Sunday, 9 July 2017

The Ox Hovel

This is a place I know from 50 years ago.  It is the ox hovel, an ancient cattle shelter just north of the village of Nether Heyford, Northamptonshire where I grew up.

The ox hovel is on the bank of the River Nene just downstream from Heyford Mill.  It is a rare building of its type, not found elsewhere in Northamptonshire.  The rounded corners and substantial stonework suggest it was an important building on the farm.  The roof was originally thatched but is now corrugated iron.  The old stone walls are home to several species of solitary bees and wasps and the nearby river hosts several types of damselfly and dragonfly.

The ox hovel was mentioned when the farm was part of several estates being sold in 1758 after the death of their owner, William, Duke of Powis.  It and the surrounding fields were sold at auction in Covent Garden to John Devall for £2440.

The old walls of the ox hovel are a great place to look for solitary bees.  Bees I have seen there include male hairy-footed flower bees (Anthophora plumipes),

female hairy-footed flower bees,

male red mason bees (Osmia bicornis),

female red mason bees,

and one male green-eyed flower bee (Anthophora bimaculata).

Other things lurk in the walls.  Such as spiders waiting for unwary bees

or demoiselles.

This ruby-tailed wasp is a parasite of solitary bees but wouldn't come out while I was watching.

This bumblebee was just having a rest.

A male beautiful demoiselle rested on a comfrey leaf against the wall.

Close by one can find green woodpeckers, kingfishers, barn owls and herons, half a dozen species of bumblebees plus banded demoiselles,

white-legged damselflies,

and blue-tailed damselflies.

I expect there was even more to see 50 years ago but I was less aware and less observant then (and took many fewer photos).


  1. That's just lovely, Chris. Nice to see the family name on the documents, and the rather awkward possessive: "Adams's"!

    1. The Adamses are still farmers in and around the village Phil. I expect it is the same family.