Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Chaddleworth, Great Shefford and Weston

With the forecast claiming the next few days are due to be dull with showers it seemed best to go for a long walk while it was clear and dry. Continuing the theme of linking together previous walks this one linked Great Shefford to the Ridgeway going back seven years. I started near South Fawley, I was last there five months ago in the autumn. Here is a map of the 15 mile route:


View Fawley - Great Shefford - Weston in a larger map

This time I set off east up the side of the valley to Woolley. One big disappointment was that the views were hazy, it was cold with a frost overnight and a fair breeze so I had hoped for better. This is the view back over the fields to the village of Fawley. You might also make out a white rail around a gallop. This is a racing horse rearing and training area not far from Lambourn.

Fawley

At Woolley Farm the path was blocked by electric fences which had to be climbed over, I was then faced by a bunch of very inquisitive heifers. Always a bit of a concern when walking on your own and several tons of muscle gallop over to greet you.

Heifers

It was a day for farm animals, because on reaching the village of Chaddleworth there was an assortment of fine fowl including a cockerel and his escort.

Cockrel

Not far along, some early spring flowers (dog violets) and a honey bee feeding on them for good measure.

Dog violet,bee

Chaddleworth is an attractive village with some thatch houses; a 'manor house' and a small but beautiful church.

Chaddleworth Church

The Norman arch over the south door is a fine example of the zig-zag design for early churches such as this.

Chaddleworth Church Door Arch

The path led me down to the West Berkshire golf course, where I took pleasure in tramping directly over fairways, to some consternation of the golfers. It is one of the joys of public footpaths that not even private golf courses find it easy to get them re-routed.

west berkshire golf course

Then onwards and dramatically downwards to the village of Great Shefford. This is an ancient place on the River Lambournand also the busy A338 Wantage Road but with some modern housing. I then struck out east to follow the River Lambourn. [Now this always gets me. Pangbourne (with an 'e') is on the River Pang, so why is it not the River Lam, isn't ‘bourne’ another name for a stream?]. Not so far along I saw a fish in the crystal clear water - this is because it is spring water from the chalk aquifer. A few yards on I stopped for a bite to eat and was delighted to see a darting movement of electric blue. A kingfisher flew under a bridge and alighted not six feet away only to fly on when it saw me. No picture of that, of course, you will have to make do with the 'fish'.

fish

The Lambourn Valley Way is disappointing along this stretch, only a few glimpses of the river and often the view was blocked by hedgerows. This is because it follows the route of the old railway some distance from the river.

Lambourn Valley Way

I reached Weston Mill which looked idyllic, but Weston itself just a random sprawl along the road

Weston mill

To avoid retracing steps I took a long detour over farmland to the south. There were good views back north, but rather misty.

Weston view

Walking on I turned back north-east at Oakhanger House, and met a creature I was not quite expecting to see there, a turkey-cock in all its finery. The markings and colours are quite amazing, especially side on. The wattle is by contrast quite unappealing. I have to say it looks a distinctly odd creature, and definitely not English!

Turkey

I hasten to add that the display was for the benefit of a nearby hen.

Turkey

And then back to Great Shefford. The church was locked but the recently restored round tower looked good in the afternoon sun.

Great Shefford Church

The churchyard was a mass of snowdrops, they did really look drops of snow here.

Great Shefford Church

I followed the River Lam some way upstream and turned north for a long trek over farmland.

River Lambourn

Few spring flowers are out yet, I saw a few more Lesser Celandines, and Dogs Mercury in bud, but I did happen upon a group of yellow flowers, which in summer you might dismiss at a glance as dandelions, but on closer inspection they had pink scaly stems and no leaves, so these were the somewhat rarer Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara).

Coltsfoot

And so back to South Fawley, and here leaving aside a lively bunch of Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula), I passed through a field of distinctly brown and distinctly pregnant sheep. Such dainty legs too.

Brown sheep

To end, a glimpse through the trees at a rather grand and exotic house at South Fawley.

South Fawley