Image Credit: All pictures unless otherwise stated were taken by Allison Symes
One of the joys of dog ownership is it encourages me to get out and about. Of course, you don’t need an active pet to get you out and about, but it helps me a lot as I find I am more than willing to take Lady out, but would I just go for a walk by myself? Maybe but definitely far less often.
The only thing to watch with dogs, especially at the moment, is whether the weather is suitable and adjust timings of walks accordingly.
As I’ve mentioned before, we are lucky here in that it is easy to get to a variety of different places using the road and rail networks. What is even better is finding places to explore right on our doorstep. No driving, no parking = win, win.
Recently, I’ve been enjoying the wonderful display of wildflowers at Hiltingbury Recreation Ground. Very easy to get to – I use Shank’s Pony! (My dog is less fussed by the flowers. She’d rather play with her ball, her dog friends, or ideally both! This is early in the morning given current temperatures. Come the afternoon, Lady is resting or asleep, lucky girl!).
All credit where it is due to whoever thought of planting the wildflowers (and the great thing it is would not have cost much to do either). People have been stopping to take pictures and is it any wonder? These kind of shots are what colour photography was meant for! The flowers have been a great topic of conversation for the regulars in the park.
Hint to whoever is responsible for this: please keep this going. It makes a nice feature for the park and the dogs appreciate being able to go into parts of it for some additional shade too. They’re following “tunnel tracks” put in there, I presume, by wild animals. They don’t seem to my eyes to be specifically created by humans for humans to walk through.
In any event, it is definitely humans you want to “keep off the wildflower meadow”. Given the amount of damage we can do to a beach after a weekend, we’re the species that needs to be banned at times. Some of the pictures on social media of litter left after a bank holiday weekend are frightful.
I also understand, thanks to a chat with a fellow dog walker, the idea of the wildflower meadow is that it creates a wildlife tunnel through from Hocombe Mead to Hiltingbury Recreation Ground to Cuckoo Bushes. Lovely idea. It has been great seeing the insects, especially the butterflies, “dining out” here. Species spotted include the small tortoiseshell and my favourite, the Red Admiral. Oh and probably bad news for gardening fans but plenty of the Cabbage White too. (Hopefully these will be too busy at the wildflower meadow to disturb your gardening? Nice thought anyway…!).
I assume eventually the wildflowers will be cut back but equally hope it will be after they’ve seeded.
I’m no gardener (sorry, Wellie, that’s just how it is!) but I do know what I like when I see it and the wildflowers are simply stunning seen from a distance. They’re even better close up when you can see the range of colours in there. I was only too happy to take pictures of these (even though I swear the dog was trying to figure out what I was doing – oh and why wasn’t I taking pictures of her?!).
The grass in the middle of the park looks like straw and feels like it too. However, it always becomes like this after a prolonged dry spell but perks up quickly the moment we have rain again. (NB. I’ve recently cleaned my windows. That should bring the rain in before long, it usually seems to!).
Below are some shots from a recent walk on the Monarch’s Way near Hursley at one end (and near Knapp at the other from where I access it). I love the “sea of green” in the fields here. In previous years, there has been wheat in here. The path can become a quagmire during the winter months, but right now it is bone dry.
I don’t know if it is me but I think butterfly numbers are up this year and there are many fine specimens here, including some beautiful black ones with a line of white towards the edge of their wings. (I think they’re part of the Swallowtail family, the ones I saw here did seem big for butterflies). I will be extremely lucky to get a shot of one of those but it has been relaxing to watch the butterflies dance in the air.
Lady likes looking at the butterflies too. I think she views them as a challenge! So far, I’m glad to report, the butterflies have won… At least, unlike our first collie, Gracie, Lady does leave the bees and wasps alone!
It has also been a joy to resume walking in the woods at Jermyn’s Lane, Ampfield. It has been great to get into shade. The tracks are easy to follow here which is why it is one of our favourite places to take the dog. (Though as ever I would appeal to people DON’T leave poo bags behind. The bags take years to rot down. Clean up and bin the bag at home.).
We’ve been following some of the tracks going into the woods to make the most of the shade and a lot of these become grass paths, much pleasanter on the feet for us and the dog. Again, there is a wealth of butterflies and other insects here, though I would like to see more bees about. Their numbers are definitely down.
It may sound odd but I’ve seen more wildlife out and about with the dog, than I ever did without one. That’s partly because I have to be out walking more often of course, but, as you are keeping an eye on what your pet is up to, that is when you spot the wildlife as well, partly because she sees it first! On the night I was putting the finishing touches to this post, we saw two deer fairly close by on our evening walk. Naturally they didn’t hang around with Lady about but we got great views of them. (Red deer, I believe. They were big!).
Lady, bless her, is not a hunter but she is curious so when she stopped the other day at Jermyns Lane with one paw raised, we peered over her to see she had found her first toad! Yes, she did leave it alone and I wondered what it was doing out of water but it was healthy enough and wisely didn’t hang around. (Lady doesn’t like spiders incidentally so come the winter months when they all seem to come indoors, we are going to have fun. She barks at them!).
I’ve been looking back at photos taken using my phone since the start of the year and the contrast in weather conditions has been remarkable! Still in all of it, we’ve managed to find some way of getting out and about with the dog.
I must admit I don’t cope with the heat particularly well and it has been a shame some of the flowers are finishing earlier than normal. I also think there must be a Murphy’s Law somewhere which says the weather must be as hot as possible when you’re taking exams, as it was always like that when I was sitting them many moons ago. The moment you’re free of exams, free to get out and about yourself, guess what? The heavens open! Still, we’ll soon see if that holds true again this year.
Whatever travels you are on during the holiday period, keep safe and have fun. And thanks again to whoever planted that wildflower meadow. It is truly lovely.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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