Tuesday 23 June 2020

Frits, Purps, Featherlegs and Haws... 23rd June 2020

A new destination today, and with very warm weather it seemed like the ideal opportunity to visit Lullingstone CP to look for butterflies – in particularly Dark Green Fritillary.
It took just over twenty minutes to get there and I was soon ambling along the River Darent as it snaked its way alongside the mostly hidden Castle Lake. It was not running crystal clear like the Cray but Chub were filling the same fishy niche and I suspect that it would be clearer if it did not have a dozen Labradors in it every ten yards but hey ho.

There were dozens of Common Blue Damsels flitting around and Banded Demoiselles danced on shining wings blue and green wings and a kingfisher zipped over to the lake at the loud sploosh as another hot dog hit water.

Banded Demoiselle
Banded Demoiselle
Banded Demoiselle
Common Blue Damselfly

Common Blue Damselfly

The path swung up through a wheat field on one side and a yellow Composite covered meadow on the other and it was alive with Meadow Browns, Marbled Whites, all three orange Skippers and a few Small Tortoiseshells and Whites.

Small Tortoiseshell

Meadow Browns

Marbled White

Marbled White

I narrowly avoided getting trampled by two young ladies on feisty ponies that decided to canter when they were being told otherwise but in due course I found my way to the Orchid Bank Meadow within the golf course where purple patches of both Black and Greater Knapweed and spires of Pyramidal Orchids were dotted amongst White Bedstraw, Clover and Ox-eye Daisies.

There were even more Marbled Whites here and I could a couple of glimpses of my target Fritillary but nothing much was settling.

Marbled White

Skylarks and Meadow Pipits sang from the rough and two male Yellowhammers were counter singing from the treeline which was good to hear. I kept my eye on flying golf balls and did chuckle when a chap almost took his mate out with a stray shot and had him diving for cover.

As it was my first visit I pushed on up the valley and then swung into the cooling woods in the hunt of more butterflies.  I found a nice ride with a profusion of Brambles, Willowherb and Bracken but there were only a few Whites and Commas and I looked at the few Oaks for Purples of both species.

Nuthatchs and Treecreepers were vocal and I heard a singing Spot Fly with, like yesterday, another calling not far away but could not see them while raucous Ring-necked Parakeets zipped through the canopy in flashes of lime green and yellow. With both large Woodpeckers, Stock Doves and Nuthatches present it would seem that they have struck a ‘who gets the hole’ balance here at least.

Stock Dove

All my staring at Oaks eventually paid off with a solitary Purple Hairstreak but a Brimstone was actually more surprising.  

The charred exoskelton of a once huge Chestnut

My path took me back to the Orchid Bank and in the noonday heat the butterflies were frenzied but there were certainly a lot more Dark Green Fritillaries cruising around and by being patient and staking out a good clump of Greater Knapweed, I was able to get some pleasing shots of this striking butterfly.

Dark Green Fritillary


This does not mean that I ignored the Marbled Whites which were playing ‘Chase me!’ through the grasses.

Marbled White

I ambled back towards the river and as I passed through a tree break on the golf course a huge Purple Emperor appeared and landed on the post in front of me! It was in the shade but even so the purple blazed. I watched him for about a minute before he took off and power glided back up into the canopy of a large Maple. Quite an amazing encounter.

Purple Emperor!

Purple Emperor

Back on the Darent there were now no dogs rippling the surface and I actually had a peaceful twenty minutes with the various blue damselflies that included my first pale blue White-legged for many years.

A lovely Cedar before the river

White-legged Damsefly - you can see why they are called Featherlegs across Europe

White-legged Damsefly
Common Blue Damseflies
The Demoiselles were a little more showy and I got some nice backdrops to go with them. 

female Banded Demoiselle

I think this is Hemlock Water Dropwort

The car park was now heaving so I escaped and headed back home on the more scenic route via Brands Hatch and then up and through Vigo towards Snodland.  I have driven this road before and know that as you come down of the chalk there is a sign that says Holly something or other so on seeing said sign I turned off and made my way to the Holly Hill Wood car park.

There is an amazing view just before you get there all the way across the Medway Valley towards Bluebell Hill to the east and the M2 bridges, Borstal and Chatham to the north east and beyond that Kingsnorth and Damhead Creek Powers Stations (11 miles) and jetty crane, across the Medway Estuary to Wallend BP silos on the Isla of Grain (14miles) and beyond that to tankers in the outer Thames Estuary and Southend in the hazy distance.

Anyway, I parked up and had a pleasant little stroll around this knoll of mostly Chestnut coppice although I did see a couple of Hollies too!  It was unsurprisingly quiet but there was another viewpoint at the top of the wood that looks out in the other direction and beyond a rolling sea of verdant Sweet Chestnut (that thankfully is not yet properly in flower!) you have the entire London skyscape spread out before you and unlike at Rainham where it is all bunched up, here the mighty towers appear dotted around and the Shard looks particularly lonely nearly 24 miles away.

A sea of a green but in the distance...
London City Scape
Song Thrushes, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were singing and suddenly I thought I heard a Hawfinch but surely not... But a minute later it called repeatedly again and two flew through the canopy. I certainly was not expecting to find them in here especially as I had not seen any Beech but around the next corner there were some imposing specimens on the hill top amongst the coppice and I am sure another bird called from further into the trees.


To round things off nicely, two Silver Washed Frits zipped past me back at the car and a White Admiral came and landed at my feet.  With the mid afternoon temperature suggesting that it was well into the mid twenties, I packed up and continued my journey home.

White Admiral


  1. A nice Butterfly haul Howard.

  2. That was an amazing tour. Well done.

  3. Howard is there no way of subscribing to your blog so I'm alerted when you publish a post?

  4. not sure Carl but I do link every post to my FB page and tend to Tweet the links too