Monday, 16 October 2017

Ashampstead and Aldworth

Normally mid October is a good time for fungi in the woods so I headed for some of the woods around Ashampstead. It was the day of hurricane Ophelia, that was battering Ireland at the time, its chief effect here was to bring in very warm air so I could wear a T-shirt for probably the last time this year. The route was a complex network of paths and lanes of around 10½ miles in total. Here is a map of the route:

I have explored this area quite a bit, other walks I have done include Jan 2011, June 2012, March 2014, Dec 2014. This time I was pleased to see blackberries were still in flower.

blackberry

And also in fruit.

blackberry

I walked north-east to the old village of Aldworth. It has a delightful church some distance from the centre.

Aldworth church

Its most noted attraction inside the church are the carved sandstone effigies of the de Beche family, known as the Aldworth giants because of their unusually tall stature.

Aldworth church,giants,tomb

Churchyards can be good for wildflowers as the soil is left undisturbed however many are mown too regularly to let 'weeds' prosper. At Aldworth there was some wild basil (Clinopodium vulgare) still in flower.

wild basil,Clinopodium vulgare

To my delight on the verge just by the church there were some somewhat rarer and more attractive flowers - Pale Toadflax (Linaria repens).

pale toadflax,Linaria repens

At the village of Aldworth I saw another unusual thing, this time an old Fiat 500 Topolino (c. 1940) looking rather splendid.

fiat 500

Up until now there had been periods of sun and pleasantly warm if not hot but then cloud came over. The sun became an orange glow, people around the UK were wondering if this might be the apocalypse. In fact it was a mix of Saharan dust and smoke from Iberian wild fires that had put particles in the air that diffuse the light.

sahara sun

I walked over fields to Westridge Green and just by the busy Streatley-Hermitage road was a mass of ivy in flower. There were two Red Admiral butterflies (Vanessa atalanta) feeding on the ivy somehow coping with the gusty wind. It was too windy to expect to see many butterflies, I only saw one other, probably a Small Tortoiseshell. May be the last I will see this year.

red admiral,butterfly,Vanessa atalanta

I explored a number of strips of woodland but regretfully no sign of fungi. There were plenty of pheasants though, I even saw a trailer full of beaters moving into position for a shoot. There are many still around including this female of the species.

pheasant

The cloudy conditions did not allow for many good panoramic views. The autumn colours were not yet very strong, and with the high winds many leaves had already fallen. This view gives a guide to the general view - lots of trees over undulating downs.

My hunt for fungi proved to be in vain. It has just been too dry in the last few weeks for them to choose to come up. I had deliberately chosen a walk through areas with clay that are somewhat damper, but no luck. I saw a few field mushrooms and this amazing area of Honey Fungus (Armillaria mellea). The air was sickly sweet with the smell of them.

honey fungus

Walking back from Ashampstead Common back to Ashampstead a sweet chestnut had shed most of its fruits, luckily the winds didn't bring any more down while I was taking this photograph they most certainly would hurt a bit if they hit you on the head.

sweet chestnut

By the side of the track some splendid late flowering Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris) were found.

self-heal,Prunella vulgaris

A final treat was a few clumps of what I hope is Wood Barley (Hordelymus europaeus).

wood barley

The sun came out again right at the end of the 11 mile walk. I was able to pop in for tea with a friend at the village of Ashampstead.