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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

Ranmore Common, Polesden Lacey & Denbies Hillside (Surrey Hills AONB). 16.07.22

I returned to Ranmore Common and Denbies common, which I had visited the Saturday before, see Butterflies at Denbies Hillside and Ranmore Common (Surrey Hills AONB). 09.07.22 (, because I felt there was much more of Ranmore Common to see. As last Saturday, I got to Ranmore Common by getting the train to Box Hill and Westhumble from Brighton (changing at Three Bridges and Horsham). This time I walked to Ranmore Common a different way; instead of taking the North Downs Way to Denbies Hillside; I walked on a path a little further north of the North Downs Way, and then followed the Ranmore Walk signed path; but made a long detour to walk around the Polseden Lacey estate including visiting Polseden Lace. After visiting Poleden Lacey I continued my walk through Ranmore Common, and then visited Denbies Hillside (chalk grassland). I then walked back along the North Down's Way to Box Hill and Westhumble Station.

Ranmore Common is a Ste of Special Scientific Interest; it's citation says:

Reasons for Notification: This site is a large and continuous block of woodland situated mainly on plateau deposits on the crest of the North Downs. Some of the woodland (notably Bagden Wood and Dorking Wood) is ancient, but the remainder is secondary woodland which has developed over former heathland or rough pasture (some of which survives in the more open areas). The site supports a diverse community of breeding birds. The plateau deposits which overly the chalk on the crest of the Downs have given rise to an acidic soil which supports open heathy woodland, dominated by oak Quercus robur and Q. petraea with a shrub layer of silver birch Betula pendula, holly Ilex aquifolium and some yew Taxus baccata.

Open areas within the woodland are dominated by bracken Pteridium aquilinum, wavy hair-grass Deschampsia flexuosa and occasionally heather Calluna vulgaris. Other heathland plants are also found including harebell Campanula rotundifolia, gorse Ulex europaeus and heath bedstraw Galium saxatile.

On the dip slope of the Downs, and in several small north-facing valleys where the chalk is close to the surface, the thinner soil supports oak and beech Fagus sylvatica woodland with some ash Fraxinus excelsior and yew. Along the northern periphery of Ranmore Common, areas of more diverse woodland also include field maple Acer campestre, midland hawthorn Crataegus oxyacanthoides and crab apple Malus sylvestris. The ground flora is richer here too, and includes yellow archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon, tutsan Hypericum androsaemum, sweet woodruff Galium odoratum and enchanter’s nightshade Circaea lutetiana.

Several species of butterflies and moths have been recorded including the satin-wave moth Idaea subsericeata, and the white admiral butterfly Ladoga camilla. The site also supports a diverse breeding bird community, which includes sparrowhawk, woodcock, tree-pipit, nightjar, redstart and hawfinch. Ranmore Common (

The photographs in this post are in chronological order; to give an impression of my nature journey on 17.07.22. All sections of test in italics are quotations; sources are cited at the end of the quotations.

The focus of my attention was mostly on butterflies; so I probably missed many other interesting species of insects, birds and plants!

The paths from Westhumble to Ranmore Common

Path through a hay meadow; there were many Gatkeepers and Meadow Browns.


Grey Squirrel, beside the path through Ashcombe Wood (the eastern part of Ranmore Common)

Ashcombe Wood

A Marsh Tit; a red-list scarce bird; and a bird native to woods not marshes!

Roots but no tree.

A Speckled Wood, one of many.

A Small White

Ashcombe Wood

A fledgling robin at the back of a small pond

Tree trunk

A pond; the robin was at the back

The shrubbery and grassland at the south edge of Ranmore Common

Meadow Brown on Spear Thistle

Chalkhill Blue on Horseshoe Vetch

Six-Spot Burnet Moth on Field Scabious


Feather - Magpie?

Male Chalkhill Blue

Male Chalkhill Blue

The path through Ranmore Common to Pouslden Lacey

Silver-Washed Fritillary on bramble; one of many I saw

same individual

Another Silver-Washed Fritillary

same individual, showing underwings

Ringlet showing signs of bird attack

Peacock, with wings closed. Peacocks are one of the few UK butterflies which can overwinter in adult form; it's underwings gives the impression of a dead leaf; to camouflage it from predator attacks

same individual as above; wings open

A Dark Green Fritillary

A Green-Veined White

A Comma; with wing design that is designed to make it look like a leaf when its wings are closed.

Underwings of another Comma

Small White on red leaf.

White-tailed worker bumblebee on Spear Thistle

Holley Blue

closer up to the above individual

Peacock on Spear Thistle


Small White on Heal-All


Gatekeeper on Bramble; one of many everywhere

Peacock on Hemp-Agrimony

Red Admiral with damaged wing

Pair of Meadow Browns

Red Admiral on Hemp-Agrimony

Silver-washed Fritillary

Ringlet on Bindweed

The path from the north edge of Ranmore Common to Poulsden Lacey

Poulsden Lacyey in the distance

Female Marbled White

A drovers road to Pouslden Lacey

Small White on Spear Thistle in field south of Poulsden Lacey

Meadow Brown on Wild Marjoram

Ringlet on the hedge going into Poulsedon Lacey's gardens

Poulsden Lacey

For more information, see: Polesden Lacey | National Trust

The Terrace

View from the Terrace to Ranmore Common

Polesden Lacey: The Munificence of the Beerage, from The Garden Visitor

A blog about Gardens of the World by Richard Jackson, August 2019, Polesden Lacey: The Munificence of the Beerage - The Garden Visitor

Gardens are so often an expression of their owner’s character, so what would the garden be like of someone Cecil Beaton described as ‘a galumping, greedy, snobbish old toad’ and the Queen Mother somewhat more discreetly as ‘so shrewd, so kind, so amusingly unkind, so sharp, such fun, so naughty?’

Maggie Greville was the illegitimate heiress to William McEwan’s brewing fortune and her huge wealth, husband’s connections and her formidable social aspirations gave her the means to become a grand Edwardian hostess, entertaining kings, princes, maharajas, ambassadors and celebrities. The photographs in the house are in themselves reason enough for a visit, capturing the spirit of a vanished Edwardian lifestyle. Polesden Lacey needed to be the stunning backdrop for her lavish, sparkling weekend parties.

The large Regency-styled, stuccoed and ochre-coloured house was built between 1902-1905, and so when the Grevilles acquired it in 1906 it provided fine modern accommodation; a ballroom, library, en-suite bathThe house’s setting is spectacular, the main south façade overlooking breath-takingly beautiful views of sloping lawns, sharply cut yew hedges, chalk grassland and the deciduous native woodland of the North Downs. One of the great joys of Polesden Lacey is to take the many steep hilly walks through the 560 hectares (1400 acre) estate.

Maggie Greville had plans drawn up for grand Italianate gardens on the south lawns, with fountains and statues, but fortunately these were never built.rooms throughout, electricity and central heating. The Grevilles undertook minor extensions enhancing the main eastern façade but Ronnie Greville died two years later and for the next 30 years Maggie remained a widow, but one who loved being the centre of attention. Her enthusiasm for the Nazis, friendship with von Ribbentrop, attendance of a Nuremberg rally and private audience with Hitler, was partially redeemed by her purchase of a Spitfire for the RAF at the outbreak of the Second World War.

The house’s setting is spectacular, the main south façade overlooking breath-takingly beautiful views of sloping lawns, sharply cut yew hedges, chalk grassland and the deciduous native woodland of the North Downs. One of the great joys of Polesden Lacey is to take the many steep hilly walks through the 560 hectares (1400 acre) estate. Maggie Greville had plans drawn up for grand Italianate gardens on the south lawns, with fountains and statues, but fortunately these were never built. Polesden Lacey: The Munificence of the Beerage - The Garden Visitor

Some of Maggie Greville's knick-knacks

An installation of metal roses on the West Lawn, created by the Camelia Botnar Foundation, see Camelia Botnar Foundation Camelia Botnar exists to support and train young people having a tough time. We enable them to transform their lives.


A Brimstone n the garden of the courtyard of the stables (entrance)

A fledgling Wren in a nest high up in the stables

Polesden Lacey was built in 1821-3 by Thomas Cubitt; it was remodelled in 1902-6 by Sir Ambrose Poynter, and again by Mewes & Davis (architects of the Ritz Hotel in London) for Mrs Ronald Greville, who bought the house in 1906. The exterior of Polesden Lacey retains the air of a Regency villa with roughcast and yellow-washed walls. The interiors, however, are a showcase of Edwardian opulence. Mrs Greville, one of the most celebrated hostesses in the Marlborough House circle of Edward VII, oversaw their decoration which involved bringing in spectacular features from other buildings. In the central hall, Edward Pierce’s oak panelling and decorative carvings originally formed the reredos of Christopher Wren’s St Matthew’s Church in London. For the Saloon, the architect Arthur Davis (joint partner in Mewes & Davis) provided an extravagantly carved and panelled ‘salone’ of c.1700, taken in its entirety from an Italian palazzo. Polesden Lacey | National Trust Collections

Hedge of the Terrace with Gatekeeper

Meadow Brown

The path back from Poulden Lacey to Ranmore Common

A Silver-Washed Fritillary

Roots without soil

Castle in the Poulsden Lacey estate

Back on the Ranmore Common Walk


Peacock on Buddleia

Silver-Washed Fritillary on Buddleia

Strips of flowering plants alongside the forest rides on Ranmore Common provide forage for its butterflies


Buddleia is a very common nectar source for butterflies; but it is a mixed blessing. Here's is Butterfly Conservation's position statement on buddleia

Background Buddleia is widely planted in gardens across the UK and is clearly a favoured nectar source for butterflies in gardens. It is always top of the list of most commonly used nectar sources in our Garden Butterfly Survey and lives up to its alternative name of the “Butterfly Bush”. The plants are also highly attractive to moths, bees and other insects. There are around 100 different species of Buddleia, which were mainly introduced to the UK during the 20th century. The most popular species, Buddleia davidii was introduced at Kew in 1896.

Apart from being planted widely in gardens, the plant has become widely naturalised in the countryside and towns where it colonises disturbed ground sites such as railway lines, quarries, roadsides and waste ground. Concern has been growing in the last decade that the plant is spreading and causing problems by invading important wildlife habitats, notably brownfield sites which are important for invertebrates (Shardlow, 2010). It grows vigorously and can form dense stands that eliminate other plants. In 2008, Defra and the country agencies for Wales and Scotland published a new strategy to control invasive species and listed Buddleia on their non-native species website www.nonnative Defra has estimated that Buddleia control costs the British economy £961,000 pa, largely because it can germinate in crumbling brickwork and cause damage to old buildings and needs to be cleared from railway lines (Williams, 2010). There is a factsheet on Buddleia on the non-native species website but no risk assessment has been done to date (2012).

However, Buddleia is not listed among the wild invasive non-native plants listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act and is not listed by Plantlife as a plant that should be added (Plantlife website). Butterfly Conservation’s position Buddleia provides an important nectar source for adult butterflies, moths and other insects in townscapes and the countryside. This has become increasingly relevant because wildflowers have become so depleted following habitat loss and the general lack of nectar sources in the countryside. It also brings enjoyment to many people, both because of its heavy scented and beautiful blooms but also because of the butterflies and other insects it attracts. It therefore plays a role, alongside other non-native garden plants, in helping to maintain or restore the link between people and native UK wildlife such as butterflies. In gardens, Buddleia is often pruned annually thus removing seed-heads and reducing the potential for seeding.

Buddleia is not important as a caterpillar food-plant and cannot replace naturally occurring wildflowers, which are crucial to provide a variety of nectar through the year as well as being food-plants for caterpillars. Buddleia can cause serious problems on some important conservation sites, especially brownfield sites. It needs to be controlled in these and other semi-natural sites to allow natural vegetation to develop. The cost of control can sometime be considerable. In reaching a position on Buddleia it is important to weigh up the undoubted benefits it brings in garden situations against the possible risks to wildlife habitats. It is also important to recognise that Buddleia is already naturalised and well established across much of the UK. Gardens

In view of its value as a nectar source, BC will continue to recommend its planting in gardens alongside other butterfly-friendly non-native plants, but will avoid giving it undue prominence and will give advice on its management and control. Buddleia seeds do not ripen until dry weather during the following spring. We thus recommend that plants in gardens are dead-headed after flowering or cut back during the winter to prevent seed development and the risk of spreading into adjacent habitat. Semi-natural habitats BC will advise against planting of Buddleia in semi-natural habitat re-creation schemes or in positions where it may be unmanaged and pose a risk to nearby wildlife habitats. On sites where Buddleia has become a problem it should be controlled in the same way as other invasive plants (e.g. native and non-native scrub), by cutting and/or spraying. It is a relatively easy plant to control by cutting, so is in a different category to other invasive plants that are very difficult to control (e.g. Cotoneaster and Rhododendron). However, seedlings may continue to become established and cutting/removal may need to be repeated at regular intervals. Butterfly Conservation (

Views of the woods

A Comma looking like a eaf on the ground

Denbies Hillside

A chalk escarpment rich in chalkland butterflies e.g. Common Blue. Adonis Blue, Chalkhill Blue, Brown Adonis, and Marbled Whites; see: Denbies Hillside | National Trust

On 17.07.22 the grassland was dominated by Chalkhill Blues, Marbled Whites, Meadow Browns

Chalkhill Blues

Leith Hill Tower from Denbies Hillside

Gatekeeper on leaf

Cake and tea, at the Cheery Fair, St Barnabas, Ranmore Common

A juvenile Jay in the grass.

The Grade 2 listed phone box at Box Hill and Westhumble station.



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