Insects, cut ways and a new copse

3 October 2017

This is the time of year the garden spiders start to stray indoors and the house spiders come out in search of a mate. Although I’m not a great fan of the eight legged critters, we seem to have attracted two to our decking. One keeps building his web between the house and the decking rail, right where everyone walks. You’d think she’d learn but every morning her web is back ready to be broken again. We’ve called her Doris, mostly because the other, more sensible, spider has been called Boris. He’s built his web between the decking rail and the garden and seems to be very successful at catching things. CJ has seen him twice now with a bee. In fact he’s getting rather fat.  

First thing this morning, when I went out to the bins, Doris’ web was covered in dew and easy to see. Later, when CJ and I were off for a walk, the sun was out, the dew was gone and, unfortunately, shortly so was Doris’ web. She is taking the try and try again maxim a little too far and needs to find a new place to build.

Across the road on the high hedge surrounding the school, we found insects of another kind. Before you say anything, I know spiders are not technically insects but bear with me. A while ago we squelched along the butterfly walk and didn’t see a single butterfly. Today we couldn’t move for them. For some bizarre reason the hedge had become a magnet for butterflies and, for a change, most were happy to have their photo taken.

For some reason the red admirals all seemed very keen on the ivy flowers.

While the commas were sunning themselves on the hawthorn leaves.

We spent so much time taking pictures of them flitting about we were in danger of running out of walking time. Eventually we dragged ourselves away and headed towards Townhill Park. My plan for the morning was to explore some of the cut ways and footpaths that criss cross the area and maybe finally get around to visiting Chartwell Copse, if we didn’t get too lost.

We began with a very familar cut way, Cutbush Lane. We didn’t actually walk along it but instead picked it up where it passes the school. There is a side path there I’ve been meaning to explore for some time. Where it would lead, I wasn’t quite sure. Few of these little footpaths are marked on the map and can only be seen as a line of green that may be a path or just a line of trees in back gardens.

After a promising start, winding up through the trees, we soon found ourselves walking between the walls and fences of back gardens and the school playground.  The cut way ended up being far shorter than I’d hoped and, almost before we knew it, we emerged on Townhill Way. Right opposite was another cut way. In hindsight, what I should have done is stop to look at the map and get orientated. Townhill Way is a long, winding road. It twists and turns from the top of my village to the big roundabout at the end of Allington Lane. Knowing where we were on it could have been useful. Instead we plunged ahead along the unknown path.  It was much like the last path, a promisingly leafy start followed by fences and walls. At least this time we had greenery on one side though.

This path was longer than the first, or seemed to be. It was also more or less straight and had side paths going off at intervals. Each of these looked as if they were just entrances and exits from the cut to the nearby streets so we ignored them. The path ended with a dilemma. Beyond the tarmac and the barriers erected to make cyclists dismount, was a large tree and another footpath running at right angles across the end of the path we were on. It looked enticing as it stretched off in both directions. The problem was, which way to go?

In fact it looked more than enticing, it looked familiar. The tall pine trees and dirt path dusted with needles reminded me of Pine Walk, an urban trail I discovered a couple of years ago after a visit to West End Copse. A quick look at Google Maps told me I was right but wasn’t all that helpful regarding which way to go next. One end of Pine Walk comes out on Townhill Way not far from the junction with Allington Lane, the other is close to West End Copse, which was roughly the way I wanted to go. In the end I used my internal compass to make a choice. Given how often it has led me astray in the past I wasn’t too hopeful.

The first time I walked along this trail I saw toadflax and fungi. Today was no different except the toadflax came in two colours, purple and pink and the fungi were a beautiful brownish red. I might have taken more pictures of the fungus in order to identify it later but an elderly lady walking a small dog stopped to ask what I was looking at. After a conversation that was both longer and more confusing than I’d have liked, CJ and I got away and walked on.

Pine Walk seemed a popular path and we were passed by several other dog walkers before we reached the end. By some small miracle my compass had led me the right way for once and we emerged on Old Ivy Lane with West End Copse to our left and Chartwell Green to our right.

Chartwell Green is a small rectangle of grassy park in the centre of an area also known as Chartwell Green. Confusingly, although it seems to be in the middle of a Southampton housing estate, Chartwell Green is actually part of West End and comes under Eastleigh council.

The Chartwell Green park is marked on the map but the area and the copse are not. In fact I only knew about the copse from previous walks when I’d seen a sign  just off Townhill Way. From looking at maps I could see it was a very small wood but nothing more.  We walked past the green, along yet another cut way  and came back out onto Townhill Way, having inadvertently walked in a large circle. We were almost directly opposite the entrance to Chartwell Copse.

Before we left home I had actually tried to find out a little bit more about the copse but had had very little luck. The whole area that is now Townhill Park and Chartwell Green was originally part of the Manor of Townhill and was mostly used for farming. In 1948 the majority of the manor was sold to Southampton Council to be used for housing and the Manor House and surrounding land became a school. Slowly, the farmland was eaten up by housing. The first house on the Townhill Park Estate was officially opened in 1959 and the houses of Chartwell Green, built in the late 1980’s were some of the last.

Comparing maps from the early post war years with modern maps the changes are astounding. West End Copse is much as it always was, although a small part has been swallowed up by housing, while Chartwell Copse seems to have been a spinney in the midst of open farmland.

Today we discovered the copse has become a pleasant little wooded area. Although it’s barely large enough to ever quite forget the nearby roads and houses and certainly not big enough for even me to get lost, it was nice to walk among the trees.

The only bit of information I did glean about the copse was that it contained an old cow feeder thought to be from the days when this was a farm. As the copse was so incredibly small I thought this would be fairly easy to find, although I didn’t really know what I was looking for. CJ and I walked up and down the trails looking for anything that fit the bill. We found several different exits back onto the nearby roads and a snail sitting on a holly leaf but no cow feeder.

After a while I got the feeling we were walking in circles and, yet again, I’d lost all sense of direction. CJ and I were both beginning to think the cow feeder was an urban myth.  Either that or it was so covered by undergrowth we’d missed it.

Right when I decided to leave the copse at the next exit I came to and work out where I was when I got there I saw something at the side of the trail. It looked like railings of some kind.
“Do you think that’s the cow feeder?” CJ asked.
“I’m not sure,” I said. “It’s the only thing we’ve seen that could possibly be a cow feeder but I was expecting something much older looking.”
Curious, we went a litte closer to investigate.

What we found was a concrete platform and two slightly battered and bent sets of railings, behind this the ground dropped away steeply. It certainly looked more like the top of some steps than a cow feeder, although neither of us really knew what a cow feeder might look like. We stepped onto the concrete and looked down. There were no steps or any sign of where steps might once have been but there was another trail below. As a historic piece of the old Townhill Farm it was fairly disappointing but the trail we saw more than made up for it.

With all the twisting and turning on different cutways and trails and the going in circles in the Copse any bearings I might once have had were completely lost. This sunken trail could have been anywhere but, wherever it was it looked extremely interesting. We left the cow feeder, if that’s what it was, behind and headed off to look for a way onto it.

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Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

4 thoughts on “Insects, cut ways and a new copse”

    1. It’s unusual for the butterflies to play so nicely. They seemed to be very attracted to the hedge for some reason. I wish I’d had more time to look at that fungus but I’m sure the lady who stopped us thought we were up to no good. Interesting fact about the spiders. I’m not a great fan but they do a good job of getting rid of flies.

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