Tales from the Trees: Monk Wood, Worcestershire - The flutter of butterflies will take you back to childhood

 

It suddenly strikes me that I can't remember when I last saw a butterfly. I have memories of summers where every tufted thistle top was alive with these winged works of art, but in recent years they've largely been notable by their absence, save for the odd cabbage white flitting around a railway siding buddleia.

Well, not today. Monk Wood in Worcestershire is an unassuming little place, but it has a wonderful secret.

A semi-natural wood once belonging to Worcester Priory, that dates back to the time of William the Conqueror, its ash and hazel were regularly coppiced in the 17th and 18th centuries, creating large glades and gaps in the tree cover. These "rides" are still maintained by the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, creating perfect patches for woodland wildflowers, those butterfly magnets.

I'm soon stepping over muntjac deer prints as I wade into deep bramble and thistle to reach a secluded, sun-lit expanse. The air is awash with flashes of light, darting, landing or beating their wings as they refresh with nectar. I recognise some: the beautiful peacock with its two painted "eyes" and sapphire circles; the tortoiseshell, so named for its iridescent tones of orange, black and yellow with blue trim.

Other rarities are harder to place and demand a dip into my field guide – a small copper, a purple hairstreak, a common blue and a brimstone. It is striking to watch such a mass of movement, such industry, occurring silently. There is a soundtrack, however, as always in woodland; it is the constant burbling of warblers in the ash trees and the far off call of a woodpecker.

Somehow, the afternoon vanishes as I hungrily scour the wood. Once I have my eye in, it's hard to switch off. Thankfully, my nearby accommodation has an enviable garden and orchard largely turned over to wildflowers so the treasure hunting can continue.

Stalking among the high grass, guided by my host, Stuart Smith, a keen butterfly man himself, we find yet more species: the small gatekeeper and the curiously but suitably monikered "comma", trembling its large, tiger-toned punctuation-mark wings in the last of the day's sun.

* Monk Wood is near Monkwood Green (WR2 6NX), five miles from Worcester station. Trains are operated by First Great Western (08457 000 125; firstgreatwestern.co.uk). Stay at The Retreat self-catering apartment (holidaylettings.co.uk/rentals/worcester/210892) in nearby Wolferlow from £86 per night. Drake's (07968 969626) supplies evening meals at on request, £17 for two courses, £25 for three

Suggested Topics
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

    £25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Ashdown Group: Project Accountant (Part-Qualified Accountant) - Manchester

    £23000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Project Accountant (Part-...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat