Thursday, 22 April 2010

Padworth, Aldermaston and Brimpton

This 11 mile walk links up two previous walks so I can now proudly state that I have walked all the way from home out to Marten a village halfway between Reading to Devizes in Wiltshire. This week is expected to be the last for guaranteed fine dry Spring weather before rain sets in. Here is a map of the route:


View Padworth - Brimpton in a larger map

The first flower I saw of any note was a Cuckoo Flower (Cardamine pratensis) growing close to the River Kennet and the Kennet and Avon canal at Aldermaston Wharf.

cuckoo-flower

The whole of April has been entirely dry, but the River Kennet which is fed from springs from the chalk downs was still at quite a high level. Water was the theme for much of the walk, in the form of rivers, ponds, lakes and streams.

water

I joined up with my previous Silchester, Padworth and Ufton Nervet walk at Padworth Church, which was charming in the morning sunshine.

padworth church

The walk to Aldermaston was varied with fields, streams and some woodland. At Aldermaston Church the churchyard had a clump of ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea).

ground ivy

The church's distinctive weather vane was in some need of repair.

weather vane

Then came a walker's nightmare, a footpath through a field with a loose bull, and, what was more, with a group of cows and calves. He showed some initial interest in my progress through the field but then grew bored and continued grazing.

bull

My courage was rewarded with a grey heron (Ardea cinerea) close to an area of marshland.

Heron

I was also able to get reasonably close to a pair of lapwings (or peewits: Vanellus vanellus), now regrettably quite a rare sight in farmland. Some signs of iridescent colours on their plumage.

Peewit,Lapwing

Some catkins can look really odd when they are still developing.

catkins

The track led to the village of Aldermaston with an attractive pub on a busy road junction.

Aldermaston pub

Then there was quite a walk along lanes with the hazard of speeding cars until eventually coming to ponds on the sites of former sand and gravel pits. This swan was busy feeding from the bottom of a pond.

swan

A little further along on the path to Brimpton was a yellow hammer merrily singing in the bushes. I did manage to catch a shot of it, but it was partly obscured by branches.

yellowhammer

As well as these I saw bullfinches, chaffinches, goldfinches, tufted duck, skylarks, red kites, canada geese, robins and great tits. A good day for bird watching. And this blackcap singing away too.

blackcap

A few yards further along were some amazing seed heads that look just like candy floss. These were bulrushes (Typha Latifolia) just about to lose last year's seeds ready to start the cycle again.

bullrush seeds

In the fields were masses of Common Field Speedwell (Veronica persica) with their bright blue flowers.

Common field speedwell

I then reached the Kennet and Avon canal which runs parallel to both the railway and the busy A4, it has an important route for many centuries. The canal path was boringly flat with the frequent nuisance of cyclists on the tow-path; the temptation to push them in the canal became quite strong. The long trudge back was much enhanced by the many spring flowers growing on the banks of the canal including clumps of Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris).

Marsh Marigold

And also the strange looking buds of Butterbur (Petrasites hybridus).

Butterbur

In the distance on a hill to the north was the impressive looking Midgham Church, built by the Victorians in 13th century style.

Midgham church,church

I saw my first Orange tip butterflies of the year (these are often the first adult butterflies of the new year that you see). To end on a suitably seasonal Spring note some willow (or may be poplar) catkins.

Catkins,willow,poplar

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Swyncombe and Ewelme

Another opportunity to get out in the Spring sunshine, this time to a favourite spot to the north west of Nettlebed. Blackthorn is now probably at its best and will be gone in a week's time.

Blackthorn blossom

Swyncombe has a delightful small church dating back a thousand years with a fine apse, rood screen and Norman font.

Swyncombe Church Apse

It has some attractive stained glass too.

Swyncombe Church Window

Speedwell was growing in the fields leading down from the downs. I think it must be Common Field Speedwell, in this case somewhat darker blue than usual.

Speedwell

Spring was not yet in evidence in the tall beech trees.

Swyncombe park

Wood Sorrel was probably the loveliest small flower in the woods.

Wood Sorrel flower

The area of chalk downs has Spring colour developing in the hedgerows.

Swyncombe downs

We passed through a field of rapeseed still in bud.

Rapeseed

At a fine stately home called Ewelme Park was a suitably stately strutting peacock, that failed to open its tail feathers.

Peacock

Near the end of walk on tree bark were a number of dark, two spotted ladybirds, but as usual when I came to confirm identification I wonder, is it the black form of the two spot or the kidney spot ladybird. Too small I think to be the dreaded Harlequin.

Two spot ladybird

Back to Swyncombe House and the parkland had many sheep with twin lambs.

Twin lambs