Thursday, 17 November 2011

Chieveley, Speen and Newbury

In the middle of November there should be sharp frosts, but a continuing southerly airflow has kept everything relatively warm with reports of confusion amongst the wildlife, I certainly saw blackbirds doing their Spring courtship displays. This walk completes the last part of the Lambourn Valley Way from Bagnor to Newbury as well as adding Chieveley to my list of visited villages. Here is a map of the walk.


View Chieveley - Speen - Newbury in a larger map

I parked close to Chieveley church (locked unfortunately). It looks a Victorian re-build from the outside. Inside there is apparently a rare beam to support a Lenten veil. Chieveley is just to the north of the M4 and the plan was to make a circular route via Curridge to the south-east, however, the recently extended M4/A34 junction has now done for the public footpath that should go underneath it, so I had to change my plans substantially, and re-trace my steps. It wasn't an entirely wasted detour as I passed a group of healthy looking hens:

hen

Some much needed rain ten days ago has allowed some fungi to show their fruiting bodies at long last. This is probably the Parasol mushroom (Lepiota procera).

fungi,Lepiota procera

In the field leading to a footbridge over the motorway the fungi were thrusting their way out of the soil. As it was not fully developed I am not sure which one it is I would guess Calvata excipuliformis in the puff ball family.

fungi

Some wildflowers were ignoring the season, but not a great number of them. This is a thistle, probably plain old Meadow Thistle (Cirsium dissectum)

thistle,Cirsium dissectum

I reached Snelsmore Common, where I have walked twice before this year. (It looked quite different from my June walk). It is such a large area that I did not have to re-walk the same paths. Some oak trees were in the process of losing their leaves, while others were still in denial.

oak

The woods as a whole had a rich autumnal look.

snelsmore,autumn

With the loss of leaves, some rural views have now improved.

snelsmore,autumn

I followed the main track south out of Snelsmore Common to Bagnor. Here I joined the infamous Lambourn Valley Way and followed the signs that took me nowhere near the River Lambourn but up a hill to the village of Speen. In my previous walk by coincidence, I mentioned Speen as a Roman settlement along the Kennet Valley. In fact it goes back further than that, and an ancient pre-roman well is at Speen called Ladywell. As is usually the case, it is alleged to have curative properties. It isconsidered older than the well I saw at Frilsham

speen,ladywell

The parish church of St. Mary's at Speen is a large one denoting its significance in days gone by.

speen,church

Sadly, half the interior serves as a village hall, a kitchen is in the process of being installed in the nave, and outside you can see a couple of toilets. Do not think Pevsner would be at all pleased. There was a Saxon church on the site but the Victorians tidied all the old stuff away and really only the shell remains. It has a number of interesting monuments; one to Charles Alexander, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach and in the chancel to Lady Elizabeth Castillion dated 1603 wearing a farthingale and a monumentally large headdress. Her father-in-law Baptist Castillion (or castiglione) provided service to Queen Elizabeth I and was richly rewarded for it.

speen,church

I continued to find fungi here and there, here is some form of bracket fungus.

fungi

The Lambourn Valley Way ends up (or starts) on the River Kennet a couple of miles upstream from where the Lambourn joins the river. Near here is the site of the Second Battle of Newbury in 1644 (geographically more correctly known as the Battle of Speen). I then followed the Kennet and Avon canal. This is a good walk that takes you into the heart of Newbury. The church tower of St. Nicholas at the centre of the town can be seen behind the house by the canal.

kennet and avon canal,newbury

I followed the canal bank through the centre and made my way through the urban sprawl back towards Chieveley. The short day length was beginning to prove a concern, as it becomes virtually dark at 4:30. My path then completed the final segment of the 'official' Lambourn Valley Way at Donnington Castle, which looked impressive in the afternoon sunlight.

donnington castle

With lengthening shadows and signs of clouds gathering on the horizon I picked up my pace to get to Snelsmore Common before being engulfed by gloom.

snelsmore common,autumn