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Butterfly walk – 2nd August

16 Jul

Butterfly walk – 2nd August 2014.

Following WildSherston, Maurice Avent from Butterfly Conservation has kindly agreed to guide us through his own wildlife reserve not far from Sherston on Saturday 2nd August at 11.30am.

Yatton Down is a 36 acre site Maurice has been managing for many years particularly for butterflys – more details at

Not far from Castle Coombe – directions are:

Directions to Yatton Down: 
From the A420 four miles south of Chippenham (heading towards Bath and Bristol), turn onto a minor road signposted to West Yatton directly opposite “The Crown Inn”. Follow this (narrow) road for about a mile until it drops to the right down a sleep slope. At the bottom of the slope there is a sign pointing left towards Long Dean. Just after this turning is a ‘flattened’ embankment under some large trees, and most people park here. Access to the Down is through a gate immediately opposite this ‘parking area’ on the other side of the road.

Subject to the weather this promises to be a very interesting trip for all kinds of wildlife.

If you are interested please let me know.


WildSherston in review

26 May

The weekend of WildSherston went with a flutter, flap, a squeak and slither (and no bangs…) due to the bats, moths, owls and snails. The children made quite a lot of noise as well!!

The weather was superb with lots of display stands outside as well as in the large marquee. We were fortunate to have a number of really good speakers including Kelvin Boot on Friday night with his stories being a well-travelled naturalist. On Saturday there were 6 speakers on a whole variety of subjects from Wild Flowers to Birds and Rivers. The two stalls most in demand were the snail racing (which brought out the competitive spirit in many people albeit in slow motion) and the bats. It was a rare chance to see bats close up and many of the children were fascinated… the adults couldn’t get close..

On Friday night a series of moth traps were put out around the village and some very large moths were caught which were a bit scary. About 50 different species were found.

The Sherston mums did a fantastic job of setting up and running a whole series of activities for children including clay models, nature walks and a special thanks to Carron Watehouse for managing this.

Sunday dawned at 4.15am with a hardy bunch out and about for the Dawn Chorus and then a bird ringing exhibition, with breakfast, at the Vineyard. A series of fascinating walks followed looking at different aspects of nature including the river, birds, wild flowers and butterflies.

I suspect some people felt it was worth going just for the fantastic food alone, provided by “The Awkward Squad”.

Many thanks to lots of people and organizations who really made this a fantastic experience and to the main organisers Martin Rea, Jo Egerton, Pete Bishop, Carron Watehouse.

And of course the brain behind the idea, and general management of the event our thanks go to Geoff Carss.

Sherston Craft Club did a fantastic job with the legacy banner, and it was clear that the children loved getting stuck in.

Thank you to Sherston Church and Sue Robinson for organising the children’s and pets service on Sunday morning. The “Living Churchyard” proved to be somewhere a bit different to discover nature and wildlife.The Living Churchyards and Cemeteries Project (LCCP) was set up nationally in the 1990s with the aim of promoting churchyards and cemeteries as a valuable source of biodiversity.

We received funding from the Parish Council, Wiltshire County Council , MVCAP and support from N3 Graphic Displays (Nick Holland), The Post Office, Wentworth Jigsaws, Highgrove, Bugs Eye View, Whatley Manor, The Ship at Luckington, Sonardyne, Jeremy Nabarro and Carole Conyngham.

People clearly enjoyed themselves with some fantastic feedback including from Miranda Krestovnikov (presenter of BBC’s Coast programme and President of RSPB) who stayed for 5 hours and insisted she is invited again and will bring more people. The BBC, who broadcast the BBC Wiltshire Radio programme ‘Wild about Wiltshire” live from the event on Sunday mentioned it was the best ever live broadcast they have ever done and interviewed lots of people over the 2 hour programme.

The overall intention was to get more people, adults and children, interested in their environment and from the feedback it certainly achieved that aim.

We also had some great coverage in local newspapers:

and there are some great photo’s on our facebook site:

WildSherston kicks off today

16 May

After some 9 months of planning the big weekend has arrived!!

We have a great weekend of nature related activities ranging from talks and walks to bugs and bats, both for adults and children.

The weekend begins on Friday 16th May begins at 7.30pm with BBC Radio 4’s “Shared Planet” presenter Kelvin Boot talking about “The trials and travails of a naturalist”. We also have a range of events where experts talk about their passion, including talks about butterflies & moths, birds, bees, mammals, rivers and bats.

On Saturday we have a really special guest – Miranda Krestovnikoff from the BBC Series Coast and also President of RSPB.

Over the Saturday and Sunday there will be a variety of walks for you to enjoy. There’s a dawn chorus walk at 4.15am on Sunday if you’re an early bird! There’s also wild flower, butterfly, river and bat walks.

There will be lots of children’s activities such as a bouncy castle, face painting, a clay corner, snail racing, trails, quizzes as well as a Forest School.

There will be live animals for you to meet, including bats, hedgehogs, owls and butterfly’s. There will also be adult and children’s photographic exhibitions.

Lots more details at

Wild Sherston’s main venue is:

Sherston Village Hall
High Street
SN16 0LQ

WildSherston is underway

23 Jan

New developments… (as published in the February 2014 edition of the Sherston Cliffhanger)

Over the past couple of years a number of people have expressed an interest in knowing more about our local nature – the trees, flowers, bees, birds and how to learn more. This got me thinking about how to help people learn about our fantastic local nature in a fun and interesting way using local expertise and ensure that children have a great opportunity to really get involved.

Wild Sherston is the result and is planned for the 16th, 17th and 18th May when there will be a weekend of talks, walks, hands-on sessions for children and maybe the odd very small celebrity (maybe).

The programme is still just being finalised but it will be something like:

Friday 16th May – speaker in the evening on a wildlife topic of general interest.

Saturday 17th May – lots of activity in the Village Hall and Church with 6 – 7 talks on subjects such as identifying local birds, bats, butterflies, flowers and what to do if you find an injured animal or bird. A number of local and national societies will have stands and lots of experts including Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Avon Valley River Trust, a wildlife refuge, British Trust for Ornithology, Forest School, RSPB etc etc. There will be a programme of activities for children and maybe some wild animals to see.

Sunday 18th May – a number of walks around the village some focused on particular topics such as wild flowers, butterflies or birds as well as a nature trail for children.

The arrangements are in hand and if you would like to get involved please let me know – in particular we will need stewards over the weekend. More information in next months Cliffhanger.

The request for help building nest boxes will result in an outbreak of new homes in February but given their size they won’t need planning permission!! A number of people, as well as the Scouts, are building a variety of boxes including those for Barn Owls, Little Owls and House Sparrows. The Owl boxes will be put up in local trees and barn’s (if we can use one) and the House Sparrows, who have communal nests, will have new housing in the centre of the village. Next month should see some pictures of people up ladders trying to attach heavy bits of DIY to trees!.

Finally a picture of a local resident which you don’t often see this close – if you do see a Sparrowhawk it’s often just a blur.

Sparrowhawk Jan 2014

Wild comes to Sherston?

28 Jul
Based on quite a number of conversations with various people in the village there seems to be lots of interest in learning more about the environment around the village. People have a variety of interests such as wild flowers, bees, hedgehogs, the weather, the landscape, foraging, wildlife photography, bats etc.
There is lots of expertise in the village on a number of these subjects as well as in local wildlife/conservation groups such as Butterfly Conservation, the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
The suggestion is to run a 1 day (or maybe 2 day depending on level of interest) in May 2014 where an expert runs a 1 hour session on a topic (bats, wild flowers etc) and then leads a number of walks around the village to identify the local fauna and flora. There could lots of opportunity to get local children involved finding and identify beetles, moths, bugs etc as well as exploring the local countryside.
Overall it’s intended to use local expertise to get local people involved in better understanding our local environment.
If you have any ideas, would like to get involved or want to know more please contact me


Not bad for an Octogenarian…

27 May

June article for the Cliffhanger.

The national treasure that is Sir David Attenborough has been very busy of late. Not only has he been ‘tweeting’ every day on Radio 4 (tweet of the day) with one bird being discussed every day for 2 minutes with some 265 episodes, he has just launched a major review of the state of our environment entitled State of Nature covering the UK and our overseas territories.

As you may expect, the report makes quite mixed reading with some birds, animals and plants doing well with others almost disappearing from our countryside. On the downside

  • Turtle Doves have declined by 93% since 1970
  • Hedgehogs have declined by around a third since the millennium
  • The small tortoiseshell butterfly has declined in abundance by 77%in the last ten years

And we have seen this in the village withy, for example, Hedgehogs being really quite scarce. One species of plant, the Corn Cleaver, used to occur in arable fields but efficient farming methods, including herbicides, mean this plant is only found in three locations in the UK.

It’s not all bad news and there are two great examples in the village. Around the village there seem to be increasing numbers of House Sparrows. They have declined by some 70% but around the High Street and nearby they do seem to be in greater numbers. This year, for the first time as far as I am aware, there is a colony of Starlings nesting in the Blackthorn on the Cliff. The noise from these gregarious birds is quite something when they fly in to feed their chicks.

We are also fortunate that some of the more cryptic species (I mean that they are hidden) seem to be holding their own. Slow Worms, for example, seem to be around the village in reasonable numbers. These legless lizards often occur in gardens and burrow into the soil in search of slugs and worms. They have a number of quite amazing characteristics – they give birth to live young, they can discard their tail if attacked and then grow a new one and can live up to 30 years in the wild. Their main predator are cats against which they have no defence. They can be seen in gardens and in grassy areas but can be very hard to spot The photo was taken on the Cliff in May this year and I have seen them on the steep parts of the Cliff.

Slow Worm on Sherston Cliff May 2013

Slow Worm on Sherston Cliff May 2013


Overall the State of Nature report makes quite difficult reading and it makes a very valid point that different parts of nature need different types of help. If, for example, we want to help Barn Owls we can put up more nesting boxes as the lack of suitable nesting sites can limit their ability to increase in numbers. Helping migrating birds or insects is much more complex as it may, for example, be really important to protect sites in west or North Africa where they stop over while migrating.

So what can you and I do to help? The first place to start is to get out and understand what we have around us. Join The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust or Butterfly Conservation or Buglife or the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers – they all offer ways of helping make a difference either through physical activities or more sedate one such as helping raise funds or helping in visitor centres.

We do have fantastic local wildlife which can be really quite surprising – just look for slugs mating at this time of year – quite amazing (if somewhat gross….)


Be there ….. or be in bed… its time for the Dawn Chorus

2 May

4.15am Saturday 4th May – it’s that time of year to get up really early and hear the dawn chorus.

This years walk will meet outside Stretchline on the road from Sherston to Luckington – bring warm clothes, a torch, stout shoes and preferably no dogs….

See you bright eyed and bushy tailed on Saturday…