The conditions were forecast to be the best day of the week, last week was too hot - even in April! So, I went out to link up with Ham; Vernham Dean and Oxenwood and complete the series of interlinked walks out to the fringes of Salisbury Plain. Here is a map of the 12.5 mile walk:
View Tidcombe - Collingbourne Kingston in a larger map
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
As I had hoped, the cool strong northerly breeze kept the haze away and distant views were possible. This was the view close to the starting point north towards Great Bedwyn. This area of Wiltshire has a much more rural feel than Berkshire.
Down an old trackway were a variety of Spring plants in flower, including Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum). Most were still in bud, but one or two were out.
Further on there was a lovely patch of Yellow Archangels (Lamiastrum galeobdolon) with some leaf variegation.
I was also rewarded with a butterfly that stayed still long enough to take a few shots. Firstly with its wings closed.
And then it opened its wings to reveal itself as a male Orange Tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines).
Soon I was at the tiny, quiet village of Tidcombe, and I gained access to the small church which boasts a Saxon font.
Although subject to a fairly brutal Victorian make-over, some old features remain such as this group of early medieval floor tiles. The church had another problem, evidenced by strips of plastic on the floor; there must be a bat colony up in the roof.
I then climbed up onto Tidcombe Down, with impressive views, although the yellow rapeseed flowers look too bright to fit in properly with an English landscape.
Cowslips were at their best, they had a deep orange tinge to their flowers making them bright and warm in the sunshine.
Collingbourne Kingston was a disappointment. The village is strung out on the very busy A338 road, and the church was closed even though the sign said it should be open all day. The small villages of Brunton and Aughton to the north were better with some picturesque thatched houses. This one was in the process of being re-thatched.
The stream through Aughton flows south to the Solent, unusual as for most of my walks all the water from streams and rivers end up in the Thames to the East. I saw relatively little fauna, most of the birds must have been sheltering from the stiff cool breeze but these pigs were enjoying a genuine free range life.
The main emphasis, appropriate for early May was Spring flowers. Even dandelions have their charm.
Up close the humble White Deadnettle (Lamium album) shows some appealing detail.
At Wexcombe the public footpath was a little disconcerting, leading apparently into a back garden complete with washing out to dry on a washing line. In fact I was so convinced that it could not be right that I turned back, only for a helpful local to confirm the path.
By the side of a copse was a bank of wild garlic (Allium ursinum).
In places the cowslips were extremely abundant and quite delightful.
The long, hard winter seems to have squashed spring into just a couple of weeks. The high temperatures last week (up to 22 degrees) have brought on a number of flowers that are not normally out at the same time. The best examples are bluebells, traditional out in May. A good flower to end on as they were already at their peak in the woodlands.