at photoing the beautiful clouded yellow butterfly, as it was carried in the wind across the tops of the lavender. It stopped to rest once, but not for long enough. Rachael described it as looking like 'a yellow piece of tissue caught in the wind'.

Clouded Yellow impersonating yellow tissue
Small tortoiseshell. What a beautifully and intricately designed butterfly. The blue scales that line the outer edge of its wings are really emphasised by the perfectly complimentary orange colours that dominate the wings. A real stunner!

Small Tortoiseshell 

I was really impressed with both the King's Wood and Rammamere Heath Wildlife Trust site, and Hitchin lavender. The lavender providing the foundations of a wonderful food chain, from plant to the insectivorous predator the swallow. Plus I got to take a bag of lavender home with me as well, of which I shall leave in my car in an attempt to mask its bad odours... Thank ya'll for reading, and keep enjoying this wonderful summer as best you can ! 


  1. Stupid technology. I just wrote a comment, went to publish and it deleted it :(

    Anyway I love the arty farty abstract photos but my faves are the two photos of the common blues - beautifully captured!

    I agree about the small tortoiseshell - such overlooked butterflies!

    Your clouded yellow photo certainly captures their flighty behaviour!

    Lovely varied post with fab photos :) x

    1. Thank you Lou :) Kept this one nice and simple, was hard choosing which photos to put up / which to keep hidden ! I would love to get some clouded yellow photos as good as yours ! :) x

  2. Oh I love the Common Blue Female on the grass seed-what a great image.
    I would fill my whole garden with lavender just to listen to the bees. I have quite a few in the front garden and a lot in the back garden and they have been full of bees of all types in the day and moths at night. How lovely to have had dragonflies around you. Still not seen a clouded yellow..but I keep looking!

    1. Thank you Suzie! Lavender is such a beautiful plant - and the bees were incredible! Good luck with the clouded yellow - fingers crossed you will get to see one :)

  3. The small tortoiseshell is just stunningly beautiful!