Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Stratfield Mortimer and Beech Hill

Winter hung on until after Easter this year, I waited for the only sunny day in the last few weeks. The walk was planned to take in a rare meadow of wild fritillaries and fill in an unexplored area to the south of Reading. It links with a walk I made on the 14th March 2010 and Spring in comparison is a couple of weeks late. Here is a map of the 9.5 mile walk:

View Stratfield Mortimer - Beech Hill in a larger map

I started at Stratfield Mortimer which is a hamlet to the East of Mortimer near Mortimer station. I headed off north east towards Reading and then east over the Basingstoke-Reading railway. I saw a couple of lapwings in a field.

railway view

The path went up hill to Great Park Farm and then down towards Beech Hill. Not a great deal to see yet at this time of year. Lichen is always a good fall-back, it is easier to see before the foliage comes out and covers them.


This was the view back to the top of the hill, a fairly typical view for the walk.


At Beech Hill I just glimpsed a Jay sunning itself on a fence before it flew off. Beech Hill is really just a few houses strung out along the road. It has an attractive village pond.

Beech Hill,village pond

On the north side were a few clumps of Colts foot (Tussilago farfara) coming into flower.

colts foot

There was also a couple of Ground Ivy plants.

ground ivy

Near Beech Hill House was an attractive building.

Beech Hill

I then headed south toward Stratfield Saye and made a detour to look for the Fritillaries (that's the plant not the butterfly). Unfortunately they were not yet out, not even in bud. The River Loddon has a certain charm.

River Loddon

Doubling back on myself I continued due West on the Roman Road leading to Silchester from London. Parts of this road can be made out through Hampshire and Surrey. The route was pushed off dead straight by the Duke of Wellington when the estate at Stratfield Saye was laid out. This section is named on the map as the ‘The Devil's Highway’, reflecting the local's view that nothing that straight could have been made by men. While walking back along the road I spotted a small mammal scurrying away from a ditch, I wondered if it could possibly be an otter, more likely a weasel though.

devils highway

I followed the Roman Road a few miles west, almost to the abandoned town of Silchester. In places the ice from the night's sharp frost was still evident. I did glimpse one butterfly in flight, not long enough to hazard an identification, but not a single bee the whole day,


I turned back north off the highway to complete the circuit back to Stratfield Mortimer. In the distance I was lucky enough to spot three (roe?) deer munching away in a field.


The path leads along a stream with marshy ground alongside. Catkins were in full display on some of the shrubs.


At last I reached the church at Stratfield Mortimer, a large and imposing edifice built in 1869 on the site of an earlier church, it even has flying buttresses.

Stratfield Mortimer church

In the churchyard was some Spring blossom (cherry?), the only blossom I had seen all day, it seems a good note to end on.

cherry blossom