Friday, 31 October 2014


Unusually I managed another long walk today - two in the same week - mainly because was so unusually warm and sunny. It was record breaking warmth too at 23.6°C (74.3°F), it was hotter than many days in August; but normal conditions should resume in the coming week. I planned to redo a stretch of the Ridgeway I walked ten years ago, but as this was about 14 miles the shorter day length did not permit it, so I settled for a more modest one to explore sections of the Icknield Way and Chiltern Ways. Here is a map of the walk:

I started at the church at the small village of Ipsden. Ipsden had a church in the days of St. Birinus (600-649CE) when the Anglo-Saxons were still heathens, the present structure started as a small chapel in the 12th century on the north side, later extended into a church to the south.

ipsden church,church

The northern chapel has old wooden timbers showing its ancient construction.

ipsden church,roof

Leaving the church, I headed off north on the Icknield Way, and there were quite a few flowers along the side of the track, including Chicory.


I then turned onto the Chiltern Way Extension to the east past Woodhouse Farm, the turning is marked with a charming metal sign for the farm. The Great Ridgeway is only 200 yards away to the north from this point.

Farm sign,Woodhouse Farm sign

Along the track I was buzzed by a dragonfly, defending its territory, which for the end of October is unusual, they are usually one of the first victims of colder weather. I think it was a Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum).

Common Darter,Sympetrum striolatum

The farm itself is set in a narrow valley in the chalk downs.

Woodhouse Farm

I then climbed up onto the chalk downs, following a track I last walked five years ago (almost to the day). It took me into Mongewell Woods where I hoped to see lots of fungi. In fact there was not an awful lot to be seen in the woods, there were some but all rather old and the worse for wear. However one spectacular example was this one. It looks as if the whole top of the mushroom had been eaten away leaving just the skeleton; but there were many of them in exactly the same state so I think it more likely this is how it normally decays.


It was on a pile of saw dust and there were some fresh fruiting bodies coming up making me think it is Hare's Foot inkcap (Coprinopsis lagopus) .


I then headed south over fields to Homer Farm, where I was surprised to see a freshly made stylish sculpture of an African!


Continuing south I reached Ipsden Heath, which is an area of mixed woodland on the high ground. It is capped with clay in places which gives rise to muddy patches and it was in these areas where I saw the most fungi on the day - in all colours and shapes. This is probably Rosy Bonnet (Mycena rosea)

fungi,Rosy Bonnet,Mycena rosea

And a rather old Parasol (Macrolepiota procera)

fungi,Parasol,Macrolepiota procer

There was a patch of Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina), these are meant to be reasonably pleasant to eat!

fungi,Amethyst Deceiver,Laccaria amethystina

I then passed Three Corner Common and headed down Yewtree Brow, this repeats a part of a walk I did five years ago. The walk goes down a track along the valley bottom. There was far less fungi here, probably because it is drier. I did spot one, Red Cracking Bolete (Boletus chrysenteron), rather slug damaged and another edible one.

fungi,Red Cracking Bolete,Boletus chrysenteron

One of the most common fungi, Sulphur Tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare) was not much in evidence, but some old, much decayed stumps had some of this brightly coloured mushroom.

fungi,Sulphur Tuft,Hypholoma fasciculare

In a recent post I was enthusiastic about a Stagshorn fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon). Well I found an equally impressive specimen in these woods, like sulphur tuft you find on wood in its final stages of decay.

fungi,Stafgshorn,Xylaria hypoxylon

This does not seem to be a good year for autumn colour, there has been a few bursts of strong wind and it is a little early still for the beech trees to be at their best. So a single leaf will have to do for now.

autumn beech leaf

The warm conditions gave only fairly hazy distant views.


It was a bit breezy for butterflies, and I had seen some earlier in the week at Overton so I was delighted to see four red admirals (Vanessa atalanta) all on a single ivy bush.

red admiral,Vanessa atalanta

My path passed the remarkable building at Brazier Park, an amazing piece of mock-medieval dating in parts to 1688. It has associations with Cook's ship the Endeavour ; Ian Fleming and Marianne Faithfull. It is a working green community with some very unusual courses including Open to the Goddess.

Brazier Park

On the way back to Ipsden church there were yew trees with a phenomenal amount of fruit on them. Although the seed is poisonous the surrounding 'aril' is sweet if a little insipid.

yew berries

Monday, 27 October 2014

Overton, Deane and Harrow Way

The forecast was for a rare and warm sunny day so I made plans on Sunday evening for an epic 14 mile walk. Just before I set out, I had a thought - the clocks had gone back an hour, would there be enough time? A quick calculation indicated I'd probably be still walking at 5pm at which time it is pretty much dark. So I opted instead for a shorter 10 mile one, and even then I completed it just as dusk was setting in.

The walk extends my exploration of the Wayfarer's Way a little bit, but more significantly follows a section of the ancient Harrow Way. This path is second only to the Great Ridgeway in importance as an ancient track and roughly follows the route of the A303 and so goes past Stonehenge on its way to Basingstoke and ultimately Canterbury. It links with the last walk in this area at Hannington. Here is a map of the walk:

I started at Overton church, which is a Victorian rebuild and only retains some early Norman pillars in its structure. The main door is curious as it folds back in the middle and claims to be of date 1350-1400 - which looks possible.

overton church,door

I followed the lane out to the west which leads to Southington Mill on the stream which is the head water of the River Test, much loved by anglers. On the bridge I could see a large fish (trout?) shyly lurking in the shadows and would not come out to have its photograph taken.

Southington Mill

Around the mill were some attractive old cottages.


As I walked along the side of the stream/river I saw a jogger accompanied with a labrador heading my way. The labrador launched itself in the stream and I prepared myself to be greeted by a wet dog. However as it spun-dry itself and trotted off it disturbed a butterfly, and I was able to get quite close to the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta).

Red Admiral,Vanessa atalanta

I left the river and headed north towards the Harrow Way. Soon I saw a bird of prey diving on a wood pigeon, I think it was one of a pair of kestrels.


A few yards further on and I saw something fluttering a little in the warm breeze and it turned out to be another Red Admiral, this time a little harder to spot. It shows that the bright top of the wings is not echoed underneath.

Red Admiral,Vanessa atalanta

The weather was so warm (I stripped down to a shirt) for the end of October that it was hard to think I should really be looking for fungi rather than butterflies. So here is what I think is a Parasol mushroom, I saw it in at 'bud' stage on Saturday.

parasol mushroom

Only a little further on and there was a strange mushroom, it had a very white, shiny, flat top and outward turning brown gills.


I then reached the Harrow Way, and this stretch is impressive. It is as wide as the Great Ridgeway - about a chain in width (that is 22 yards) and some large, mature trees have grown up alongside it. This one goes on my list of 'notable' trees.

old tree

The trees offered some shelter from the quite strong southerly breeze, and insects came and settled in the sun. This is I believe a Hornet (Vespa crabro), it had rather red coloured wings. The last one I saw at Savernake Forest, so may be they like ancient woodland.

hornet,Vespa crabro

The belt has quite a lot of fallen dead wood, and fungi were busy processing it. Not sure what type of bracket fungus this one is. The 'white' looks like it has been freshly plastered on and felt soft to the touch.

bracket fungus

In another small clearing sheltered from the wind, another type of butterfly was enjoying the sun. It's a brimstone (Gonepteryx rhammi) looking extra-ordinarily leaf-like.

brimstone,Gonepteryx rhammi

The Harrow Way then diverts briefly onto a narrow lane and then I turned off it to join up with the Wayfarer's Way. On the lane were hazel bushes that had been so ravaged by leaf miners that there was more air than leaf remaining.

mined hazel

I haven't included any flowers as yet although there were a fair number still out, and where there were flowers there were bees. This is a common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum) feeding on knapweed.

knapweed,carder bee

The path took me to an unusual sight. Is this a volcanic eruption in rural Hampshire? No, it was a farmer burning some old straw.


As the path climbed up (to 500feet) it entered woodland. These woods are fairly young with only a few old trees.


Having joined the Wayfarer's Way I saw good views out to the East.


The 'official' route cuts across a large field, cutting out the necessity of going around the edge; it required careful detective work to trace the path as only a few walkers had dared to cross it since the crop had been sown. The path follows part of the Harrow Way again and here were some attractive cottages.


Coming over the fields down to the village of Deane there were quite a few arable weeds still in flower but was delighted to find a plant with bright blue flowers. It is borage (Borago officinalis) and there were two plants directly on the footpath, it is considered a garden escape rather than a wild-flower.

borage,Borago officinalis

At the bottom of the hill there were more borage plants and this time with a bumblebee enjoying one of its last chances to feed before winter sets in.

borage,Borago officinalis

I then reached the hamlet of Deane. Locals will know this village from the name of 'Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council'. Knowing how large is Basingstoke it is surprising it is paired with Deane which has no more than a dozen or so houses. Basingstoke developed rapidly with the coming of the railway as a commuter town to London. Wikipedia suggests that when naming the Council they chose the largest town and smallest village to indicate the borough's diversity.

Anyway, having passed the manorial church at Deane I walked the short distance over the fields to the next tiny village: Ashe. Ashe has a 'typical' north Hampshire style church.


The main claim to fame for Ashe is that it marks the source of the River Test. The river soon heads south through Stockbridge and Romsey before forming the estuary of Southampton Water. It is noted as being a good river for fishing.

source of the River Test

I then walked back to Overton along the rapidly growing river. The light was beginning to fade as dark clouds had come over. This stretch of the walk was notable for the many birds I saw: heron, little egret, mallard, shoveler, moorhen, coot and a grey wagtail. Away from the water there was a noisy party of rooks and a charm of goldfinches high in a tree.

charm of goldfinches

As it is the time for autumn fungus I thought I would end on one. I saw a fair number of different species but nothing very spectacular.