Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Ashampstead in Winter

With the newspapers full of the prospect of a 'weather bomb' hitting the UK today it did not seem likely that it would be suitable for a walk. In actual fact a 'weather bomb' is just a very rapidly developing area of low pressure, but as it was over Iceland the only severely affected areas were in the far north. Down here I braved the teeth of the storm, as it turned out to be a day of mainly sunshine with a gentle breeze. Here is a map of the walk:

My first port of call was the small church at Ashampstead.

ashampstead church,church

The Church of St Clement, Ashampstead is Grade I listed, principally because of the 13th century murals on its walls. Unfortunately recent weather damage has required repair work to the monuments and wall. Quite appropriate for the time of year, this scene is of the Nativity with an ox and ass looking onto crib. The baby Jesus is just a scaled down adult figure.

ashampstead church,church mural

I then headed out through patches of woodland to the west and reached the B4009 road, here I was delighted to spot a buzzard sunning itself on some bales of straw.

buzzard,bird

Heading back towards the village through more woodland there were one or two patches of fungi still intact. The lack of sharp frosts must have helped them survive.

fungi

In my last posting (31st October) autumn was only just beginning, six weeks later the leaves have fallen; only a few beech leaves were hanging on to lower branches.

beech leaves,autumn

Retaining lush green leaves was a patch of hemlock (Conium maculatum); the purple blotches on the stems are the main identification from other similar looking plants such as carrot.

hemlock

Oak trees are often the last to lose their foliage, and this one had one or two leaves clinging on.

oak leaves

As I took a bite to eat in the middle of woods south of Ashampstead, a robin came and had a good look at me. This one has quite a marked 'orange' breast. Apparently they are called 'red-breasted' because at that time the colour 'orange' was not in the vocabulary. It was only available after the 'orange' fruits started to be imported in the 16th century.

robin,bird

No views so far, and I ought to include a typical picture of the woodlands I walked through.

woods

I saw a lot of birds, there were two gangs of tits that I came across and a band of finches too. While I tried to catch a picture of a blue tit, this grey squirrel came into view.

grey squirrel

In winter, with less wildlife around, I find myself relying on farm animals to add a bit of interest. I think these chickens were quite photogenic in the winter sun.

hen,cockrel

I can't get through a posting without including at least one flower. There was not much choice in mid-December, and yet it was surprising to see a blackberry still in bud and flower.

blackberry,bramble