Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Silchester, Padworth and Ufton Nervet

Today was forecast to be the last guaranteed sunny day this week and the ground has now dried out a lot from the rain and snow of January and February. The walk was centred on Mortimer, but this village is a rather ugly sprawl with little to commend itself. Here is a map of the route:

View Mortimer - Silchester - Ufton Nervet in a larger map

The camera only came out after I had walked the mile or so south to Silchester. There was an attractive new silver birch plantation on the way there.

silver birches

Silchester is one of the few Roman towns that did not remain as towns (or become cities), it was abandoned in about 500AD after, among other misfortunes, the wells ran dry. There is a rather weathered amphitheatre and an impressively built town wall. They encompass a large internal area, the home of the Atrebates Celtic tribe who soon after settling here took on Roman ways. The Amphitheatre is small but beautifully formed.

silchester,roman ampitheatre

The standing walls are fairly impressive though considering the passage of time.

silchester,roman wall

Close up the careful internal construction of the walls is evident. The outer facing has gone so now the internal layers of flint and stone embedded in cement can be seen.

silchester,roman wall

Close to Silchester church was an attractive clump of snowdrops, demonstrating how late Spring is this year.


The nearby farm has some rarer breeds, this alpaca was giving itself a dust bath. Hens in the same field were keeping their distance.


Silchester had a small and very rare example of a Romano-British Christian Church. Later on, at the time of the Normans (five hundred years on), a new church was built just to the east side of the Roman town. It has many interesting features as well as just looking appealing in Spring sunshine.


It has this amazing pulpit canopy. A flamboyant piece of Jacobean carving that floats above the pulpit.

silchester,church,pulpit canopy

This strange piece is possibly a fragment of an earlier church.


A walk in early Spring did find a good collection of wildlife - two species of deer, three species of butterfly and lots of birds. Most proved camera shy including a party of rooks building their nests. These catkins (hazel I think) were a welcome harbinger of Spring.


After a rather fruitless search for a public footpath which had been closed due to the excavation of new gravel pits, I came to Padworth which has one of the smallest and least disturbed early Norman churches (built about 1130AD). The south and matching north door arches have an almost Anglo-Saxon look to them. It also has the rounded apse found in some early churches.

padworth church

padworth church door

Mortimer West End (not quite London's West End) has a forestry plantation owned by the Englefield Estate (one of the local land owning families) and the estate have recently laid out new paths that will be very appealing when they have matured. The reflection of the trees in the stream caught my eye.

Benyons enclosure

My last port of call was Ufton Nervet, a small village on the crest of the ridge overlooking the river Kennet. The churchyard is dominated by a massive, old yew tree, making photography limited. The south tower had some good examples of leaves in carved stonework. The church is strictly speaking Ufton Robert's church not Ufton Nervert's

ufton robert church,stone carving

And so back to Mortimer, with a major detour as another public footpath had been blocked off. Mutter, mutter!