Race to see it

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - GREEN SPACES -

AS­TON Clin­ton Rag­pits is a tiny (7.28 acres) na­ture re­serve of mainly hum­mocky grass­land, rep­re­sent­ing pits and spoil heaps of for­mer chalk quar­ry­ing (the name rag means chalk).

It is home to a mul­ti­tude of dif­fer­ent plants and in­ver­te­brates, in­clud­ing 10 species of or­chid and 27 species of but­ter­flies.

This wildlife par­adise, man­aged by the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, is best seen in spring or sum­mer.

The en­trance is at the base of As­ton Hill near Wen­dover. This is ad­ja­cent to the start-line of the for­mer As­ton Hill Climb, a car speed event in which a cer­tain Lionel Martin raced, and then com­bined the names to cre­ate the As­ton Martin marque. Within the na­ture re­serve vis­i­tors are ad­vised to slow down be­cause there is much to see in this ex­tra­or­di­nary land­scape!

Walk into the small mixed wood­land, con­tinue along a short path through two gates to the edge of the quarry. y. Stop, look andnd lis­ten, and later ter taste and smell.

Spare a mo­ment to view the Vale of Ayles­bury, stroll along the nar­row crisscross paths, tak­ing care on the steeper ones. With all senses fully ac­ti­vated, you will be amazed.

At the end of April, I saw plenty: a tawny min­ing bee nest, yel­low meadow anthills, jump­ing spi­ders, Ro­man snails, a red kite, a slow worm (ac­tu­ally a lizard), cowslips, prim­roses and vi­o­lets.

Know­ing that cater­pil­lars are fussy leaf eaters, the vi­o­lets sug­gest sight­ings of frit­il­lary but­ter­flies this sum­mer. I heard bird­song, I tasted young salad bur­net leaves (like cu­cum­ber) and I caught the scent of wild mar­jo­ram.

In June the strong in­sect-en­tic­ing fragrance of chalk fra­grant-or­chids will fill the air, and bees will be vis­it­ing the bee or­chids with their bee-like flow­ers.

Th­ese ob­ser­va­tions rep­re­sent only a snap­shot of the in­ter­de­pen­dence of plants and an­i­mals.

Both groups will only thrive if they pro­vide suit­able shel­ter, ap­pro­pri­ate food and means to re­pro­duce, for each other.

Come to As­ton Clin­ton Rag­pits and let your senses go a bit wild, there are guided walks on June 6 and July 25, or just call in for an hour of bliss in this wildlife par­adise. There’s more on www.bbowt.org.uk/ whats-on.

Gill Cor­nelius is from the Chilterns

group of vol­un­teers for the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust

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