Chalk Grassland Treasures

Recently I have been visiting two lovely sites containing some rather stunning chalk grasslands. I always feel at home in lowland chalk grasslands which have been described by some to be the European equivalent of the tropical rainforest, I couldn’t agree more. Chalk grassland is under threat with an estimated 80% of lowland chalk grasslands being lost since the beginning of World War 1. Chalk grassland is also very fragile because it has to be grazed in order to be maintained otherwise succession and scrub encroachment occurs. Under management is thought to be the main reason why we still continue to lose chalk grassland today with a shocking 71% of chalk grassland in a unfavourable position. I’m happy to report though that the two reserves I have been surveying recently seemed to be managed perfectly as far as I can tell.

Grangelands and Pulpit Hill SSSI


Firstly there is Grangelands and Pulpit Hill SSSI, a site containing 7 hectates of broadleaved woodland and 16 hectares of lowland calcareous grassland, which was where I spent 99% of my time when I visited the site. So far I have visited the site 3 times and have recorded 111 invertebrates species. A breakdown of which can be seen here.

Aldbury Nowers


The second area of chalk grassland I have been visiting recently is Aldbury Nowers,  a site owned by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust. This site is just around the corner from College Lake owned by BBOWT, which I visit frequently although I didn’t know that around the corner was another lovely reserve. So far I have only visited this site twice and that is reflected in the fact that I have only recorded 52 invertebrate species there so far, hopefully I can find a lot more once I have time to explore.

My Personal Species Highlights so Far

Silver washed fritiliary

Osmia spinulosa

A species of solitary bee that nests in snail shells!

Andrena denticulata

A widespread but locally common solitary bee species that peaks later in the year than most solitary bee species.

Silver spotted skipper

It look me a while to find this species and I didn’t know it was present on the site which made it even better.

Chalkhill blue

Fairly common but a new species for me.

Gorytes laticinctus

A rarely recorded species of solitary wasp, looks likely to be new for the area, if confirmed by BWARS.

Hylaeus dilatatus

A rather distinctive solitary bee with an enlarged base to the antennae.

Osmia bicolor
Another species of solitary bee that nests in snail shells, this one is rarer and is restricted to chalk grassland. 

Banded general

A species of soldierfly I haven’t seen before.

The Future

I hope to go back to these two sites soon and see what other species I can find. All records will go to the people managing the sites along with an explanation of what some of the species mean for the site. This is because I often feel that lists of species are generated but noone looks at what the specific species are indicators for. For example I recorded a variety of Ectemnius wasps, these require beetle burrows in dead wood to nest in so indicate not only the presence of dead wood in the environment but also that there must be wood burrowing beetles nearby. This highlights the importance of dead wood and may mean that the management of the reserves is altered to make sure there is a ready supply of dead wood.


2 responses to “Chalk Grassland Treasures

  1. Good job Ryan, the silver spotted skipper looks lovely!

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