Waterside Natural History Society visit to Pylewell

Pylewell is sandwiched on either side by the Beaulieu and Lymington rivers.

It is bounded to the north by the New Forest National Park and to the south by the coast of the Solent.

The area is easily recognised but difficult to reach due to the narrow lanes with high hedges on either side.

Nevertheless visiting the area provides an interesting walk both for the nature lover and for the historian.

It also proved to be a challenging walk for the Natural History Society because of the number and variety of stiles with wet muddy areas even after the prolonged dry spell.

The walk started at the Lisle Court junction on Shotts Lane and proceeded along the coast to Tanners Lane.

It then went north to join the Solent Way to return back to Shotts Lane completing an anticlockwise route around Pylewell House.

The first part of the walk down Shotts Lane was easy enough until a spring at the side of the path took its natural course down the lane piling up mud until it emerged on to the coast.

Old Oak trees and fronds of Male Fern at the side of the muddy path gave an impression of a cold and dank jungle but stepping on to the gravelly beach was like emerging from a dark tunnel.

October weather can be unpredictable and the cold overcast morning did not foretell any improvement but there was no wind and the beach was pleasantly warm.

Furthermore the sun made an appearance as the walk progressed and it turned out to be a nice summer’s day.

Swallows and House Martins swooped overhead in quite large numbers gathering insects for food before the long journey to the southern hemisphere.

It appeared to be late in the year for these birds to be leaving but they were probably travelling from the far north of the country where the breeding season occurs later than in the south.

Fortunately the tide was at its lowest ebb so there was plenty of room to walk between the many strands of barbed wire fence and the sea.

The area offshore was taken up by saltmarsh and mudflats so at low tide there was little evidence of seawater.

Spartina or Cordgrass covered most of the area with muddy channels forming arteries that filled with every incoming tide.

Streams and drainage channels from the land also prevented the grass from growing and it was on the mud that wading birds came to feed.

Brent Geese and Oystercatchers were the largest birds seen but the dark outline of Wigeon could be identified circling on small patches of water.

Turnstones and Dunlin with Ringed Plover sometimes ventured quite close to the shore but the sun prevented prolonged inspection in a seaward direction.

The area of beach near the high tide mark was quite colourful due to the presence of Glasswort or Samphire.

Coastal ColourThese are normally a vivid green but many were changing colour to yellow, pink, red and purple in the same way that leaves on trees change for autumn colours.

There is only one ‘Daisy’ but there are several lookalikes including Mayweed and Sea Aster that were still in flower along the shingle beach.

A total of five different butterfly varieties were present during the walk including the Small Copper on the beach and a drab looking Holly Blue on the hedge.

Tanners Lane was an old smugglers route that led from the coast directly inland and formed the next stage of the walk. This lane was typical of the area with high hedges on either side.

If the age of a hedge can be told from the number of different varieties within a given stretch then this one must have been very old indeed.

Houses in the Pylewell area of East End are strung out along the lanes behind the high hedges but occasionally a glimpse of red brick two story buildings with ornate chimneys can be seen.

These have been built to replace even older buildings known as Cob cottages.

Cob cottages were built to house the workers from Beaulieu or the surrounding estates and were constructed of the earth on which they stood.

Fortunately the earth contained marl rather than the sandy soil found to the north in the New Forest.

The walk continued past a farm with a bellcote on its roof and round the mill pond for Pylewell House.

A ‘Beware of the Bull’ sign in a field alongside the footpath proved not to be a hazard as the bull obviously had duties elsewhere.

Similarly the empty cricket pitch indicated other duties but not necessarily the same ones as the bull.

The walk round Pylewell Park proved to be a very varied and interesting one especially on a warm October day.