Magdalen Down is a Butterfly Conservation Reserve near Winchester.

It is also quite close to the M3 and the Petersfield road which provides a constant hum of traffic on busy weekends.

An army rifle practice range across the road provides a staccato accompaniment on occasions.

None of these sounds appear to disturb the butterflies, insects or birds and certainly not the wild flowers which grow in abundance on the chalk soil.

A Yellowhammer singing ‘A little bit of bread and no cheese’ was quite happy to compete with any road noise.

The reserve consists of an established area of downland which has been supplemented by the acquisition of adjoining fields.

These additional areas were seeded with wild flowers some time ago and are in the process of becoming naturalised.

Access to the new area is over a stile on the right-hand side of the main pathway up to the entrance and this was the route taken at the start of the walk.

Unusually heavy rainfall in July and into the early part of August had meant that annual plants had grown vigorously so that the narrow paths were becoming overgrown.

Many of the early flowering yellow plants such as Agrimony and Birds Foot Trefoil had been superseded by the pink or purple flowers of Marjoram and both Lesser and Greater Knapweed.

Lesser or Black Knapweed had almost taken over this area but on the slopes of the original reserve very little remains.

Greater Knapweed flowers were also on short stalks on the older slopes indicating perhaps that grazing sheep had been eating more than just grass.

Flies too small to be seen but not too small to irritate were present in abundance so that it was easier to keep moving than remain stationary.

Gone are the days when car windscreens became covered in flies and cyclists were afraid to open their mouths, but the flies are a good indicator that the reserve is in a healthy state.

Butterflies such as Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Common Blue were present in this area as were numerous Wave Moths and the purple micro moth.

On returning to the main path a pristine Red Admiral butterfly and the first Chalk Hill Blue appeared.

Magdalen Down - Exmoor Ponies

A small herd of Exmoor ponies were standing on this path and attracting many flies. They were not keen to move

They were not keen to move off the path and wanted to follow any walkers maybe hoping to get food.

A sign saying that the horses may bite was fortunately not seen until the end of the walk.

The steep south facing slopes of the older part of the reserve, unfortunately, had quite a stiff breeze which meant that many of the butterflies were not present.

It was, however, an opportunity to see where the butterflies go when it is windy or in the rain.

The answer was demonstrated by a male Chalk Hill Blue which simply went nearer the ground folded its wings and clung on to a grass stalk with its feet.

Although the grass swung violently in the breeze the butterfly never budged.

A problem with sitting on the short grass of chalk downland is often that you sit on the sharp spines of a Stemless Thistle.

This was not a problem during the walk as each thistle was marked by a large red flower.

Tall Melilot and Hemp Agrimony competed with Marsh Thistles and the thistle like Saw Wort to attract the butterflies.

Annual flowers and grasses have set seed and are beginning to look tired at this time of year and already have a look of autumn about them but there was still an abundance of life.