Friday, 24 June 2011

Eastbury, Lambourn and East Garston

Eastbury, Lambourn and East Garston

Another week of mixed weather, thankfully cool enough for a long walk, how long will the lower than average temperatures last? The rationale for the day's walk was to complete more of the Lambourn Valley Way to its ultimate destination: Lambourn. The forecast was sunshine and showers, which can mean a continuous stream of showers or continuous sunshine. I often say that these are my favourite conditions for a walk so I decided I would take the risk. Here is a Google Map for the walk:


View Eastbury - East Garston - Lambourn in a larger map

This section of the Lambourn Valley Way into Lambourn proved as disappointing as elsewhere, limited views and not even close to the diminutive river. There were some attractive summer flowers along the side of the path, including Meadow Crane's-bill (Geranium pratense).

Meadow Crane's-bill,Geranium pratense

and Tall Melilot (Melilotus altissima)

Tall Melilot,Melilotus altissima

The village of Lambourn has some attractive buildings but not that many, it is mainly modern infill. The church looks ancient, but was locked. The early Norman decoration around the north door was appealing.

Lambourn,church

I walked on north-west up as far as Folly Lane and followed it up and out of the village. The hedgerows turned out to be a very rich mix of plants. Among them were large and strange flower spikes of Broomrape.

Knapweed Broomrape,Orobanche

This is one of those strange plants that do not produce their food by photosynthesis, using other plants' root systems parasitically, only to be seen when they flower. They are difficult to identify as many are specific to a particular host plant, although 'Common Broomrape' is not so fussy. This logically could then be Knapweed Broomrape (Orobanche elatior) as there was knapweed around.

Knapweed Broomrape,Orobanche elatior

There were a variety of types of Scabious.

Scabious

and Tuberous Comfrey (Symphytum tuberossum) - with a bee!

Tuberous Comfrey,Symphytum tuberossum

The valley bottoms provide good pasture.

cow

Sunshine and showers is worth the risk for the spectacular cloudscapes

cow

Out in the woods, some way from anywhere, or so I thought, was one isolated thatched cottage with an immaculate garden. It reminded me of Goldilocks for some reason.

Dances Cottage

A cloudier spell gave a distant look back to Lambourn church and the woods behind it.

Lambourn

Back to the flowers, and another bright geranium this time with a bee.

Meadow Crane's-bill,Geranium pratense

The hedgerow was covered in masses of Black bryony (Tamus communis), it seems that there are masses of White or Black Bryony but rarely both, not surprising really as they are not closely related.

Black bryony,Tamus communis

I then chanced upon a Nature Reserve, unmarked on the map. It was a steep chalk slope with a good mixture of flowers. Thyme covered ant hills and one or two orchids (Common Spotted) dotted around.

Common Spotted Orchid,Dactylorhiza fuchsii

Only a few butterflies were on the wing - it was cool and breezy so not ideal. I think this is a ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus).

ringlet butterfly,Aphantopus hyperantus

The paths continued to lead up and down the chalk valleys, often along the edge of woodland. I found this plant that I think is a fine specimen of Common Valerian (Valeriana officionalis).

Common Valerian,Valeriana officionalis

The clouds came and went, sometimes giving another fine landscape view in themselves.

lambourn downs

Then I happened to see two brown blobs in the distance, and approaching slowly they turned out to be two hares eyeing at each other across the path. They hared off as I approached.

hares

The views continued to be spectacular, enhanced by the clouds.

lambourn downs

A serious detour to explore more footpaths that zig-zag over the downs led me to a steeply sloped field that had been left as meadow. It had a good range of chalk meadow plants including kidney vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria).

kidney vetch,Anthyllis vulneraria

Hundreds of Common Spotted orchids and among them a patch of Pyramidal Orchids (Anacamptis pyramdalis)

Pyramidal Orchids,Anacamptis pyramdalis

The path then led down towards East Garston.

lambourn downs farm

Now East Garston is one of the most 'chocolate box' of villages. A mix of thatched cottages scattered along the River Lambourn. Rather obvious and twee photographs I know, but the late afternoon sun with the clouds enhanced the appeal. The first shows a riverside cottage, the white on the river are patches of watercress in bloom.

East Garston,River Lambourn,Thatched cottage

East Garston,Thatched cottage

East Garston,Thatched cottage

East Garston,Thatched cottage

The final shot shows the cottages all with their private bridge over the river (stream) that runs past the front door.

East Garston,Thatched cottage

The Lambourn Valley Way then follows a disused railway back to Eastbury, my starting point. Once again the official path offered very little to commend itself, and no photographs. It goes to show that you have to devise your own route if you want to find an interesting walk; if I had followed Lambourn Valley Way I would have seen very little.