Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Little Tew Meadows

This evening I made my first visit to the Little Tew area, specifically to walk some of the public footpaths that cross the 40 hectare Little Tew Meadows SSSI.  The citation here describes the mixture of unimproved meadows and pasture that sit within a delightfully unspoilt valley and support a good range of flowers and other wildlife.  It is in fact one of the most extensive areas of unimproved meadows left in Oxfordshire.  It feels and bit like stepping back in time: fields full of buttercups and hedgerows buzzing with yellowhammers and linnets.  Yellowhammers must be at just about their highest density here - they were singing from every stretch of hedgerow.
view across part of the SSSI
One field margin was lit up by a spectacular patch of common spotted orchids.  Not sure if this was a good example of a well managed field margin or a relic from a once rich meadow long lost to arable.
common spotted orchids thriving in a field margin

I managed to photograph a couple of moths, a chimney sweep was particularly beautiful with narrow white tips to the charcoal wings.
chimney sweep moth

latticed heath moth
Black bryony is busy winding it's way up the hedgerows and tall plants like hogweed.  White bryony is also flowering.  A pinkish flowered hogweed next to the footpath was worthy of a close-up. A red kite drifted across the valley and landed in a tree top to survey the view.
black bryony
white bryony
hogweed close-up
Close to the village a couple of smaller meadows were awash with buttercups.  Much of the wildlife interest here is beyond the SSSI - more hay meadows and arable fields with some nice field margins. It is not a surprise to discover much of the land is in a higher level stewardship agreement.  Without financial support for environmentally friendly farming, this valley could rapidly loose it's wildlife value.
meadow near the village

Looking back over past few evenings: I found a barn owl hunting along the new flood defences in the Upper Cherwell valley on Sunday evening; Monday evening I watched spotted flycatchers on the BOS field trip to Great Tew and yesterday glimpsed a peregrine dash over the Broughton road just outside Banbury.  A great time of year to be out and about.

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