Now, the road to Dover and to Europe skirts the foot of the hill.
There was a surprising abundance of orchids on Castle Hill when I visited - Common Spotted on the northern slopes and on the top,
and hundreds of Fragrant Orchids on the southern faces. The scent of the Fragrants is so lovely, that the visitor is tempted to his knees to enjoy it all the better.
I saw a Painted Lady butterfly resting on a stem, with another settling nearby, then flying off to chase away invaders. The chaser looked battered and worn, unsurprising after its migration from southern Europe or northern Africa.
The targets of its aggression included other Painted Ladies, a Red Admiral, and was that a Small Tortoiseshell? It was!
A couple of years ago we wouldn't have given this common butterfly a second glance, but they have undergone a serious decline so that such a sighting is now rare. There were two here, right on the top of the hill on a patch of nettles.
There has been much discussion on the possible reasons for the decline, and one of the most intelligent contributions was this one from Steve Nunn, the New Hythe man:
Like everyone else I have struggled to see Small Tortoiseshell in the last couple of years. According to Butterfly Conservation populations have fallen by over 80 per cent in the South East.
The suggestion is the cause is Sturmia bella , a tiny fly first seen over here in 1998. The fly, common on the European mainland, is thought to have become established due to climate change. Sturmia bella eggs are increasingly found on nettles the foodplant of Small tortoiseshell caterpillars. It is thought that Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars eat the eggs which then hatch and kill them.
There is a current research project being jointly carried out by Butterfly Conservation charity and Oxford University's Department of Zoology to determine how significant the parasites are to Small Tortoiseshell decline. I suggest that any sightings of Small Tortoiseshell (or any other Butterflies!) are reported via the kent butterflies web site - even records of the most common species are useful as the plight of the once common Small Tortoiseshell just shows us how quickly things can change. The web site is www.kentbutterflies.org
I also saw my first Skipper of the season.