If you’ve read the blog for any length you will know that my Dad (Guru Gramps) is a keen amateur entomologist who has shared that love with both my son and I. I’m so grateful for the love of nature he’s instilled into me and that I can now pass on to my son. On Saturday last week we got to enjoy a really special day. The Amateur Entomologists’ Society were holding a special event to celebrate 60 years of my Dad being interested in entomology. Dad now lives in Spain, but I was determined that my son and I should make a point of spending time bug hunting on Headley Heath with the group. It’s not every day that someone is honoured when they are still alive!
My Dad had started bug hunting in earnest after finding a butterfly on Headley Heath, in Surrey, that he couldn’t identify, 60 years ago. Although I lived in Farnham, Surrey until the age of 14, I’m not sure that I’d ever been to Headley Heath (my Dad will now correct me with a date and time!). I was looking forward to meeting the group and listening to their memories of Dad as well as the opportunity for my son to spend time with the knowledgeable people we would be meeting.
The motorways were fairly kind to us, and as we are National Trust members, we could park in the car park at Headley Heath for free. Headley Heath offers an area of 300 hectares to explore on the North Downs. There is a mobile cafe at one end of the car park which offers a selection of drinks and hot and cold food. But there are no toilet facilities. We knew this in advance so stopped at the M25 services at Junction 10 on our way down, but it did stop us being able to spend the entire day on the Heath unfortunately.
We met up with the group, were lent a butterfly net and sweep net and headed into the Heath to see what we could find.
It had been raining when we arrived, but luckily that didn’t last long and although the sun evaded us, we still got to see lots of butterflies, beetles, hoverflies, bees and countless grasshoppers.
I haven’t used a butterfly net in a long time, but I think my son was rather impressed that I managed to capture a couple of grasshoppers for us all to look at whilst we spent time bug hunting on Headley Heath.
Photos were taken so that each insect could be identified and recorded later.
We saw at least 4 different sorts of grasshoppers. Once a note had been taken it was time to release our finds, gently.
The butterflies were too fast for me though, and luckily the group could identify them easily without netting them.
We saw some wonderful moth caterpillars and my son learnt all about wasp galls.
Of course it wasn’t long before he had a stick in hand. I’d been a little concerned that he might not concentrate too well for longer than an hour, but he was fascinated and so excited every time someone found something to show him.
Spending time bug hunting on Headley Heath meant we spent so much more time looking closely around the area rather than just walking through the Heath. We walked along part of the 3km Lizard Trail but this visit really wasn’t about covering the most ground, it was about following in Dad’s footsteps and knowing that now three generations of his family have been bug hunting in the same spot, albeit it many years apart.
There are a few ponds to discover on Headley Heath, some where dogs are welcome to take a paddle, others that are cordoned off to protect the newts that live within them.
We all headed back closer to the car park where there are a number of picnic tables so we could have lunch together. My son was eager to spend the rest of the afternoon bug hunting on Headley Heath, but with no facilities close by, I knew we’d have an issue before too long, so we decided to say our goodbyes and head on to another local National Trust property that I knew had toilets!
It had been a special time bug hunting on Headley Heath, honouring my Dad with people who are just as knowledgeable about different types of insects. I’m so glad we went, we certainly made special memories. This photo might not have been taken on Headley Heath, but it’s a pose I know so well.
Whilst we were out bug hunting on Headley Heath, Dad was doing the same thing in the countryside close to his home in Spain. He might have ditched the long socks and got a better net now, but the passion remains the same. Now apparently I’ve got to invest in a proper net for his grandson too.
Have you visited Headley Heath?