Saturday, 15 October 2011

Swyncombe, Watlington and Stonor

The last two weeks have been either too hot (record breaking October temperatures) or too cloudy for a walk. For a change from villages and rivers I decided to go for a long planned walk over farmland to fill in another piece of the local patchwork of walks. Here is a Google map of the 15 mile route I took:


View Watlington - Stonor in a larger map

I started at Cookley Green, near Swyncombe, a hamlet rather than a village and headed along part of Shakespeare's Way north to Watlington. This is clearly an ancient track and has a gentle slope down through woodland. I rather doubt Shakespeare used it to get from Stratford to London but still... Near Watlington it joins the Great Ridgeway. This section of the path has been re-routed from the top of the downs to the lowlands, I reckon the original Ridgeway followed the modern 'B' roads to Christmas Common. From here I turned back towards the base of Watlington Hill. The path on the south side of the hill has some good views back to the north-west.

Watlington Hill

By the side of the path, I came across one of the few plants pretending it is still summer, and a little rarer to find. It is Yellow-wort (Blackstonia perfoliata), a member of the gentian family.

Yellow-wort,Blackstonia perfoliata

Beech nuts had been shed in great quantities.

beech nuts

Up at the top of the hill, the views were as magnificent as ever. Another walk (just other a year ago) also included Watlington.

Watlington Hill

I then followed the road back towards Christmas Common with some views back towards Didcot power station in the far, misty distance.

Watlington Hill

From Christmas Common I picked up another long distance path (the Oxfordshire Way) before continuing down Hollandridge Lane all the way down to Stonor. Along the lane the underlying chalk was exposed, and in this picture the tree roots can be seen over the chalk trying to find some soil.

tree roots

Along the busy road I liked the old barn at Whitepond farm.

barn,Whitepond farm

Stonor Park is known as the seat of an ancient catholic family (Lord Camoys), the Park gatehouses look rather prim and tidy.

Stonor Park

I then took a path west from Stonor, and happened upon the most endangered species in Britain at this time of year - a puzzled looking male pheasant.

Pheasant

In the fields above Stonor there was a cow giving a fellow bovine a thorough licking, and the recipient seemed to be enjoying the attention. If you are worried by the number of legs involved, there was a heifer behind.

cow

The view back to Stonor Park was a highlight of the walk, you can still see the cow receiving her grooming.

Stonor Park

Surprisingly for the date, I did not see a single mushroom/toadstool. It has been too dry and too warm, I hope some rain will bring them on. In consolation, all I could find in this stretch was some bindweed.

bindweed,convolvulus

And so down into the Warburg nature reserve, with no fungi and few flowers this proved an unprofitable visit. Still the beech woodlands were attractive, still in summer plumage. Compare this to what I found back at the end of May.

Warburg,beech,woodland

I then took a valley bottom track up to Park Corner, not much to see here either. However, towards Ewelme Park I chanced upon three fallow deer in the distance, and managed to quickly snap them before they made off.

fallow deer

At Ewelme Park the farm buildings stood out well in the late afternoon (now 4PM) sunshine. I joined a walk I did back in April last year.

Ewelme Park`

Reaching the Great Ridgeway again I followed it north to Swyncombe. To continue the mammalian theme, the back lighting made this group of sheep look suitably woolly.

sheep

And so back to Swyncombe to complete the fifteen mile trek, a late afternoon view showing autumn colours starting to glow.

Swyncombe