A tale of two reserves – part 1

It all started a few weeks ago while we were rushing round to finish the zoo on a Sunday evening. I was cleaning litter trays and my husband was in the kitchen feeding the cats. Countryfile was on the television and he called me in to see an article on the only dedicated dragonfly and damselfly reserve in the UK. Foxearth Meadows was originally created by Keith Morris, but after his death the reserve was bought by a Christian charity working for the protection and restoration of the natural world. Located on the Essex/Suffolk border, it would be a two-hour drive, but hubby agreed to babysit the animals if I wanted to go.

In the end I waited a month to give myself the best chance of seeing as many species as possible. I needed a warm, sunny and still day and the first opportunity came in the middle of a heatwave. London and the South East was supposed to swelter in temperatures exceeding 30C, but Suffolk looked to be more comfortable at around 23C. My husband arranged to work from home and I charged the batteries for the Sony and the new little Canon Powershot. The latter had proved useful before when I couldn’t get good access to a dragonfly.

I set out in good time, but the satnav took me up the A12 and I was bogged down on dual carriageways. Each one being just one kilometre long and ending in a roundabout. However, the retail parks and fast food outlets were eventually replaced with green fields and gently rolling hills. I had never been to this part of Suffolk before and it was enchanting. Just as I reached the outskirts of Foxearth village, a weasel ran across the lane in front of my little car. How wonderful!

The reserve took a bit of finding as the directions seemed to rely on a signpost that no longer exists. After half an hour of fruitless searching I was beginning to lose hope, but then I spotted a local landmark, quickly followed by double gates and the grass verge where I had been told to park. It was only a short walk from there to the reserve and I briefly sat on the bench dedicated to Keith to get my bearings. The site covers 11 acres, but it was now early July and everything was overgrown, except for a handful of paths cut through the rushes.

I had a lovely day in spite of the searing heat. Sadly the only location with a good view was directly in front of the bench. Other ponds were surrounded by banks of reeds and although there were plenty of insects flying around, there was no access to photograph them at rest. I got talking to a local gentleman who had moved to the village from the South East only last year. He agreed about the lack of access and told me the best place for dragonflies was actually down in Surrey. It seemed bizarre to have come so far to be given this snippet of useful information.

I stayed for five hours and returned to the car to find the weather man had lied and it was actually 30C. I was hot, bothered and more than a little burnt, but at least I came away with some lovely memories and a few photographs.

The image featured above is of a four spotted chaser over a lake. The image below is another one taken near the bench.

This was a small skipper tucked away in the reeds.

Also in the reeds was this common darter.

The lovely gentleman told me where I could walk along the river and possibly see a few banded demoiselles. I got lucky with a male (shown below) and also a meadow brown butterfly on a thistle.

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