Saturday, 11 June 2016

Footballers in Hempstead Meadow Nature Reserve and Fields

It been a busy and rather stressful week and I've seen squeezing my #30DaysWild encounters into little bits of time, here and there.

Day 11 Visiting a Local Nature Reserve

As it has been such a tiring week, I left celebrations of the Queen's 90th Birthday and the anxious wait for England's first game in Euro 2016 to others.  Instead, Mum and I visited Hempstead Meadow Nature Reserve, which is run by Uckfield Town Council. 

I love the way this reserve is snuggled into the bottom of the town, between Waitrose and the station. When I travel on the train, I often look over it to see what's happening.

Sea of Hemlock Water Dropwort
At this time of year, it is dominated by a sea of white flowers and the gentle hum of pollinators. 

One of many Honey Bees on the Hemlock Water Dropwort
The flowers are Hemlock Water Dropwort and many of the insects pollinating it are Honey Bees.  As we walked along the boardwalk, a small mammal ran up the bank into the bushes. I think it was a vole of some sort - as its size was between that of a rat and a mouse, it was 'blunt' and its tail wasn't very long.

Greater Tussock Sedge.
Dotted around the reserve are ancient-looking Greater Tussock Sedges.  In winter and spring, these sedges raised on pedestals of their own old growth, stand proud. Now they are submerged in the wildflowers.

Flag Irises, sedge and other flowers.
In one of the clearer areas of water I spotted whirligig beetles, pond skaters and a little fish - probably a Stickleback. Once past 'Stickleback Bridge' the vegetation begins to change with more-and-more grasses mixed with buttercups, brambles, geraniums and other wild flowers.

Train going into Uckfield Station.
We rested on a seat for a while and our local train tiptoed into the station.  There was birdsong all around us - including a Chiff-chaff. Several people passed on their way to or from the town.

Sketch of view along path. The gate leads to Waitrose car park.
I spent a few minutes sketching the scene and then wandered round the meadow.  I saw damselflies with dark wings, probably Beautiful Demoselles - a male and a female.

Meadow Cranesbill.
Common Blue.
The meadow was full of insect life. As well as bees there were butterflies, Swollen-Thighed Beatles and - I think - a bright red Cardinal Beetle that was a little too quick for me.

Watching the Bees and Hoverflies.
On the way back, I paused at Stickleback Bridge to watch the Bees and Hoverflies that were settling on the flowers.

The Footballer (NOT!) - Hoverfly.
CORRECTION: I've just been told that this is Parhelophilus sp NOT Helophilus pendulus, which is the one known as The Footballer.

As England's Euro 2016 campaign opens today, it is apt that one of the Hoverflies I saw appears to be wearing a striped jersey, like a footballer.  After we left the nature reserve, it was a pleasure to see families playing and relaxing in Hempstead Fields. Some little ones were enjoying the new equipment at the top. One group was first persuaded to try the big slide by their parents and then couldn't be torn away from it. Sweetest of all was a tiny footballer who, far from being a boy in his favourite team's kit was a little girl in a pink dress with flowers on her shoes.  Maybe one day, we'll see her playing for England.

Oh - and while I was writing this - the Red Arrows flew over. Happy Birthday Your Majesty!


  1. what a lovely walk and an impressive hoverfly, even though it can't play football!

  2. Thank you. After realising, a couple of years ago, that some of my 'bees' were hoverflies, I've had a lot of fun identifying and watching them.