Bentley Priory Nature Trail

Post 9: The metal fence to the right is the boundary of what was the RAF land. Bentley Priory house lies within, but is difficult to see behind the screen of trees. On this side of the fence one can just make out a wide, flattened causeway leading 100 metres or so downhill. This is what remains of a gravel runway built for light aircraft during the Second World War.

The open land here is acid grassland, full of bright flowers in spring and summer. In early summer the meadow is full of the white umbels of pignut Conopodium majus, like a miniature cow parsely. Look out also for tormentil Potentilla erecta, a member of the rose family with masses of small yellow flowers. Unusually for the rose family, tormentil flowers have four, rather than five, petals. Another rose family member, agrimony Agrimonia eupatoria, sends up spikes of yellow flowers. Later in the year (July, August and September) look for the yellow daisy-like flowers of ragwort Senecio jacobaea, the blue pom-poms of devils-bit scabious Succisa pratensis (see illustration below) and harebell Campanula rotundifolia, the Scottish bluebell. Just ahead is a patch of gorse Ulex europaeus, another plant that likes acid, well-drained soils. It flowers all year round so whatever the season you should be able to find flowers somewhere on it.

The humps in the grass are nests of the yellow meadow ant Lasius flavus. These ants are the favourite food of the green woodpecker, the largest of the three woodpecker species found in the reserve. The other two woodpeckers, the greater and lesser spotted woodpeckers, stay within the wooded areas.

This is the best part of the reserve for butterflies. Butterflies that have been seen in Bentley Priory include small copper, gatekeeper, common blue, purple hairstreak, meadow brown, small skipper, small white, large white, orange tip, red admiral, painted lady, small tortoiseshell and speckled wood.

From here on a clear day we have a glorious view right across the London basin to Box Hill and Leith Hill, 50 km away (see illustration below). At this point you leave the metalled path and descend the grassy ride called The Greensward. The scrubby edges of The Greensward are a favourite for many birds, which can be difficult to spot among the branches: song and mistle thrushes, dunnock, wren, whitethroat, lesser whitethroat, blackcap and longtailed, blue and great tit.

Image: Devils-Bit Scabious

Image: Skyline from post 9

To description for post 10

Click here to learn more about the Harrow Nature Conservation Forum including guided walks and conservation workdays.