Posted on June 25, 2022
I managed to glimpse this insect on some Hogweed flowers (not Giant Hogweed – I haven’t seen any of that dangerous and poisonous plant in the village so far). This little creature is a solitary parasitic wasp belonging to a group of 32 families and 6,600 different species in the British Isles. It is an Ichneumon wasp and gets its common name from Charles Darwin who studied these insects in great detail.
Given the number of species, it is difficult to be confidant which one this is – but I would hazard a guess at the Yellow-striped or Tiger Darwin Wasp (Ichneumon xanthorius) but I am not certain. This insect group has an interesting and somewhat macabre lifestyle. The adult lays her eggs inside the larvae and pupae of moths of certain types; the eggs hatch and the larvae slowly eat the internal soft body parts of the host organism while it is still alive; then they pupate and ultimately break out of the husk of the host when they hatch. Nice!
Posted on June 24, 2022
I am not very good at birds. There will always be someone with more knowledge than I. As a rule birds move very fast and that makes them difficult for me to photograph. But back in early June this small bird was hopping uncertainly along the dirt path beside a barley field just ahead of me. It made a some practise flights a few inches from the ground and then scurried into the wayside vegetation. It paused long enough for me to photograph. I think it is an immature female Blackcap (with the lovely scientific name of Sylvia atricapilla). Does anyone else have other ideas about its identification?
Posted on June 22, 2022
I love to see this. Nature creeping in opportunistically on the kerbside where there has been a degree of relaxation to the normal obsessive but unnecessary Spring and Summer tidying up of our streets by strimming and use of herbicides. It may only be temporary but plants including red valerian, purple loosestrife(?), plantains, birch, spurge, and escapee domesticated daisies, for example, have taken the chance at life around some of the bollards on the edge of the pavement in the centre of the village. Lovely. It enhances our environment, is a resource for wildlife, and increases biodiversity. Several people have noticed hummingbird hawk moths feeding on the valerian flowers recently.
Posted on June 16, 2022
This is an episode in the story of a patch of ground in the village where everything was untended and garden rubbish was dumped for many years. On my regular walks during the two year pandemic period of 2020 and 2021, I often passed by and looked over the fence to see what was new amongst the fast-growing vegetation of this wild place. These are close-up photos of some of the lovely plants that were growing there by chance.
Posted on June 15, 2022
There was once a patch of ground in the village where everything was untended and garden rubbish was dumped. It had been there a long time. It was bounded by a brick wall with a wooden door on one side and a bar fence on the other. Some roses draped themselves over the fence to partially screen the area. Most people walked past it and paid no heed; but it was a surprising place if you paused to look. There was a wonderful assortment of wild plants, many of them flowering, with additional stray cultivated ones. It was a great habitat in its own right, and provided food and shelter for many insects and birds. To most eyes it was a bunch of weeds, and as such it was routinely cut down as a control measure. The flowers always came back. Here are some pictures showing some of the plants that were growing there a couple of years ago.
Posted on June 28, 2021
The spectacular Dorset countryside around our village of Charlton Down is constantly changing with the seasons and with farming activities. There is always a new perspective. One of my favourite viewpoints is along the lane by the allotments. From the gateway by the barn you can look roughly westwards towards Wood Hill Clump. Hardy’s monument is on the far horizon. The village lies mostly hidden behind the trees to the right. Right now, the parallel lines of fresh shoots in the field follow the undulating contours of the slopes and skirt the patch of trees next to the nature reserve. A wide strip of tall rye grass remains as a top border to the newly sown crop. While at the very edge of the field, wild grasses and flowers are flourishing alongside the hedgerow and beneath the old barn.
Posted on May 28, 2021
Herrison Hospital was for the most part a self-contained and self-supporting community. It produced a lot of its own food and a surplus for sale. Just a five minute walk from Greenwood House was the Home Farm, run by an employed manager and staffed by patients. It was located in the northwest of the present day village of Charlton Down, perhaps between Deverell Road and Rowan Walk. It was a large mixed farm with at one time over 400 acres of land. One of its claims to fame was its prize-winning herd of pigs. I think that it bred different varieties at different times but it was most famous for its Wessex Saddleback pigs. There were 500 of them in 1968. There is a documentary reference to the sale of 100 breeding Wessex Saddleback pigs and 3 Pedigree Large White boars from the Herrison Herd by Symonds and Sampson in Dorchester in 1969. I know that some villagers today complain about the smell of muck-spreading on the fields around us (!) but back in the days of the farm, Greenwood residents would surely have been hoping each day that the wind was blowing from the south rather than from the piggery. To illustrate what the pigs would have looked like I have used some pictures that I took at the Dorset County Show back in 2014.
The source of my information is In the Course of Time: a History of Herrison Hospital and of Mental Health Care in Dorset 1863 – 1992 edited by Jennifer Rogers.
Posted on April 24, 2021
I have known for years that Greenwood House is a part of a Conservation Area but, to be honest, I was not sure what that meant. I have now looked it up on-line and found what seems to be the key document from West Dorset County Council.
Longer-stay residents will already know that we live in a Conservation Area, and this influences our decisions concerning what we can and cannot do as residents of Greenwood House and part of the village of Charlton Down. Conservation Areas are places considered to be of special architectural or historical interest. The West Dorset District Council has a legal obligation to formulate and publish proposals for the preservation and enhancement of these areas. Charlton Down was designated as a conservation area in 1991. A conservation appraisal for the ‘Charlton Down or Charminster Herrison Conservation Area’ was put out for public consultation in 2012 with the involvement of Charminster Parish Council, Charlton Down Local History Group, Charlton Down Village Hall, Dorset County Council, Dorset Gardens Trust, English Heritage, and Meadfleet. There was also a public information event in the village before the appraisal was amended and formally accepted as a technical document supporting policies in the West Dorset District Local Plan.
The full appraisal can be found on-line and it is a fascinating document containing lots of interesting details if you have time to read it. It is a useful source document for discovering many things that I personally have been wanting to know about this area.
What you will find here in my GREENWOOD blog, is just a paraphrase of the official content. The main part of the appraisal focusses on the ways in which Charlton Down is considered especially interesting by describing its location and setting; its historic development, and archaeology; providing a spatial analysis, notably the sequences of spaces, views in and out and landmark buildings; and undertaking a character analysis – listing building uses and types, the key listed buildings and the contribution made by local buildings, building materials and details, and ‘green’ elements.
The appraisal then outlines recommendations for management action, including landscape and tree monitoring; and ways of improving essential repairs and maintenance, with suggestions for environmental enhancement, for consideration by local authorities, land and property owners and the wider community.
Next time: a summary of the key characteristics of the Charlton Down or Charminster Herrison Conservation Area.
Posted on April 23, 2021
Late evening around the western edge of the village, the light reflecting in the upper branches of the tall bare trees highlighted them with colour, or threw them into silhouettes against a tinted background, as the sun was going down.