Friday, 23 October 2009

Savernake Forest and Marlborough

This week's weather delayed walk was to a destination I had hoped in Spring to visit the large forest of Savernake near Marlborough. It covers several square miles and is the largest in my immediate area. Here is the map of this 14 mile walk.


View Mildenhall - Savernake - Marlborough in a larger map

I suspect the ‘ake’ part of Savernake comes from ‘oak’ that is one of the chief trees. Driving to Mildenhall on the Kennet I managed to park next to the church which was surprisingly interesting. The old Roman town of Cvnetio is close by and the church is appropriately old - in parts. It has fine Norman arches in appropriate Romanesque style and claims a Saxon tower.

mildenhall church

The interior was lavishly refurbished in Georgian rather than Victorian times for once, and has fine woodwork worthy of a Jane Austen novel according to Sir John Betjeman and so it was appropriate that part of the ITV production of Jane Austen?s ?Emma? were filmed here in 1996. It is in Simon Jenkins's England's Thousand best churches. Reg Prentice the MP who served as minister in both Labour and Conservative governments came to live here during his retirement. The locals contract ‘Mildenhall’ to ‘Milhall’ and this was even used on a footpath sign. It brings to mind ‘Ratlinghope’ or ‘Ratchup’

mildenhall church

The River Kennet (just a stream here) had a pied wagtail and swans on it.

mildenhall church

One good reason for the timing of the walk was to catch some autumn fungi, there wasn't that much around, the best specimens happened to be a few yards from the busy A4. The first two I suspect are Amanitas and the third Lycoperdon perlatum (puffball).

fungi

fungi

fungi

Savernake Forest in the main I found rather disappointing, the permitted paths through it are straight and the land is flat. As it is managed by the Forestry Commission the trees are a commercial crop. Still the autumn colours were good.

savernake forest

savernake forest

Just when I despaired of seeing any ‘Ancient Forest’ I turned off the boring straight track onto a meandering path and I was rewarded by some fine ancient specimens of oak and some beech. The highlight of the walk, a pity there are not many more areas like this one.

savernake forest,oak

savernake forest,oak

savernake forest,oak

savernake forest,beech

savernake forest,beech

The transition to autumn was in places slow, the oaks are still fairly green. One ancient beech had a dead branch sprouting toadstools possibly porcelain fungus (Oudemansiella mucida?).

fungi

To make a circular walk I cut across farmland to the west, and unlike most of my walks this year this proved difficult as the farmers have illegally removed or redirected quite a few of them. The following is one view that faced me, the right of way is straight on, and as it was such a huge field, I had no choice but to walk straight across it.

lost footpath,fields

When on the outskirts of Marlborough these bullocks put on a fine show, dashing towards me and then turning away at the last moment, they did this several times as I walked along the track alongside them.

bullocks,fields

I came back through the town of Marlborough that has some attractive parts, I was lucky to get this view in the afternoon light.

marlborough

The walk took me over the River Og (more of a stream) which feeds into the River Kennet which I then followed all the way back to Mildenhall, 14 miles in all. The cloudscape somewhat mirrored the autumn landscape.

clouds