Saturday, 20 August 2011

Chilton Foliat; Ramsbury and Aldbourne

Following more unseasonably cool weather and some very welcome rain I decided to switch from the eastern extreme to the western extreme of Berkshire. Here is the map of the whole 15.5 mile walk:

View Chilton Foliat; Ramsbury and Aldbourne in a larger map

Chilton Foliat is just in Wiltshire and is a village name that has an idyllic sound. It's a small and ancient village as evidenced by the lack of parking forcing the narrow high street to be used as virtually a single track road.

Chilton Foliat

The village has a fine, twelfth century church.

Chilton Foliat,church

In the chancel is a rather battered old tomb, believed to be a twelfth century knight named 'Foliat' who may have founded the church and given the village its name.

Foliate tomb,Chilton Foliat church

I then crossed the River Kennet and walked along the southern bank past Littlecote House. Now a posh hotel but has its roots go back into Roman times (with a famous ghost).


In the grounds of Littlecote was a chance discovery that makes these walks worthwhile. Up on the hillside was a collection of poultry, including some rare breeds. It was good to see poultry in genuine free range conditions and they do make good photographic subjects, so I hope you enjoy this gallery of our feathered friends. You can see why people like to keep them as pets.


There were Buff Orpingtons

buff orpington

Pekin hens, with their feathered ankles and toes

Pekin hen

Light Sussex Bantams

Light Sussex Bantam hen

Exotically named Blue Laced Wandycotte

Blue Laced Wandycotte

And a finally clutch of hens (Norfolks?)


Then it was back to the valley with only occasional glimpses of the River Kennet.

river kennet

The walk was pleasant with many fields looking overdue for harvesting.

kennet valley

Another sign of late summer was the swallows congregating on wires ready for their migration; a much less common a sight than thirty years ago.


Not many butterflies on this stretch of path, mainly Common White and Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria).

Speckled Wood,butterfly,Pararge aegeria

A bit short on wildflowers which is no doubt a reason for lack of butterflies. Snowberries were still in flower.


My path then crossed the Kennet again with a fine group of mallards preening themselves

mallard,female mallard

And so into Ramsbury. A larger version of Chilton Foliat with even more car congestion.


And side lanes with attractive thatched cottages.


Ramsbury church is large, with some early Norman features. Its size reflects the fact that was once a See in Saxon times (it had a bishop). In this way it is like Sonning thirty miles downstream. It has a wide, impressive chancel.

Ramsbury church,chancel

And an unusual font, believed to have been found in the bishop's palace and of medieval date.

Ramsbury church,font

It has a good array of memorials, including a prominent one just right of the altar, Sir William Jones (attorney to Charles II), who to seems lack the appropriate humility.

Ramsbury church,monument

I then strode off over the downs towards Aldbourne. Not that much wildlife to speak of, however in the middle of nowhere was a solitary Buddleia bush that had attracted some butterflies, including this Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae).

butterfly,Small Tortoiseshell,Aglais urticae

Resting nearby was a Peacock (Inachis io).

peacock butterfly,Inachis io

The path then sloped down towards the village of Aldbourne nestled amongst the surrounding chalk downs.

Aldbourne view

Aldbourne village was busier and a little less picturesque than Ramsbury.

Aldbourne village

Once again, it has an historic church with much of interest.

Aldbourne church

Monuments include an Elizabethan one to two brothers.

Aldbourne church,monument

and a fine old brass of a couple dating to 1492.

Aldbourne church,monument,brass

The village has fewer thatched houses than either Ramsbury or Chilton Foliat.


One house had a chimney with a cowl, and so looking like an oast house.


I then cut back towards my starting point using little used paths. I saw some patches of Phacelia in flower.


The paths took me via Membury, which many will know as a motorway service station on the M4, and for a nearby transmitter.

Membury transmitter

Membury is in fact a very old place as it has a large Iron Age hill fort with an impressive boundary ditch

Membury hill fort

The farmland had some healthy, pregnant looking sheep. Note how the lambs piggy-back on their mothers!


At Crooked Soley (quite an unusual sounding name!) was a major racing stud. This thoroughbred foal was a little startled by my appearance.


And that was it. I'll end with a plant, just ordinary garden mint, which I found out in the wilds, locating it first by smell rather than sight