As I had to be in Stow-on-the-Wold at 3pm today for a haircut, I thought it would be a good idea to swing round via Daneway Banks on the way there, to try for a better photo of a Large Blue. Daneway Banks is not even slightly en route between home and Stow – in fact it took me about thirty miles out of my way – but the two places are both in Gloucestershire, and that was all the excuse I needed.
Stupidly (as if the foregoing wasn’t questionable enough), I managed to allow myself to be sidetracked repeatedly during the morning, and left home nearly an hour and a half later than I had planned, which meant that by the time I arrived at Daneway I knew I couldn’t allow myself any longer than forty minutes at the site, if I was to stand any chance of being on time for my appointment. At which point, if you’ve been to this reserve, you’ll be thinking something along the lines of Have you lost your mind??? For those of you who haven’t, you begin by finding a lay-by in the bottom of a deep valley in which to dump your car, then scuttle across a single-track bridge and up a steep, narrow lane to the entrance of the reserve, where (as you already know that your target is in the top section) you take the path that continues to climb. And climb. And then climb a bit more, until (just at the point when you think your lungs might completely give out) it levels out, and allows you to totter onward suffering from no more than mild oxygen deprivation.
That, of course, is if you’re misguided enough to try to walk the reserve on a tight schedule. If you’re not in a hurry it’s still a decent workout – from the bottom of the valley to the top bank is probably no more than two thirds of a mile, but the rise is about 150 feet – but you can achieve it without feeling that you’re about to have a CVA. Don’t worry though: I survived today’s experience, and I’m truly not looking for sympathy. Back in the days when I had to manage my own diary and that of both Offspring (who took up extra-curricular activities with the enthusiasm I lavish on camera gear), I perfected the art of fitting quarts of activity into pint pots of time, and I’ve not yet managed to break myself of the habit; it’s quite unreasonable these days for me to be either late or very nearly late for absolutely everything to which I’m committed, but I still work that way, and I need to take myself in hand and stop it.
Luckily, I spotted a Large Blue in almost exactly the spot where I’d expected to find one, and managed half a dozen shots of him feeding, before he took exception to the fact that I was crouching between him and the sun (in the hope of getting him to spread his wings), and beamed himself to some other dimension. In the few minutes I had left I managed to find another male (or, quite possibly, the same one again), making amorous advances to a down feather that was caught on some grass; with hindsight I should have ramped up the shutter speed as high as necessary and caught him in flight, rather than continuing to track him in the hope that he’d land, because – of course – he didn’t land, but simply…. vanished.
Late by now (yes, I know), I thundered back down the hill, slowed briefly at the bottom gate to help a group of people who had just arrived and were wondering where might be a good place to start looking for the famous butterfly (earning valuable karma points, I felt, for this Random Act of Entomological Kindness), jumped in the car, three-pointed, zoomed off along lanes that from the amount of foliage growing out of them appear to see at least one farm vehicle a week…. and made it to the hairdresser’s at 3.02pm. Which by my standards is early.
A third attempt on the basking shot is going to have to take place, clearly – and as the flight season of this butterfly is so short, will have to happen soon; but next time I’ll do the job properly and give myself lots of time. And if I’m lucky I might manage to persuade R to come along as a