Paices Wood Country Parkland – One of Berkshire’s Best Butterfly Sites

Paices Wood Country Park runs north south between Tadley and Aldermaston Village. Higher ground is to the south on the gravel plateau and a series of seven fishing lakes leads down towards the Kennet valley. Young Estates & Land Ltd who run Youngs Industrial Estate own the reserve which was previously used for gravel washing and extraction.

The Youngs manage the park in conjunction West Berkshire Authority with the help of voluntary groups.

The Park is bounded by Wasing estate, their woodlands to the west and scrub to the south leading on to Brimpton Common.The interesting thing about the Park is its mix of habitats which give rise to the great variety of butterflies found. The high ground to the south is heathland where Grayling can sometimes be found with Peacock regular in spring.

A wildlife pond lies adjacent thus amphibians are present, including Palmate Newt, and Grass Snakes are well established. Slow-worms and Common Lizards are always present and Wood Larks can be heard singing in spring.

The heath is managed to control birch, and heather cover is increasing. The heath is bounded on two sides by rides which are currently being widened. This area has abundant sallows and is a place to encounter Purple Emperor and White Admiral. The woodlands are interesting in their variety with regenerating woodland on the gravels at the south, overstood Sweet Chestnut coppice with Hazel next, more traditional Ash, Birch, Oak, Hazel woodland on the lower, damper ground and wet Alder woodland at the extreme north.

Between the regenerating wood and chestnuts a small ‘Butterfly Field’ is managed and this hosts Drab Looper moth (BAP species) feeding on Wood Spurge, an ancient woodland indicator species. The moth is seen in very small numbers but second broods are a regular occurrence. In this small patch many butterfly species can be found including Grizzled Skipper, Silver-washed Fritillary, Brimstone and Comma. Below this an area is coppiced in rotation by volunteers and this can be the best spot to see the fritillary and White Admiral although both are widespread in the park.

Damper woodland to the south has a good field layer with a rich mix of woodland flora. Marsh Tits are frequent and the hard to find Lesser Spotted Woodpecker has been found rarely but regularly over the years.To the south east is a gravel area with short flowery turf still with some bare ground. Here there are strong populations of both Grizzled and Dingy Skippers, Small Heath and Common Blue. Grayling is present in small numbers and Treble Bar and Lesser Treble Bar are easily disturbed.

The area supports breeding Lapwing and Wood Lark and has a rich mix of ground flora including many garden ‘escapes’.

Article written by John Lerpiniere for a display on Berkshire's Best butterfly site for the Upper Thames Branch of the Butterfly Conservation group.

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