Key species: Purple Hairstreak and White-letter Hairstreak

Best time to see them: White-letter Hairstreak (middle of June to the middle of July), Purple Hairstreak (end of June onwards).

Marshall's Arm is an excellent place to see two of the most overlooked species of butterfly. Purple Hairstreak are numerous and there is a small colony of White-letter Hairstreak.

The path through the reserve following the old Weaver is uneven but passable for wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Certain areas such as Eaton’s Meadow and the path up to the Stones Manor entrance are unsuitable for both. However the majority of Purple Hairstreak colonies are viewable from the main path as most of the trees here are large oaks. Sadly White-letter Hairstreak are not and require some walking up steps and a lot of patience. The best time to see both species is in the middle of the morning just as everywhere starts to warm up. With Purple Hairstreak the best time to see them is when they first emerge from a chrysalis and are at a low level.

Spring times walks are rewarding with butterflies like Orange Tip, Brimstone, Small White and Speckled Wood. Eaton’s meadow contains Ringlet, Small Copper, Small Heath, Painted Lady and Large and Small Skipper. At the appropriate times there are large numbers of Whites and Meadow Brown here. In all, 24 species of butterfly have been recorded here in the past two years. 

For those interested in birds there are a pair of Kingfisher that inhabit the old river and Pignut pool. Also Otters have been seen on this stretch of the river. In April / May there is a wonderful show of bluebells from Stones Manor Lane down to Pignut Hill. These woods are also home to three species of Woodpecker.

Directions: The main entrances to the reserve are from the A559 through Hartford and Castle but parking is somewhat restricted. The Saxons Lane entrance is the only entrance usable for people with mobility issues. From Castle turn down Darwin street until a roundabout is reached where you take the third exit into Alfred street. Follow the road down as far as Pimblett's boat yard. Park sensibly and the reserve entrance is on the right through the Heron gates. For The Stones Manor entrance turn right at the traffic lights in Hartford if coming from Chester with St Johns church on the right. Just after the Relish café on the left turn left down Stones Manor Lane and again park sensibly where the main road turns into a single carriageway. The reserve entrance is on the right. Leaflets are available in boxes at either of the entrances that contain maps of  the reserve.

Just before the entrance to Eaton’s field there is a path on the right to the Stones Manor entrance. Follow this until you come to a small bridge across a brook and an overhead pipeline. Here there are Elms which contain the White-letter Hairstreak.

Grid References

  • Parking - Saxons Lane SJ 652726, Stones Manor Lane SJ 642722

Map of the site