Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Hurley - Bisham - Pinkeys Green - Burchett's Green

This walk was one aimed to plug a bit of a gap in my coverage of local walks. The area is to the south of Marlow - between Hurley and Maidenhead. The forecast had only one sunny day in prospect for this week so off I went. It's been a fairly cool fortnight which seems to have held back the transition to summer, bluebells still in evidence but all trees now in leaf. Here is map of the 12 mile walk:

I started at the village of Hurley where the fine church (St. Mary the Virgin) stands close to the river. A very ancient establishment apparently beginning after a visit by St. Birinus in about 700CE.

Hurley church

I walked east along the Thames Path (previously explored on this page). Quite a lot of activity at Hurley Lock with boats passing through and visitors. Only a hundred yards further on and a pair of mallard ducks were still snoozing, this is the duck, less colourful than the drake but the pattern of the feathers is striking.

mallard duck

Before leaving the Thames I saw a family of Egyptian Geese on the river and this pair of Greylag geese on the Thames Path.

greylag geese

And this is a view of the River Thames itself - towards Temple Lock from the pedestrian bridge which has the distinction of being the longest hardwood bridge in the UK.

greylag geese

I kept to the south (Berkshire) side of the Thames and navigated along paths and lanes through Temple towards Bisham. By the side of the lane I saw three Banded Demoiselles (damselflies) enjoying the sunshine. The first is an iridescent blue male.

Banded Demoiselle,Calopteryx splendens

The second, also a Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) is green indicating an immature male - so green in this case does mean inexperience. The female does not have the dark band on the wings and is more bronze coloured.

Banded Demoiselle,Calopteryx splendens

I passed through 'Temple' which is just a hamlet, I believe it is named because of the Knights Templar connection who founded and ran their community house at Bisham Abbey in 1260. Bisham Abbey is now a National Sports Centre after an illustrious and interesting history. For example the young Princess Elizabeth I spent time here when her sister Queen Mary I was on the throne. The old central core buildings look out of place next to the modern sports facilities

Bisham Abbey,National Sports Centre

Not far along the river is Bisham Church which makes a delightful sight from the Thames Path on the other side of the river. Unfortunately it was locked and the churchyard is tiny, being right beside the river Thames.

Bisham Church

I then crossed some fields to try to get to Bisham Woods which requires crossing the busy A404 dual carriageway. I did not realise that there was no bridge and so you would need to run across four lanes of traffic, so instead I walked down to the next junction. It just happened that there had been a serious accident on the road and an air ambulance had been called to ferry the injured to hospital. It came down in a field near where I was walking, the sheep did not look all that concerned.

Air ambulance

Bisham Woods had a good range of woodland plants on display: woodruff, dog's mercury, bugle, yellow pimpernel, yellow archangel, wood speedwell, bluebells etc. but as I have included pictures of these already this year I will miss them out. I had hoped to see a Birds nest orchid, but no luck. Out the other side of the woods there were good views to the east. You can see that this area Cookham Dean has a great many large gardens with a great range of shrubs and trees - it is home to such luminaries as Wendy Craig, Ulrika Jonsson and Keke Rosberg.

view

I headed over to Cookhamdean Common which is a large grass meadow area. In a muddy part of the track leading to the common I saw a number of Brooklime plants (Veronica beccabunga - want a lovely name!). They have thick ‘red’ hairless stems. This is a type of speedwell as you can tell from its flowers, you find speedwells all over the place - the Veronicas are a very successful family of plants .

Brooklime,Veronica beccabunga

From the common I headed south to Pinkneys Green another large area of 'common' meadow land on the outskirts of Maidenhead. On the way I glimpsed Windsor Castle standing out on high ground in the distance. I then went under the A404 to Maidenhead Thicket and then west towards Burchett's Green. On a recently felled oak stump I spotted a tiny bright orange-red creature on the move. Hard to capture as it was so small (2mms) I think it is a red velvet mite (an arachnid not an insect).

red velvet mite,Trombidiidae

This stretch of path had a lots of Hemlock growing tall and lush alongside, the path led to Burchett's Green which I had envisaged as an idyllic rural village but alas no. Just a collection of large houses along a road. However some of the houses have been built in a distinctive and grand style.

Burchett's Green, building

Continuing west towards Ashley Hill (the 8792nd highest peak in the British Isles) there was a field now set aside as a wildflower meadow. It had some common vetch and also what I think is hairy tare (Vicia hirsuta) with tiny pinkish flowers.

hairy tare,Vicia hirsuta

I then headed north through fields and was pleased to see one with meadow saxifrage in flower. The fields form part of a horse jumping course and in places the organisers have added some artistic elements such as this tree sculpted into a leafy looking (native American?) form.

tree sculpture

The straight path back to Hurley had great views over the land to the north but unfortunately it had clouded over a little and the pictures were not great. In compensation here is a young calf as a contrast to all the lambs I have featured recently.

calf

And so back to the village of Hurley, a walk of 12 miles. This is the Old Bell pub on the road down towards the river.

Old Bell Hurley