Acorn Barn in Kent June 2013

Saturday 15th June

It was a breezy and damp start to the day, but undeterred we decided to stop at Butterfly World near St Albans for a few hours (we usually stop at an RSPB reserve but as the weather was so unsettled we didn’t fancy getting a soaking!). Tropical butterflies in the greenhouse were very good – good selection of species and plenty of them. It wasn’t too busy either and quiet apart from the school groups!! As the sun was shining we walked to the meadows but the wind was very strong and so no butterflies were seen at all. As the rain clouds gathered we decided to make our way on to Kent and Acorn Barn. For some reason the sat nav decided to route us via London and the Blackwall Tunnel (should have ignored it!) so it was well into the afternoon when we arrived after our usual visit to Tesco. Even windier at Acorn Barn and we worried that the huge Oak tree above the barn might blow over!

Sunday 16th June

A bright yet cloudy start today - we were due to meet some good friends at Dungeness today which we did but the weather started to deteriorate as we walked towards the furthest lakes where we usually see hobbies. Quick change of direction saw us in a hide just as the heavens opened. We sat and watched the terns for 45 minutes while it threw it down!! Lunch was had in the hide and eventually the rain ceased so we wandered back to the visitor centre. There were lots of assorted warblers and good views of a marsh harrier along the walk. In the afternoon the sun shone and as we went to the ARC hide it was lovely and warm. What a difference – the butterflies and dragonflies were now all flying and from the hide a lovely great crested grebe family were clearly visible with the striped baby continually trying to get on the parents back! Back for tea and a kestrel and a green woodpecker were seen on the fence.

Monday 17th June

Up early for hare watch! Not as visible this year, we think as the crop has changed (last year was oil seed rape which had blown all over the place making it impossible for the hares to walk through) – this year it is broad beans and there is plenty of room. So the hares very occasionally come out into the open but will very quickly disappear back when they see any sign of movement. However we had one on the lawn outside the barn so got some shots through the glass (which was very clean). Didn’t know it at the time but these were to be the only shots we got all week!
Went to Port Lympne today and did the safari ride – something very surreal about seeing giraffes and rhinos in the Kent countryside!! Very much recommended for a day out (very hot too!!)
Back for tea at the Kings Arms in Hythe – very good food at reasonable prices.

Tuesday 18th June

Sunny and warm, right in the middle of the heath fritillary season, ideal conditions. So off we went to East Blean Woods to see them all. This is the third year we have been in Kent at the right time and in sunny conditions but sadly once again not one was seen. This year we were too early!! The only way to see these butterflies we think therefore is to make a long day of it when they have been reported flying. Booking a holiday 9 months ahead does not work!! Also went to West Blean but none there either. Allegedly a few had been seen elsewhere in Kent - we were told to come back in two weeks!! Nice walk though and we did see ringlet, orange tip (very late!), large white, large skipper, speckled wood, red admiral and green hairstreak. Back home to look for hares but none around.

Wednesday 19th June

Forecast the best day of the week so we went to Park Gate Down for the orchids. What a lovely place – loads of them all over, there must have been 500 monkey orchids along with lots of common spotted, lady and butterfly orchids. Find of the day was the fly orchid. Quite a few butterflies including a beautiful freshly emerged Brown Argus. Also got to use my angle finder for the first time – a very good addition to my kit and saved my knees getting any more bruised!
Then on to Lydden Down – one of my favourite places in Kent for butterflies. Very sunny and warm – lots of butterflies here including Adonis blue, common blue, brown argus, small heath, large white, small white and highlight so far of two clouded yellows.
Back to the barn and no hares visible again.
Update – later on three hares were spotted and as I walked closer to them a fox ran out from between the rows of beans and stopped dead, stared at me for 5 seconds and ran back the way he had come!

Thursday 20th June

Bad forecast today, thunderstorms and very wet. However it wasn’t - nice dry morning breakfast outside again. This is a lovely place and the only sound that can be heard is nature. Had a later start today because of the forecast and headed towards Rye Harbour – didn’t get there as the rain did arrive and we diverted to Dymchurch. Always nice to visit this little seaside town (probably nicer out of season!) After a nice lunch in the local café we drove down Dungeness and stopped for a wander. By now the rain had stopped but it was very foggy – even so we ascended the old lighthouse (although we could see nothing!) which was very interesting. Saw a cinnabar moth on some ragwort (both rare nowadays) along with a small white laying eggs on the sea kale. Back to change for a tea with the family at the Mayfly in Hawkinge – good food and great prices!

Friday 21st June

Last day and we had planned to go to Dymchurch and Dungeness but as it was dull and damp decided to head for Canterbury first. The sun was forecast for the afternoon. Lovely city but a bit pricey to see the cathedral (which you now can’t even see without paying to get into the courtyard!). Browsed the shops, drank coffee in Waterstones and had lunch in Wetherspoons. Weather starting to look better so off we went to Dungeness to find cool and breezy. However we did see some grass snakes and newts on the RSPB reserve. With the conditions there were no butterflies, dragonflies or even birds – very quiet afternoon.
We had decided to attend the wild flower walk led by Own Leyshon – a great leader who knew the flowers of Dungeness very well. Shame the weather had reverted to our typical British summers by now with drizzle, mist and a cold wind!
Back to the barn to pack, finish the G&T and beer and eat the ice creams!! And to reflect on another lovely week at Acorn Barn – it is a bit like coming home now!!