Save the date : Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve Open Day - Sunday 12th September 2021


Lymington & District Naturalists' Society are supporting this event again this year. We have marquee space reserved for displays and information about the society and a team of committee members attending the stand.

Further details from the last event in 2019 can be found on Facebook here

Reserve Open Day 2019

Field Meeting: Dibden Inclosure - 22 July

Our next 'General Interest' field meeting for members is next Thursday.  We will be starting from Dibden Inclosure Car Park at 10am.

Field Meeting Report: Wilverley Plain - 8 July

Wilverley Plain   GP

On a bright morning this early July our large group (23) of enthusiastic Naturalists assembled and looked out on the busy plain full of cattle and ponies. The grass plain has developed a sparkling array of wild flowers since its re-seeding after the war when it had been ploughed and cultivated for arable farming to support the war effort.  We walked along the southern edge trying to avoid the inquisitive ponies and pay attention to what was at our feet. 

Pied Hoverfly     RS

We found the lemon-yellow flowers of Mouse-ear Hawkweed among the richer yellow of the other more abundant Hawkbits, Tormentil and Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil. 

Wild Thyme     RS

Mixed in were the purples of Selfheal, patches of Wild Thyme and the occasional specimen of Lousewort, the lovely pink of Common Centaury and blue of Common Milkwort, not to mention a host of other species like stars in the sky.

Lesser Butterfly Orchid     GP

On reaching swathes of heather, we found a few beautiful spikes of Lesser Butterfly Orchid, a delicate and intricate pale flower, and were serenaded by Skylark.

Heath Spotted  Orchid   

Descending from the plain we made our way down toward a boggy area, finding many examples of Heath Spotted Orchid along the way and the occasional delicate spike of Slender St John’s-wort. 

The most abundant heather was Ling (mostly not in flower just yet), though the rich purple flower of Bell Heather stood out amongst it and occasional patches of the pink and paler green of Cross-leaved Heath in the wetter areas. 

We found many interesting marsh plants including the yellow spikes of Bog Asphodel, mats of Marsh St-John’s-wort and Bog Pimpernel. A few dancing butterflies emerged in the heather, mostly the delicate Silver Studded Blue and the odd Small Heath.

Common Lizard     RS

We paused by a stream, hearing the busy Stonechats (but not seeing) and were lucky to see a female Common Lizard basking in the sun on a stump. Thanks to Chris for spotting.

 On moving off we saw glimpses of Linnet and then a male Stonechat displaying proudly at the top of a Gorse bush.

Oblong-leaved Sundew     GP

Returning through the valley Tina spotted a small group of Fallow Deer on the opposite bank headed by an almost white male already with a fine set of antlers developing. From one glorious sight to another on a different scale, eyes turned down for a rich display of  Sundew and the rarer Marsh Club Moss.

Another brief foray across the plain and our rather meandering walking bus returned from whence we came.  A thank you to Glynis for being the “beater” at the rear!  


Photographs  © Glynis Payne and Richard Smith

©Crown copyright 2021 Ordnance Survey. Media 008/21


Field Meeting: Wilverley Plain - 8 July

Our next members’ Field Meeting will be a varied walk, starting from Wilverley Plain carpark.  This will be a fairly hilly walk on lawn, open heathland and some bog.  There are many flowering plants to be seen at the moment as well as butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies - weather permitting.

Field Meeting: Pondhead Inclosure - 24 June

Pondhead Inclosure is designated as an SSSI and is like no other area of woodland in the New Forest. It has not been grazed by ponies or cattle for several centuries, resulting in a rich variety of flora, butterflies and birds found in few other places locally.  

Pondhead was famous amongst Victorian collectors for its profusion of butterflies, but sadly this also led to their decline with specialist dealers set up in Lyndhurst high street to cater for the demand.  Today, as a result of ongoing restoration work, Pondhead Inclosure contains the largest area of hazel coppicing on the Crown land of the New Forest.  This and the reinstatement and creation of other suitable habitats within the inclosure are helping address the general decline in UK butterfly numbers (1, 2).

During a very dry spell in July 2018 a large number of butterflies were seen here when Richard Coomber and Adrian Butterworth led a field meeting and in this week last year the same area held White Admiral and Pearl-bordered Fritillary as well as large numbers of bees, hoverflies and hornets.  Evidently, past performance may not be indicative of future results!  

Common Cow-wheat     RS

On a still, overcast day, 17 members and leader started the short walk at the entrance to Beechen Lane. There was a notable absence of butterflies but our botanical experts were able to identify numerous rushes, sedge, grasses and other plant species and we spent 45 minutes walking up the lane to the gate into the inclosure.  Species identified included Ragged Robin, Dog Rose, Cuckoo Flower, Foxglove, Heath Speedwell, Bog Pimpernel, Oval and Star Sedge, Marsh Bedstraw, Lesser Spearwort, Creeping Forget-me-not, Tormentil, Velvet Bent, Crested Dogstail, Toad Rush, Bulbous Rush, and Common Cow-wheat. The latter is a hemi-parasitic plant that enjoys a symbiotic relationship with Wood Ants, which assist in seed dispersal (3). 

Wolf's Milk slime mould   RS

The pink fruiting bodies of a slime mould were found on some decaying wood and identified as Wolf's Milk - Lycogala terrestre.  A birch polypore was also found nearby in the damp environment. 

Meadow Brown and Red Admiral butterfly made brief appearances and a Stock Dove perched in a dead tree opposite the gate.

Entering Pondhead Inclosure we found more Cow-wheat along with Greater Stitchwort, Pendulous Sedge and Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil, not yet in flower.  

A couple of Golden Ringed Dragonfly patrolled the tops of a large patch of bramble and paused briefly for photographs.  A Pill Woodlouse on the path rolled itself into a tight ball and was gently moved to safety!  Along the margins, Wood Sedge and Remote Sedge were found, together with Silverweed.

Hedge Woundwort     RC

As we stopped at the crossroads for a break. more species of plants were found: Marsh Ragwort, Hedge Woundwort, Zigzag Clover, Herb Robert and Wood Avens and several Lesser Burdock, heavily infested with blackfly.  

A hoverfly, identified as Xylota sylvarum, a species associated with old woodland, was  seen (4).

Black-headed Cardinal      RC
Black-and-yellow Longhorn    RC

More insect life amongst the foliage included a Black-headed Cardinal beetle, a Black-and-yellow Longhorn beetle, and a male Common Scorpion fly - Panorpa communis - the claspers at the end of its tail resemble a scorpion tail but are used for mating purposes.

Common Scorpion fly     RS

Tutsan, Yellow Pimpernel and Wood Speedwell were seen beside the path as we moved on and a Jay paused briefly.  Turning back into the woods we returned towards our cars along part of the circular walk.  Blackcap and Song Thrush sang in the trees and a dead, but seemingly undamaged shrew, was found lying on the path.  Lady Fern, Slender St John’s Wort and Germander Speedwell grew in the margin.

Despite the lack of butterflies, and thanks to the collective expertise of the members, we were still able to identify a substantial number of plants and insects.  Hopefully more sunshine and warm weather will bring the blackberry into full flower and a return visit in a couple of weeks will be more rewarding.  RS

Photographs: © Richard Comber and Richard Smith


 1/ A detailed history of Pondhead by Derek Tippetts can be found here:

 2/ Details of the work done by the Pondhead conservation trust and several detailed maps can be found and downloaded here:

3/ Common Cow-wheat:

4/ Xylota Sylvarum:


See also:  Tippetts (2019) A history of Pondhead inclosure & adjoining area

Field Meeting: Pondhead Inclosure - 24 June

Our next members' field meeting will take place on Thursday 24 June, with a focus on butterflies.  We will meet at 10am at the Clayhill gate entrance to Beechen Lane (SU303071). Parking is limited but possible by the gate and in the approach road to the track.

Some rides have long grass so you may wish to take precautions to avoid ticks.

It will, of course, also be an opportunity to view some of the improvements we learned about during our October 2020 talk by a representative from the Pondhead Conservation Trust.

Several maps of Pondhead Inclosure can be viewed or downloaded here:

Wool-carder Bee (Anthidium manicatum)

I was lucky enough to see these bees in our garden a couple of days ago and was intrigued as to what they were.

The Wool-carder is a bee of the southern part of Britain, which nests in aerial cavities that other insects have created.  The name comes from the female’s method of collecting nesting materials.  She ‘cards’ fibres from plant stems (reminiscent of carding wool to separate the fibres).

These solitary bees have a single generation and may be seen flying from June to August.  The sexes are similar, though the males are larger and fiercely protect their territory.  They are easy to identify by the yellow markings along their abdomen and on their legs and faces.  They don’t have a sting as such but the male has sharp spines on its rear-end where the sting would be.

They are great pollinators favouring a number of plants with tubular flowers (such as the Mint family) or those with restricted access (such as the vetches and toadflaxes).


All photos © Chris Robinson

Snakes in the Heather Celebration Event - 22 June

In March 2019, Lymington Naturalists welcomed a speaker from the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust who told us about their ‘Snakes in the Heather’ project. This was followed by a very successful Field Meeting to view the project in action. 

ARC are now running a Snakes in the Heather celebration event which will taking place at 6pm on Tuesday 22nd June via Zoom and they are extending an invitation to register as follows:

"We would be delighted if you would join us to hear all about Amphibian and Reptile Conservation’s flagship project, Snakes in the Heather, which is to conserve the UK's rarest reptile – the smooth snake, and the internationally important heathland habitat on which it depends. We will showcase the progress of the project to date, celebrate the work of our amazing volunteers, share some of our plans for the future and provide an opportunity for you to ask questions.
This is a free event run by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust via Zoom – view the event agenda and register for your place below. You will  receive a joining link a week before the event."

More information and registration 

Walk Report: Keyhaven Marshes - 10 June

On an overcast morning 16 Lymnats’ members assembled at the Keyhaven end of the Keyhaven/Lymington nature reserve. The partial solar eclipse was intermittently visible, but you could feel the sea mist in the air.

There were a few small birds flitting about, mostly Linnets but also Meadow pipits and Skylarks. There was no sign of the usual Peregrines, which was not a good omen! There were very few birds on Keyhaven Lagoon, but things looked up when we got to Fishtail.


A pair of Avocets were displaying (and mating) at one end on the lagoon, with more on the island where they have been nesting. Three chicks were being watched by their parents and another adult was sitting on eggs.

Other waders present were Dunlin, Black-tailed godwits, Oystercatchers, Lapwings and a Little ringed plover. There were also more Linnets (still collecting nesting materials) and a pair of Stonechats.

Reed Warbler

We could hear Reed warblers all along the path but saw only one.


Between Butts and the Jetty (sewage outlet!) there were several Gadwall, a Raven being pursued by a Carrion crow and Eider duck on the sea (one male in moult quite close in).  Three species of Tern did a fly past (Common, Little and Sandwich).

Bee Orchid

We turned down the path towards Lower Pennington Lane and saw Whitethroat, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and heard a Cetti’s warbler. Of botanical interest were Bee orchids, Cut-leaved cranesbill and Sand spurrey (none of which I had ever noticed before!).

Greylag Goose

On Efford lake there were many Great Black-backed and Herring gulls, two Egyptian geese, one Swallow and one Swift. A Marsh harrier flew over.

We eventually saw about 50 species, and finally heard a Cuckoo when we got back to the car park.   CR

Species List: Raven, Carrion crow, Magpie, Marsh harrier, Kestrel, Eider, Shellduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveller, Dunlin, Black-tailed godwit, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Little ringed plover, Avocet, Canada goose, Egyptian goose, Grey-lag goose, Reed warbler, Cetti’s warbler, Reed bunting, Whitethroat, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Great crested grebe, Coot, Moorhen, Swallow, Swift, Wood pigeon, Great black-backed gull, Lesser black-backed gull, Herring gull, Black-headed gull, Common tern, Sandwich tern, Little tern, Little egret, Mute swan, Robin, Blackbird, Song thrush, Starling, Skylark, Meadow pipit, Stonechat, Cuckoo.

Any I have missed is down to my failing faculties!

All photos: © C Robinson

Field Meeting: Keyhaven Marshes - 10 June

Our next field meeting will take place on Thursday 10 June, with a focus on birds.  We will meet at 10am at Keyhaven Harbour between the bridge and the entrance to the reserve.

Walk Report: Martin Down - 27 May 2021

Martin Down         © R. Smith

After an unusually cold April and some dismal weather in May it was wonderful to have a warm, sunny day with barely a light breeze for the first full Lym Nats’ walk since February 2020!

Twelve, including several new faces, plus a leader met up at Martin Down for a general interest walk, although inevitably at this time of year the emphasis was going to be on butterflies and flowers.  In spite of the late Spring, we were not disappointed. Even the Skylarks were rejoicing on such a beautiful day, for their songs from above were in the background throughout our walk.

Martin Down is a National Nature Reserve that has on its western side the Bokerley Ditch, a long meandering Iron Age earthwork that nowadays marks the Hampshire/Dorset border.  It was along the eastern bank we walked initially, passing scrub where patches of Germander Speedwell matched the blue of the sky and Thyme-leaved Sandwort grew on the ant-hills that dotted the landscape in that part of the down.  Salad Burnet and Cowslips grew everywhere, although the latter were now past their best.  Dropwort, the downland Meadow Sweet, was still quite short and in bud so perhaps easily overlooked for it bore a passing resemblance to Salad Burnet at this stage.

Small Copper     © R Coomber  
Marsh Fritillary      © R Coomber

Our first butterflies were Brimstone, Orange-tip, Marsh Fritillary, Brown Argus, Dingy Skipper and Small Copper. We encountered the blue form of female Common Blue before leaving the ditch area to walk across to the flat ‘fields’ of the World War II rifle butts area, where we enjoyed marvellous views of a Green Hairstreak resting on the new growth of Dogwood.  Nearby another Marsh Fritillary also provided perfect opportunities for the photographers in the party. 

Female Common Blue        © R Smith
Green Hairstreak      © R Coomber

Patches of Chalk Milkwort grew, with some being pink or white plants in addition to the more usual blue.  Here and there the first flowers of the yellow Common Rock-rose reflected the morning’s sunshine, or perhaps the male Yellowhammers we were seeing during the walk.  It will be a while before Marjoram flowers, but one could smell the herb wherever leaves had been crushed along the path.

Corn Bunting       © C Robinson

One of the hoped-for birds was Corn Bunting and we were not disappointed, although we might have wished for better views. This is one of a number for farmland species, that along with the migratory Turtle Dove, is in decline as a victim of intensive agriculture.  Martin Down supports both species, although today’s walk didn’t visit the area favoured by the doves.

Field Fleabane    © C Robinson

 Burnt Orchard      © R Coomber 

eturning to the ditch we came across our first flowering Common Spotted Orchids and further on a couple of the area’s specialities – Field Fleawort and Burnt Orchid - both calcareous-loving plants with a limited distribution nationally.  The orchids were easy to find as someone had marked them with rings of small stones to prevent walkers inadvertently stepping on them.

Time was running away from us, so we decided to abandon the clock and continued to walk the side of the ditch before looping round to a track that led us by two tumuli, where another unusual plant grew – Pasqueflower (Pasque = paschal = Easter).  This year the flowers had still been showing well just a week ago, but unfortunately were now going over.  This is probably the most south-westerly site for Pasqueflower for its main strongholds are in the Cotswolds and the Chilterns.  Although known to favour ancient earthworks in areas where it occurs, it was only discovered here in 1983 and it is possible that it might have been introduced.

Grizzled Skipper © C Robinson

Dingy Skipper  © R Coomber

With homage paid to another rarity we headed back towards the car park, finding a number of large puffballs identified by Richard Smith as Mosaic Puffball, several flighty Grizzled Skippers and some 30+ stunted Green-winged Orchids.  The final butterfly, seen by Brian and others, was a Speckled Wood amongst the bushes lining the path near the car park.

Mosaic Puffball      © R Smith

As we all had brought picnics we migrated to a sunny slope for lunch, before heading for home or returning to the field.  It was a great start to our season of scheduled walks and thanks everyone for coming.     RC

©Crown copyright 2021 Ordnance Survey. Media 008/21


Restarting Summer Field Meetings

Legal restrictions on outside gatherings of up to 30 people have been eased.  The Lymnats’ field meeting programme will now resume on Thursday 27th May.  Please refer to the programme which you can also view and download using the link found on the Field Meetings section of our website.

We will respect social distancing and members should avoid the sharing of food or equipment during our walks.  Detailed guidance on precautions can be found here:

Advice on car sharing can be found here : Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer travel guidance for passengers - GOV.UK (

Persons displaying any symptoms of COVID-19 should not attend field meetings.