Current plants of Interest

The interesting things to see at the moment are birds, various ferns and fungi, and buds on trees showing the very first sign of spring.
See our map showing where to look for interesting things this month.

We are also producing a monthly I-Spy chart for children showing current photographs of things that you can see this month. Click here to download the pdf file.

Grazing the Meadow

2 Dexter cattle arrived in September with a further two arriving in early October. Dexters are small cattle which can be used for either milk or beef. They are descended from the from the cattle of the early Celts.

Livestock grazing plays a key role in maintaining species-rich habitats such as Hocombe Mead. Grazing removes plant material more gradually than cutting or burning and gives mobile species a better chance to move to other areas in the habitat.Cattle use their tongues to pull tufts of vegetation into their mouths. and they often leave tussocks of grass which are used by insects and small mammals.


Hocombe plays host to many butterflies, some of which are locally important as they appear in numbers not found elsewhere in the region such as the ringlet.
The Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) Wingspan 45mm - look for it in the meadows during the summer. Its caterpillars feed on various grasses.The male ringlet can be almost black when young, but fade to brown with age. The eye spots, or rings, which give this butterfly its name are very variable in size and shape.


The meadows at Hocombe Mead have a wide range of plants, the one to the left, although common, shows a wonderful purple blanket during the summer months. Lythrum salicaria (Purple Loosetrife)
Hardy Perennial. Hairy plant, growing to about 2 m (6.6 ft). Tall stem with many small leaves and small purple-red starry flowers along stem.



As our recent Winter Tree Identification event showed, we have many species on the reserve including Ash, Field Maple, Silver Birch, Downy Birch, Hazel, Beech, Sweet Chestnut, Rowan, Pendunculate Oak, Hawthorne, Sycamore, Elm, Yew, Buckthorn, Aspen, Goat Willow, Wild Cherry, Sorbus.

The Cattle

The first two Dexter cattle to arrive were called Helen and Hellie. They have been halter trained and appear to be rather more friendly than usual. The second two are called Heather and Piper. In the short time since they have arrived they have done a good job in cutting down long grass but it is a pity that they did not arrive sooner.


Reserve Entrances

Ashdown Road
(limited parking)

Hocombe Road
(no parking) 

Hiltingbury Road   
(nearest parking to this entrance is at the recreation
ground opposite)

Dogs are welcome but please pick up any mess - there are dog bins at Asdown Road and Hiltingbury Road entrances.

During the summer months when cattle are grazing the meadow please keep your dog on a lead.