Thursday, 10 September 2015

Dummer, Deane, Ashe and North Waltham

A rare sunny day and an opportunity to explore a further section of the Wayfarer's Way to the west of Basingstoke. I have followed this long distance path from Walbury Hill near Inkpen, along the ridge past Ashmansworth and on to Hannington. The last section that I walked last year took me to Deane. For the first time the walk took me south of the M3 and A30. Here is a map of the 13 mile walk:

I started off a the village of Dummer, which must make the residents the butt of jokes, and probably even more so at the golf club.

Dummer golf club

Heading north I followed the Wayfarer's Way along a detour to cross over the M3 and then the A30. The wide grass verges of the junction with the A30 were full of wild flowers and here was a good patch of dewberries. I was soon onto farmland and at the top of the first field there was a strip rich in blue phacelia plants (Phacelia tanacetifolia).

phacelia,Phacelia tanacetifolia

Walking over the fields I eventually came to the main railway line that leads into Basingstoke. On the bridge under it was a pretty little fern which I think is wall rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria).

wall rue,Asplenium ruta-muraria

In the next field was another flowery patch left by the farmer, this time the main flower was borage (Borago officinalis).

borage,Borago officinalis

Along the side of the track the autumn fruits were looking very tempting: sloes, haws, elderberries and here the fruits of the Wayfaring Tree (Viburnum lantana) - appropriate for the Wayfarer's Way.

wayfaring tree,Viburnum lantana

At the village of Deane I joined my previous walk and here I repeated the walk to Ashe. In the grounds of Ashe House there was an old horse chestnut sprouting from a stump and on this was this ?wasp? - unable to hazard an identification at present.


The church at Ashe looked fine in the sunshine.

Ashe church

On the west side were three carved heads, presumably a boar, a lion and a sheep but the lion has more of the look of a green man.

Ashe church sculptures

I then took a small detour to the Source of the River Test. Last time I was there the marshy area looked promising for wildlife. Sure enough as I approached a pair of grey wagtails flew off and I saw what I think is Monkey flower (Mimulus guttatus).

Monkey flower,Mimulus guttatus

On the other side of the bridge a fritillary was feeding on the water mint flowers. I think it is an 'old' and battered female Silver washed Fritillary. However I've never seen one with such a green body before so it could be the rarer Dark Green Fritillary - the characteristic markings were not very clear.

Silver washed fritillary

I then retraced my steps and headed south climbing out of the Test valley. Here is a typical view for the day.

It is already the start of autumn, and to prove the point a number of fungi were fruiting. I think this may be red-cracked boletus (Xerocomellus chrysenteron).

red-cracked boletus

Apart from the fritillary I saw a disappointing range of butterflies, these were: speckled wood (loads), brimstone, whites, common blue and a brown argus. No skippers and no red admirals. I saw one small tortoiseshell, trapped in Dummer church, which I was pleased to be able to catch and release. I think the cool, wet spell must have had a big effect on numbers. So I can only offer a butterfly photograph of a mating pair of small white butterflies.

mating small  white butterflies

I passed the small church at Steventon. Jane Austen lived (1775-1802) for much of her life at the rectory as her father was rector here for forty years. It is a manorial church - next to the manor house not the village and as there is no public footpath access to the church I could not visit it. As the old rectory was demolished soon after Jane's death there is no great Austen history trail as there is at Chawton, despite the greater importance of Steventon in her life. She lived for a while at Deane and visited the Lefroy family at Ashe. So I was definitely walking in the footsteps of Jane Austen.

I walked to the next village of North Waltham which has a fine church dating back to 13th century. I passed five churches in all on the walk.

north waltham church

The central part of North Waltham has a number of old thatched houses, but modern sprawl to the east of the village (it is uncomfortably close to Basingstoke) has taken away some of its rural charm.

north waltham

Finally, a reminder that throughout the walk farmers were making good use of the fine and dry weather. There is rain in the forecast so the last portions of harvest were being safely gathered in.

combine harvester