Saturday, 10 October 2009

Litchfield, Watership Down and Beacon Hill

The start of this twelve mile walk in north west Hampshire just south of Newbury. Here is the route of this walk:


View Litchfield - Watership Down in a larger map

Inkpen Ridge

Walks following the ridge through north Hampshire, Wiltshire and West Berkshire.

Oakley - Hannington
Hannington - Watership Down
Watership Down - Highclere
Highclere - East Woodhay
East Woodhay - Inkpen
Inkpen - Marten
Marten - Collingbourne Kingston
Collingbourne Kingston - Easton Royal
Easton Royal - Pewsey

I climbed up to the top of Beacon Hill (all of 856feet) with dramatic views north-east over rural Berkshire.

beacon hill view

At the top is a modest monument to the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, famous for his part of the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in the 1920s

earl of carnarvon tomb

The monument overlooks his stately house Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey was filmed.

highclere castle

The view back to Beacon Hill shows the ring ditch and rampart forming the Iron age fortifications.

beacon hill fort

The Highclere Estate does not permit a round-trip walk through their grounds so I had to drive to Litchfield to re-join the main Inkpen Ridgeway (Wayfarer's Way). Litchfield has a modest but delightful church.

litchfield church

Along a quiet lane through the chalk downlands the light was just catching this Hazel leaf.

hazel leaf

Further up the lane near Lower Woodcott Farm were some idyllic looking thatched cottages, unfortunately they were not perfectly located as they stood far too close to electricity pylons.

thatched cottages

The path from there led gently up a slope with high hedges on both sides blocking any view. However this was more than compensated for by the butterflies that were all feasting on the autumn nectar provided by ivy flowers. The first was an outrageously orange Comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album)

comma butterfly

A few yards further up and it was a Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) that was too busy feeding to be bothered with me and my camera.

red admiral butterfly

Another kind of butterfly a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) proved more elusive, it flew on a few yards each time I nearly had it in the viewfinder, but persistence more than paid off.

painted lady butterfly

There was a little bit of woodland, and the light was catching it well.

woodland glade

As well as Lord Carnarvon there is another famous monument of the same era. Just on the A34 is a monument to one of the first pioneering air-planes from 1910. The de Havilland aircraft company was founded by Geoffrey de Havilland who made one of his earliest test flights here.

Geoffrey de Havilland

The atmosphere on top of Litchfield Down was entirely different, the farmer had recently tilled the soil to reveal the masses of flints, glinting white in the sun. Strange to think this is only fifty miles from Central London.

litchfield downs

Larger wildlife were around, but no rabbits to be seen on Watership Down itself. I was lucky to just catch this hare though, just on the point of bounding off into the distance.

hare

Coming off the Downs into arable land I came a little too close to a field of bullocks and a bull.

bullock

A hundred yards further on I saw for my first time a healthy looking Black Nightshade plant (Solanum nigrum), which sounds just if not more poisonous than its Deadly Nightshade cousin. However online research indicates the ripe, black berries are not inedible and resemble tomatoes.

black nightshade

That concludes the best of the shots I took on this first walk blog, I hope more will follow, I also intend to post some retrospective reports of previous walks. Here to end is an autumnal view of the busy A34 trunk road that dissected my ramble, providing an almost constant background drone on this walk.

A34,trunk road

Friday, 9 October 2009

Psophis Launched

Hereby is launched a blog on a variety of photographic trails through the woods and downs of what used to be Wessex (broadly Hampshire, Berkshire and surrounding areas) in Southern England.

Why Psophis (Ψωφίς), you ask?

Well, Psophis was a greek city in the land of Arcadia, the fabled kingdom of rural delights - and all other sensible names had gone! Sadly Arcadia is a distant memory, only widely known from the latin enscription “Et in Arcadia ego” made recently famous by Dan Brown and Co..