Tuesday, 22 March 2016

North Stoke and Ipsden

With a cancelled meeting and a month gone since my last walk I decided at the last moment to go out for a little explore. With the forecast suggesting (wrongly!) it would cloud over later on I chose a short walk to extend my Ridgeway re-visit from where I left off at Little Stoke. Here is a map of the route.

I started from Ipsden and walked down what I thought was a bridleway. However I seemed to have wandered into somewhere more exotic as shown by this peacock and with it were some raucous guinea fowl.

peacock

Having found my way to the correct side of the fence on the bridleway I spotted my first Comma butterfly of the year.

comma,butterfly

Up on the hillside is a modern 'carbuncle' - Rowan Atkinson's new pad at Handsmooth, for me it 's not worth a Bean.

Handsmooth,Rowan Atkinson

I followed Swans Way down to Littlestoke Manor. I found clarge clumps of Butcher's Broom, a curious plant. I have posted pictures of the bright red fruit before but here is the fertilised flower starting to become a fruit. It seems to grow directly out of the 'leaf', this is because Butcher's Broom has evolved to modify its stem to act as leaves (and to be tough and prickly too). It is a form of lily apparently related to asparagus. The actual 'leaves' are tiny non-photosynthetic scales.

butchers broom

Down on the River Thames everything still seems to be stuck in winter.

river Thames

Seed heads of reeds looked exotic in the sunshine.

reed seedhead

And so to North Stoke church.

North Stoke church

This is another very ancient establishment like Ipsden church. It is said to be founded by St. Birinus in the 630s (that's nearly 1400 years ago). On the walls are medieval paintings 13th century. On the north side is Judas getting his pieces of silver.

Stoning of St. Stephen

On the south side is Christ appearing before Pilate. A very appropriate scene as I was visiting in Holy week. Such old paintings are rare, I have seen them locally at Checkendon and Ashampstead

North Stoke is a small hamlet, not really large enough to be a village.

north stoke

The reason that North Stoke developed is that there is a spring providing fresh water and this also drove an old mill. In the tail race of the mill were a pair of inverted mallards.

mallards,inverted

Just to the north of the millpond was a strange sight; at first I thought I saw a sparrow flying back and forth. As I got closer I could see it was a bat. This is the first daytime bat (it was midday) I had seen. It continued to fly to and fro down the lane for many minutes, no doubt hunting for insects. As it did not stop it was hard to get a picture of it, it moved too fast to be able to focus the camera. I ended up taking a video and extracting some of the better frames.

bat

As it was near water it could be a Daubenton's bat, but that is just a guess. An unexpected and lovely thing to see.

bat

I then followed the 'Ridgeway' through Mongewell which used to have Europe's only Jewish boarding school Carmel College. The 'Ridgeway' then turns east and follows an ancient bank called Grim's Ditch. It was probably a significant land boundary in the late Iron Age. The actual ancient Ridgeway ran miles away on the top of the Chilterns between Nuffield and Checkendon. This 'diversion' of the Ridgeway is purely to keep people off busy roads - there are no convenient footpaths between Goring and Nuffield so they chose to make the path follow the Thames instead. On the bank blackthorn was in flower.

blackthorn,flower

A sign of the season, early spring, is that ground ivy has come into bloom. Only a few plants here and there were out, much more to come.

ground ivy

This photograph shows how Grim's Ditch is cut by a modern road.

grim's ditch

On the way back I spotted a bird in the middle of a field of oilseed rape. I think it is a corn bunting. These are quite rare now so it was good to see it.

corn bunting

Nearly back at the car I spotted a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly. When I disturbed it, it flew up and was joined by another spiralling in the sunlight.

small tortoiseshell,butterfly