Ashclyst Forest butterfly walk
A leisurely walk along sunken lanes and woodland rides and through broad-leaved and coniferous woodland, good for fritillary butterflies (pearl-bordered, small pearl-bordered and silver-washed), white admiral and other butterflies.
A gentle butterfly hunt through fields and woodland
This walk starts from the bus stop on the Killerton road junction, but for an alternative start point, park in the main Ashclyst Forest car park at Forest Gate (grid ref: SY000995), and join the route clockwise at number 5 on the route map.
Bus stop at Killerton road junction on B3181, grid ref: SX983997, or Forest Gate car park, grid ref: SY000995
To reach the start point from the main Killerton House car park, walk back out onto the approach road, cross it and take the footpath directly opposite the house drive entrance, through New Park and out onto the road. Turn right, cross the motorway bridge and follow directions from the bus stop, as below. From the bus stops at Killerton junction, head north (towards Cullompton). At the crest of a low hill, after 275yd (250m), turn right up the National Trust footpath along a sunken way. Follow this until it ends at a field gate. Turn left into the field and downslope, following the now grassy footpath. Cross a stream bridge. Follow the waymarked path to the right and then upslope along a hedge, turning right by the road corner, and follow path until it leads into the road through a hunting gate. Turn right on to the road, follow this for 330yd (300m), then turn right into a bridleway at the start of the forest.
A good general interest section, with peacock, orange tip and green-veined whites in spring, and gatekeepers and speckled woods later. Also look out for deer in the fields.
Bridleway runs along a short, shady section before rising up and broadening out into an open area of bracken and birch. Keep straight on, along and down, following the broad ride.
Fritillaires and nightjar
Look for small pearl-bordered fritillaries in the open bracken areas, along with small numbers of pearl-bordered and the occasional dark-green fritillary. The birch is cut on rotation, to provide jumps for Exeter race course. This creates good habitat for nightjar; three or four pairs breed here annually.
Follow the straight bridleway down into tall, dense woodland. Then, follow the bridleway markers uphill. The good surface will soon run out and the way become muddy. Just past the crest of a rise, bear left and then right, following the bridleway (and avoiding two straight-ons and the footpath). This takes you downhill through conifer woodland (which is being thinned out and opened up), down to the road.
The stream area is a good spot for white admiral in high summer. Butterflies will increase in the conifer blocks when the ride is opened up.
At the road, turn left then immediately right, squeezing under the barrier, and proceeding downhill, shortly to turn left at the bend, then walking down to, and crossing, the stream before rising up. This leads into the broad ride known as The Wayleave (under the electricity cables). Follow the Wayleave path round to the left. The bracken areas here are the best places for pearl-bordered and small pearl-bordered fritillaries in Ashclyst, and are managed for these two scarce butterflies. Carry on along and up, to turn left into a narrow shady path on the far summit.
Fritillaries and other butterflies
Pearl-bordered fritillaries are numerous here from late April to late May, and their close cousin, the small pearl-bordered, flies here from mid May to mid June. The grassy areas are also good for marbled white, ringlet and common blue, and all of Ashclyst's butterflies visit this broad flowery ride.
The often muddy, shady path twists round to meet a lane. At the lane, turn right and walk down towards the cottages. Just before the cottages, by the bench, turn left and take the surfaced path through tall oak and holly woodland. This path is being opened up. It quickly leads to the main Ashclyst car park, which is an oval-shaped design. Turn right, to walk along the car park route anticlockwise. As it starts to rise, turn right to follow the Purple Route down and over a little bridge.
White admiral and purple hairstreak
A good section for white admirals, especially on the lane bramble patches. Also, look for purple hairstreak on the tops of the lane oaks, though they are most active after 5pm.
At the corner by the road, turn right down a long, straight and open section of ride that leads into a Douglas fir plantation. Turn right at the junction here, following the Purple Route down and round. Towards the bottom, in damp woodland, leave the Purple Route (which bears right), carrying straight on, along the bridleway, with tall sallows on your right. This path slowly bends to the left and becomes boggy, with tall old oaks on your right. Eventually this muddy path, running along the bottom of the Ashclyst slope, opens out, just past a minor stream gully with a small pond.
The broad, straight ride down to the Douglas fir is very good for silver-washed fritillaries. You then enter a long section of white admiral, and possibly purple emperor, country. In wet weather the route can be quite boggy, though we're working to improve the surface and open the shadier sections out. You may also see dragonflies in the pond.
Just after the ride opens and dries out, turn sharp left up a broad open ride, called Snaffle Park Drive. Dawdle up this butterfly-rich ride to the road.
Sunny and open, Snaffle Park Drive is good for pearl, small pearl and silver-washed fritillaries, and grass-feeding butterflies like large skipper and ringlet. The bracken and the ride edges are managed for pearl-borders, and the ride has recently been opened out.
Walk up a short section of shady lane, to a T-junction. This is a classic stretch of Devon lane, carrying one vehicle every 15 minutes.
This area is good for orange tip and green-veined white in spring, and speckled wood all summer.
At the minor T-junction, cut diagonally across to enter and walk through Rewe's Cross car park, and then along a shady ride through a developing conifer plantation. Turn left at the minor junction, and head downhill for 275yd (250m), before turning right at the junction by a red and green-topped post. A short shady stretch between oaks and conifers suddenly opens out, providing views of Killerton House and offering thoughts of afternoon tea and cake. Carry on straight down to the bottom bridleway you came along much earlier, then turn right to leave the forest, and left back out on to the approach road. Then follow the route you took up to the forest (1) back down to Killerton junction.
A general interest section, with some more white admirals and silver-washed fritillaries in high summer, and hopefully something nice to bid you farewell at the end of your walk.
Killerton House main car park and tea-rooms, grid ref: SS973001
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