Friday, 28 August 2015

Shalbourne, Ham and Inkpen

A rather wet and cloudy spell has caused me to put off a long walk for a while, bad news for the holidaymakers shivering on British beaches. As a contrast to the last few walks this one concentrates on 'pretty' views rather than wildlife, it was a bit breezy and cool to expect to see many birds or butterflies. The new area of exploration fills in a gap to the south of Hungerford on the Wiltshire-Berkshire border. Here is a map of the 14 mile walk:

I parked at Shalbourne, a pretty quiet village with an old church. The parish's most famous resident was Jethro Tull, more of him later...

Shalbourne church

To assuage my need to make all my walks link up together I headed north. I passed what is labelled 'Watercress beds' on the map but they seemed long out of use - they made use of the pure, spring water that is the reason for the village being here. I caught my first 'pretty' view of broken cloud over the harvested fields.


Over the busy A338 Hungerford-Salisbury road I found that the annual crop of pheasants was in active management. The estates around here take a lot of trouble over pheasant rearing, including planting sweetcorn and sunflowers to provide food and cover for the birds. In this picture you can some automated feeders that have a timer to regularly release seed for them.

pheasant,pheasant feeders

Having linked up with my walk around Great Bedwyn two years ago . I headed back to the village of Shalbourne. It has many attractive buildings, quite a few thatched. I liked this one with a flourishing Hydrangea bush.


However, Shalbourne lacks a clear village centre, it is really a jumble of houses along the main road. The closest to a 'heart' is at a road junction with the village shop and pub.

Shalbourne,shop,post office

I continued along the road as far as the hamlet of 'Rivar‘ which is just a farm and a house or two. The tumbledown barn and wooded slope made an attractive view.


A steep climb to the top of Rivar Down led to a meadow with quite a few common blue butterflies. Here the view to the north opens up.


Here I linked up with a walk of nearly six years ago that explored the Inkpen ridge. The track forms the final section of the Mid-Wilts Way that runs from Mere to Ham. Along the track a Silver Y moth (Autographa gamma) was camouflaging itself fairly well. This is a migrant moth that makes its way to our shores for summer.

Silver Y moth,Autographa gamma

As it was already late August there were not many spectacular flowers of note on this walk. I did find a large patch of Common Toadflaxes (Linaria vulgaris) that made an attractive sight.

Common Toadflax

The cool breeze prevented many butterflies from actively flying, so compared to previous walks the number of species seen was much reduced - the most common species was Speckled Wood. Some newly emerged Small tortoiseshells (Aglais urticae) were nice and bright display sheltering on a track.

Small tortoiseshells,Aglais urticae

I then came off the top of the ridge and followed the Mid-Wilts Way down a steep slope through a slope full of wild-flowers. Excellent views were to be had.

Mid-Wilts way,view

Looking back along the ridge in dappled sunlight made an attractive view of the Inkpen Downs.

Inkpen ridge,view

The poorly maintained path took me to Ham. One of the few three letter place-names in England, I think I have only been to Rye and Wem but there are a few others. With 'ham' added to all sorts of places 'Wokingham'; 'Birmingham' to mean 'homestead'; 'farm' or settlement it is curious to see 'Ham' on its own like this. Ham dates back to Anglo-Saxon times so it is not a modern contraction of 'hamlet'. I see no connection to Tolkien's Farmer Glies of Ham and no 'Green Eggs' either! It is a compact village with a pub, church and many attractive thatched houses.

Ham,thatched house

I then walked East along Spray Road towards Inkpen and explored the area to the north-east of Inkpen, I have been to Inkpen on a few occasions before including: 2009 and 2012 in previous walks . The name Inkpen is another interesting place-name, it could be from 'Inga's Pen' and may be one of the few Celtic names in the area. I joined a 'Berkshire Circular Walk' which is a recreational walk (not much used) that takes you through the grounds of Totterdown House. At the edge of the woods I found a patch of fungi, in rather poor shape, I think probably some kind of Russula fungus.


It was clouding over and the area did not provide the grand views seen earlier in the walk. My last offering is a Chinese style pagoda out in the middle of nowhere - just in the corner of a field. The field is actually part of the ‘Mount Prosperous’ farm which was where Jethro Tull, the author of “Horse-hoeing Husbandry”, lived in 1709 until he died on 21 February 1741. Jethro Tull revolutionised agriculture by using horses rather than labourers to till and seed the fields. He was born and buried much closer to home - at Lower Basildon just by the Thames.