With mainly wet and cool weather at the end of May opportunities for a dry day out have been limited. This time I went off searching for musk orchids at a chalk pit not far from Newbury. To turn it into a decent length of walk I combined it with a section of the Wayfarer's Way that I had done nearly five years ago now: walk report. Here is a map of the nine mile walk.
View East End and Inkpen Ridge in a larger map
I started at the hamlet of East End, I am not sure what it is the east end of, and I don't believe it is anything to do with the soap opera! My first shot is looking towards the chalk ridge with plenty of poppies already in flower at the field margin.
At East Woodhay I was pleased to find the church open. The interior had been given a full make-over in 1823 and there was only one large tomb to look at which was in typical early Georgian style (1724). The plaque talks of a marriage of Edward Goddard into the D'Oyly family. There is a D'Oyly tomb at Hambledon, Oxfordshire.
Out into the lane that meanders towards the chalk ridge I saw Black Bryony, the flowers are tiny and green; soon enough these will develop into large red berries.
The lane took me to the main object of my walk a disused chalk pit close to the ridge. The steep slopes of thin calcareous soil are ideal for a range of rarer plants including orchids. One orchid, not universally admired is Twayblades (Neottia ovata), probably because the small green flowers are not flamboyant. I quite like them though.
I did not see a large number of butterflies, it is the time when caterpillars are munching through plants preparing to emerge as butterflies in a month or two's time. I was pleased to catch this rarer, and often elusive butterfly, it is a Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages).
There were many chalk-land flowers in bloom. Milkwort remains one of my favourites, particularly the rich blue form.
As I wandered around seeking musk and frog orchids - both short (a couple of inches) and with green flowers, I found another skipper butterfly a Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) with its black 'tongue' dipping into a bird's foot trefoil flower.
There were plenty of Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii). I rarely see anything pollinating orchids, this one seems to have some sort of fly on it.
Regrettably, I only saw one or two Fragrant Orchids and no Musk or Frog Orchids, I may have missed them but I think it is too early for them, mid July is probably a better bet. As I climbed up the chalk ridge the panoramic view was spectacular.
Walking along the Wayfarer's Way south eastwards has many fine views. Closer to hand I struggled to get a picture of a butterfly, it hid itself in a nettle keeping an eye on me.
I moved to see its wings more clearly and as I did so it also moved so I only got the rear part before it flew off. I think it is a Small Heath butterfly (Coenonympha pamphilus ).
I liked the tiny perfection of this flower which I think is a Lesser Stitchwort (Stellaria graminea).
I walked down the steep slope to investigate another chalk pit marked on the map, as I approached I started to see some more unusual plants including what I think is an isolated specimen of Meadow Saxifrage (Saxifraga granulata).
There were a good few orchids too, all Common Spotted ones though.
The chalk pit was a disappointment, too much tree cover had prevented the range of chalk-land flowers from flourishing even though there was still a steep face of chalk and a poor soil. I went back up to re-join the Wayfarer's Way and a mile or so on where it diverges from the road there was a good patch of Red Campions, and on the flowers was a selection of bees and several kinds of butterfly. I only managed to get one good picture of a Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni), not looking at all sulphurous.
I turned back north into a quiet lane, from it you can see Highclere Castle in the distance, now world famous as the setting for Downton Abbey. There are not many places from which you can get a good view.
One last flower picture which has a real dazzling summer colour (Hawkweed).
And so back on meandering lanes to my starting point at East End.