Thursday, 8 September 2016

Loddon Valley - Twyford to Dinton Pastures

September has brought a few days of hot weather but now it turned warm and breezy - perfect for a late summer walk. I thought a river might be a good idea as butterflies and dragonflies should still be around in fair numbers. Here is a map of the 10 mile walk

I decided to go for a local walk - starting at Twyford just the other side of Reading so I could do the whole walk without using the car. From Twyford station I made my way to the Charvil Road to take the footpath leading along the River Loddon under the G.W. Railway. Here I saw a comma butterfly and a pair of common blue damselflies. Strangely they didn't mind me getting very close, so for once you can see quite a lot of detail including the weird eyes, this is the male.

common blue damselfly

The River Loddon is very picturesque along this stretch heading south, it meanders through willows and reed beds towards its confluence with the Thames near Wargrave.

River Loddon

I spotted only one plant of bright Orange Balsam (Impatiens capensis) along the banks. The Loddon has been canalized so has fairly steep banks, a pity because for wildlife more marshy areas would bring in a wider variety of plants and animals. The Loddon is prone to flooding, but not on an annual basis which is what is needed to promote nice boggy bits.

Orange Balsam,Impatiens capensis

I explored one, small damp meadow area, and here were patches of Water Mint (Mentha aquatica). One of the flowers had a honey bee on it.

Water Mint,Mentha aquatica

But the flower I got a bit tired of seeing was masses and masses of the invasive Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera). The bees love it, but it has taken over and I would have thought impossible to manually remove as there is so much of it.

Himalayan Balsam,Impatiens glandulifera

I then came to Lavell's Lake which has a number of hides set up for bird watchers from Friends of Lavell Lake. I met two keen bird watchers with impressive cameras. Apparently someone had recently spotted a Little Stint, a great rarity in these parts. All I could see from the main hide were ducks, cormorants, coots, gulls and this Great Crested Grebe.

Great Crested Grebe

I left the lake to come to Dinton Pastures Country Park which should really be ‘Dinton Gravel Pits’ because the area is dominated by the large lakes created after gravel extraction. Along the well worn path around Black Swan Lake a red admiral butterfly was posing for me. I saw a disappointingly small number of butterflies, a but worrying, only Speckled Wood, Comma, Small White and Red Admiral.

Red Admiral,butterfly

On the path, often a good place to spot butterflies and dragonflies, I managed to creep on what I think is a Ruddy Darter dragonfly (the Common Darter has striped legs).

Ruddy Darter

Near the main car park and cafe there was a feeding area for swans, geese and ducks. A solitary magpie was keen to take part in the pickings. I am rather pleased with this shot as I have always wanted to capture the blue/green iridescent feathers.

magpie

A little further around the Black Swan Lake a sheltered spot had attracted a host of pond skaters. The dents in the water surface around their legs was a challenge for my fairly basic camera.

water skater

The neighbouring White Swan Lake is similar. Strange to think Reading has such placid wonders only five miles from its centre.

white swan lake,dinton pastures

I then took to the fields to meander my way back to Twyford. All along the walk I had seen many hops now at their attractive fruiting stage.

hops

The village of Hurst has a large (Victorian) church and just across the churchyard the village pub - The Castle - appropriate to follow a picture of some hops!

Castle,Hurst,pub

On the northern fringes of Hurst I found a strip of wildflowers with the attractive annual cornflower still out in bloom.

cornflower

In the final part of the walk before reaching the built-up area of Twyford was a field with a herd of miniature horses. They were only about 3 foot high.

miniature horse,horse

So that is another area ticked off my list. I found less than I hoped to see, particularly around Dinton pastures - perhaps I have missed the best bits - it is a large area and I did not have time to explore it all.