Welcome to our AFON Advent Calendar! Each day leading up to Christmas you will find a wonderful new post by a different member. This years theme is your favourite nature reserve; where do you go to escape from the world and connect with nature? Enjoy!
I shut the entrance gate to the reserve, leaving behind the hustle and bustle of the busy road behind me. After climbing up a gentle slope I am struck by the vast expanse of this hidden beauty, even though I have visited this site many times. I am surrounded on all sides by rolling Chiltern hills and ancient woodlands. The air is thick with the smell of marjoram and the sight of chalkhill blue butterflies going about their busy lives. Green woodpeckers yaffle away as they fly between the yellow meadow ant nests of which they are raiding. A female mason bee (Osmia bicolor) scurries about looking for an empty snail shell in which to nest in. She eventually settles on the ground and time stands still as I stop and lay face down watching her cleaning her antennae, trying not to disturb her. More pollinators buzz around the herb rich chalk grassland which contains hundreds of plant species including bee orchids.
This site is nationally important due to the chalk grassland and ancient woodland it contains but it is far more important to me on a personal basis, for a number of reasons. Firstly, nothing else seems to matter when I am visiting this site. This is mainly because, apart from the occasional dog walker, it is just me and the natural world. This site is also special to me because it was the first site I visited that I felt I could help conserve personally through documenting the hundreds of species that I have found there. There is always something new and exciting to see on site and I will never grow sick of that. The site is also just a short bus ride away from my house, therefore l especially connected to the area and have found far more joy watching the wildlife here than I have travelling elsewhere to better known wildlife sites.