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  • Julie Muller

BREDON HILL - Ancient Trees and Boring Beetles

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

(Nearest post code - GL20 7NP)

Visited by Shep

It was such a sad day today because Julie and I were going to visit a new SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) without Zak for the first time since we had lost him.

We had come to explore Bredon Hill, and it felt so strange travelling without him – especially to somewhere that I had never been to before.

Bredon Hill is located not very far away from us and Zak used to gaze across at it from our front garden, resting his head on our Malvern stone wall. There is a friendly rivalry between the humans that live on Bredon Hill and those that live on the Malverns as to which of the hills has the better view, but as the hills just gaze back at each other across the vale it is a bit of a silly argument. Humans are strange!!

Julie parked our car in Overbury, and we followed a steep road past lots of pretty houses to reach the hill. The road was quite hot to my paws as I walked, and I was acutely aware of all the other dogs that had walked that way before me this morning.

It was a relief to walk on softer ground. Spring was in the air. The trees were beginning to unfurl their soft green leaves and carpets of wild garlic promised an imminent drift of heady white flowers. Lavender bluebells jostled with lemon primroses and yellow celandine and the Cotswold stone walls were covered in a luxuriant carpet of bright green moss.

Shep, a Border Collie, lies down on his walk to the top of Bredon Hill SSSI in Worcestershire
A lonely Shep lies on the top of Bredon Hill SSSI in Worcestershire

Large bright yellow fields of rape seed oil flowers perfumed the air and myriads of assorted insects droned and buzzed and fluttered by.

A squirrel scuttled past, and a pheasant squawked above me. I know that Zak would have given chase, but I didn’t feel very interested. It was too warm, and I felt so lonely without him.

Bredon Hill is a very special place not only as a SSSI but also as a SAC – that is a Special Area of Conservation and that is because of the very old veteran trees that grow here and the vast numbers of special invertebrates that use them as their home.

There have been records of individual trees growing in the open parkland from as long ago as the thirteenth century. These open grown trees don’t need to compete with other trees for light as they would in a woodland setting, and so they grow round and bushy with their lowest boughs closer to the ground. Left alone, these amazing trees take 300 years to grow, 300 years to mature and then 300 years to grow old and die. Most trees die from the top downwards and in a wood they would soon lose access to the light. However, out in the open the trees can die slowly and gracefully. As they die, their nutrients are recycled by the larvae of many ‘boring’ beetles. The older the tree is, the greater variety of boring invertebrates can be supported. The trees of Bredon can boast of being home to a very special inhabitant – the violet click beetle. This beetle is found in only three places in the whole of the UK. The violet click beetle is a small thin black beetle with a purple blue sheen. Its name comes from its ability to right itself after landing on its back by springing upwards with a loud audible click. The adult beetles feed on nectar, lay their eggs in the dead wood. The eggs hatch into grubs and these feasts mainly on dead wood, leaf litter and bird droppings. Beetles are the ultimate recyclers!! So, you humans must think very hard before tidying up any dead wood. You never know who it might be home to!!

I began to feel more confident by the time we reached the highest point of our walk and I felt more in tune with my surroundings. I could hear sheep bleating but I couldn’t work out where the noise was coming from. A substantial Cotswold stone wall blocked my view. The grassland here was untidy and tussocky with this year’s new blades competing with last year’s dead growth. There were ant hills topped with wild thyme and I couldn’t resist rolling on the sweet-smelling vegetation which was warmed by the April sunshine.

The Cotswold stone wall seemed to go on forever but at intervals there were small square openings through which I could poke my head. The view was fantastic, and I could see the Malverns shrouded in hazy mist. More importantly, I located the sheep which were grazing on the steep undulating slopes dipping down towards the vale.

Just like on the Malverns, sheep have been grazing here for hundreds of years and this highest point on Bredon is the site of an Iron Age fort. The ramparts are still visible, and it was great fun running up, down and over them.

In more recent times, sometime in the eighteenth century, the local squire John Parsons of Kemerton Hall erected a small tower on the hill to use as a summer house. Today the Tower, as it is called locally, is used by a mobile phone network and it buzzes with electrical activity.

Just below the tower is an intriguing large standing stone which bears every resemblance to a huge elephant. A local legend says that when you can hear the bells of Pershore Abbey chiming over Bredon hill, the elephant will wander down the hill to take a drink in the river below. – the bells were silent today!

It was so beautiful up on the hill. Although the sun was very warm there was a lovely cool breeze blowing. Zak would have loved it. The air was full of bird song and I could hear the skylarks singing high in the sky. Many birds live on Bredon Hill all the year round. Other birds such as the whitethroat, travel from places as far afield as Africa to spend their summers here. When the male whitethroats arrive, they immediately start work building up to six nests, only one of which will be acceptable to his mate. The short grasses and scrubby vegetation on Bredon are ideal places for many different birds in which to build their nests. These nests are usually quite hard for humans and us dogs to see so our humans must take especial care that we don’t damage them accidentally or scare off the parent birds.

The track back down to the village took us through majestic parkland with many of those open grown trees. There were many sheep gently grazing under them. Others were more excitable, and they hurtled across the track in front of us – worried that I was going to round them up.

That would be too much like hard work for me today!!

Part of Bredon Hill is managed by Kemerton Conservation Trust and more information about their conservation work can be found on their website.

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