Aldbury Nowers (previously known as Duchie's Piece) was one of the original 284 reserves identified by Charles Rothschild, the founder of the Wildlife Trust movement, as needing protection back in 1912. This year The Wildlife Trusts celebrate their centenary year. You can read more about the list of 284 Rothschild Reserves on The Wildlife Trusts' website - and discover the history of Aldbury Nowers there too.
The reserve comprises two areas of hillside linked by The Ridgeway. The warm south-facing slopes host the small but beautiful flowers of chalk grassland including common milkwort, common rock rose, clustered bellflower and lady's bedstraw.
Aldbury Nowers is one of the finest butterfly habitats in Hertfordshire with Essex skippers, marbled whites, green hairstreak, brown argus, and the scarce grizzled and dingy skippers. It is also very good for other invertebrates such as solitary bees and wasps.
Birds include large flocks of redwing, fieldfare and mixed finches during the winter, when a sparrowhawk may be glimpsed as it attempts to single out small birds from these flocks.
The Trust works with the owner, the National Trust, and the reserve is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Constant management is undertaken by the Trust to prevent the important areas of short turf from being overgrown with rank grasses, scrub and encroaching woodland. This is achieved through selective clearance and careful grazing by older breeds of sheep such as Shetlands.
Management work continues on the reserve, focusing on the grassland enclosures. Vegetation has to be cut and raked to remove the build up of nutrients in the soil which could lead to more vigorous plant species taking over. Bramble is particularly dominant but is gradually being controlled through regular cutting.
A small flock of shetland sheep arrived at the beginning of September and have worked there way through the four southern enclosures. They are still grazing on the reserve and are currently in the largest enclsoure.
At this time of year look out for flocks of redwing and fieldfare flying over the reserve. Large flocks of blue, great, coal and long tailed tits forage throughout the scrub and are often joined by goldcrest, marsh tit and treecreepers. Bullfinches are particularly obvious as they fly between belts of scrub, with small parties of between 4-6 birds often being seen. Listen out for their soft whistling call or their white rumps in flight.
Buzzards and red kites often soar overhead and on a clear, sunny day provide stunning views as they glide low over the grasslands and woodland.
On a relatively warm day in November last year a small tortoiseshell butterfly was seen flying across the enclosures and it won't be much longer before the first butterflies of 2013 will be seen.