Saturday, 14 April 2012

Reading and Theale

Having done a fair stretch of the Kennet and Avon canal I thought it was about time I should walk the boring local stretch. The first part of the canal joins with the Thames just East of Reading and then heads off SW south of the town via the village of Theale to Newbury. Another walk I have managed to do without using the car. Fortunately there has been some rain, but not really enough; the spring flowers were looking good if a little water stressed. Here is a map of the walk:

View Reading - Theale in a larger map

I arrived at Reading railway station which is in the process of a transformation. It is a bottleneck in the national train network and it is great that work is under way at long last. I headed to Caversham Bridge and then East along the Thames Path to Reading Bridge the only bridges over the Thames for a long way and a daily bottleneck for car drivers.

Reading Bridge

The Kennet and Avon starts off at the gasworks and then makes its way past Blakes Lock to the centre of Reading. People who don't know the town might have thought it nestled itself around the river Thames, after all it is in the Thames Valley, but Reading is centred on the River Kennet that runs just south of the town centre.

River Kennet

Recently the premier shopping centre in Reading, the Oracle, was built on either side of the Kennet, and it must be admitted that the river does add to the feeling of openness. In summer a 'beach' is built along the side, today it was a funfair.

Reading Oracle Shopping Centre

Enough of buildings and towns, and out through the 'industrial' areas south of the town. Here swans were setting up nest; already there are ducklings on the Thames so they have some catching up to do.

Swan's nest

One sure sign of April is the Cuckoo flower (Cardamine pratensis) with its very pale pink petals. There were Cuckoo flowers in isolated clumps all along the river, always close to the water. It gets its name because the cuckoo bird arrives at about the same time as the flower in Spring.

Cuckoo flower,Cardamine pratensis

I noticed a lot of goose grass (cleavers) drooping and looking stressed, I soon found that it was covered in greenfly. In turn the greenfly had attracted a ladybird, this time red on black rather than black on red. Unfortunately it is one of the invading Harlequin ladybirds so I should have squished it. The markings are very variable so it required a bit of study when I got home to be sure. In my garden I saw both Harlequin and Seven spot ladybirds last year and looking at the numbers this Spring the native seven spot variety are winning out at present.

Harlequin ladybird

Catkins are now past their best, leaves are now emerging as with this Alder (Alnus serrulata)

Alder,Alnus serrulata

A few weeks ago near Abingdon I saw Coltsfoot in flower, now it is in seed, and the seed-heads are fascinating to look at.

Coltsfoot seeds

I passed a healthy looking stand of hemlock, and Spring is the time when their toxin is most potent. There were many more Spring plants including this lovely coloured wood forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica) growing on the fringes of a wood.

Wood Forget-me-not,Myosotis sylvatica

Beyond Southcote the river/canal quietens down and becomes 'rural', however coming up to Burghfield Bridge there are quite a number of 'house boats'.

canal boats

Just about coming into flower was garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) or 'jack-by-the-hedge' this one had a pronounced purple shade to the leaves.

garlic mustard,Alliaria petiolata

Coming towards the village of Theale and passing under the M4 motorway there are a number of large lakes made from the extensive gravel pits.

Theale Lake

Theale retains its village feel despite its proximity to the motorway and Reading.


The Anglican church at Theale is Holy Trinity Church a strange 1832 creation in the '13th century' style, more like a castle than a church.

Theale Church,Holy Trinity Church

Heading north away from the Kennet and over the motorway I was pleased to see a good range of Spring flowers. These included primroses (Primula vulgaris).

Primrose,Primula vulgaris

Cowslips (Primula veris)

cowlips,Primula veris

Bluebells, not yet at their peak. These one looks native to me, none of your Spanish hybrids that is out-competing the native ones.


Yellow archangels (Lamiastrum galeobdolon), one of my favourites.

Yellow Archangel,Lamiastrum galeobdolon

And finally not half a mile from home a very good display of wood anenomes (Anemone nemorosa)

Wood anenome

No good images of butterflies this time, I saw Orange tips, Brimstone and Peacocks. I also spotted another bee fly and there were a good selection of birds: warblers, blackcaps, and all the usual ones.