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This is an excellent short walk devised by Tony Metcalfe which, having plenty of shade, is ideal for a sunny day in May. At this time it also has the promise of seeing the rare Marsh Fritillary butterfly, and also butterfly orchids, on Strawberry Banks nature reserve. The total length is about 5.3 km (about 3 miles) with a modest amount of climbing up to the top of Strawberry Banks.

 

This walk passes through Strawberry Banks nature reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), it is managed by the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and has open access at all times. The fields, surrounded by woodland, are Oolitic Limestone grasslands supporting a stunning variety of flora and fauna. During our brief visit the Early Purple orchid, Greater Butterfly orchid, Common Spotted orchid, Wild Columbine, Common Rockrose, Milkwort and Sainfoin providing vivid splashes of colour throughout the grassland. Strawberry Banks is a local hot spot for the Marsh Fritillary butterfly and judging by the number of photographers there, one of the most photographed. Marsh Fritillaries breed in the same patch year on year. They are found on the wing from mid May to early June with the males emerging first. The male is usually smaller than the female and slightly darker, although the colour of both sexes can vary from bright to dull and pale to dark. This was very evident during our visit. The food plant for the caterpillars is Devil's-bit Scabious and the female prefers those growing in a warm sunny position to lay her eggs on.

Strawberry Banks is the highlight of the walk but the woodlands and the pathway running between the river and canal offer many delights, Dippers skimming over the water or bobbing up and down when perched to the slanting sunlight through the fresh green leaves. Enjoy nature at it's best.

Marsh Fritillary

Marsh Fritillary at Strawberry Banks

Strawberry Banks

Sainfoin, Strawberry Banks

 

Category: Non-local Walks