Friday, 17 November 2017

Beech Hill, Swallowfield and Riseley

Friday dawned as a bright autumn day after the first significant night frost in the area. I drove to Beech Hill with the aim of linking up with two previous walks. I had visited Beech Hill over four years ago in April. Here is a map of the route:

The autumn light made the buildings look splendid. This is the pub in Beech Hill - The Elm Tree

Beech Hill,The Elm Tree

I had a brief look at the small village pond. On the previous walk spring flowers had been found, today I was delighted to see a Grey Wagtail feeding on the pond edge. Unfortunately only got a rear end view before it flew off.

Grey Wagtail

I then followed a path east from the village and immediately found a plant unexpectedly still in flower in mid-November - Borage (Borago officinalis) - quite close to gardens but growing on waste ground.

I then joined an old track that runs straight from Spencers Wood to Stratfield Saye (home to the Duke of Wellington). Fine autumn colours were to be seen along the way - particularly the yellow of Field Maple.

field maple

I spotted a couple of trees full of mistletoe and this one had plenty of berries.


I continued on the old track and crossed the A33 Swallowfield bypass - a road I used to commute along every day. Close by I found an 'artistic' composition of acorn cups.

I passed through Spencers Wood, took quite a few pictures and then headed south on Sussex Lane to a solar panel array close to the River Loddon. Along the perimeter I found Nipplewort (Lapsana communis) still in summer mode.

Nipplewort,Lapsana communis

Nearby was another plant out of normal flowering cycle - Mayweed.

The path came to an area had dumped lots of materials of various types: muck, building waste, machinery. I have come to welcome seeing such places as they offer a range of habitats for wild-flowers. In this case I was delighted to see a plant I have only seen in one or two places and have never been able to correctly identify on my own, it is Weld (Reseda luteola) - a source of yellow dye.

Weld,Reseda luteola

Just passed this area a Dunnock (Prunella modularis) was giving its alarm call.

Dunnock,Prunella modularis

I then came to Swallowfield. The village, like Spencers Wood, grew in size after the railway brought prosperity to Reading, there are few old building and no sense of a village centre. On the fringe is Swallowfield Park, a grand former stately home (Earl of Clarendon) now converted into luxury apartments. This is one of the gate houses.

Swallowfield Park

I then continued south and the footpath took me across a rather unusual crop : the herb Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). A large area was planted and smelled strong in the faint breeze. Many of the plants had a flower or two on them. It was here I joined up with a previous walk from six years ago. I can now claim to have walked all the way from home to here and then on to Hartley Wintney and beyond.

Rosemary,Rosmarinus officinalis

I then reached the old Roman road that leads from Silchester (Calleva Atrebatum) to London (Pontibus Londinio). Here it marks the Hampshire-Berkshire boundary. After the Romans left the length and straightness of the road led it to be given the name 'Devil's Highway' presumably because such a construction was beyond human endeavour. Here the light caught Sweet Chestnut leaves on the Hampshire side of the road.


Riseley has more of the feel of an old village. In the village was one or two timber framed buildings.


I then headed back over the A33 on a muddy track. Along the track there were quite a few fungi - I think Common Funnel mushroom (Clitocybe gibba).

Common Funnel,Clitocybe gibba

Along the whole walk I spotted may be a dozen wild-flowers still in flower, not bad for mid-November. This one is Common Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) .

Common Hogweed,Heracleum sphondylium

A cloud came over and so picture opportunities were limited for a while, I passed Stanford End mill and the gatehouse for Stratfield Saye before heading back north towards Beech Hill. It was now after 2pm and the shadows were lengthening, but they did bring out the autumn colours even more.


Back at Beech Hill the afternoon light was lighting up the church. None of the villages I passed through seemed to have an old church (this one only 1867) confirming their relatively recent development.

Beech Hill