Friday, 27 October 2017

Harpsden in autumn

Another bright sunny and quite warm day - an opportunity for a shorter walk to explore the Harpsden village (for extensive history see here) area south of Henley-on-Thames accompanied by, for a change, two friends who acted as local guides. Here is a map of the 6½ mile walk.

We started at Harpsden Church in the churchyard primrose were flowering out of season, the name ‘prime rose’ suggests it should be the first and not the last to flower in the year.


The church looked to have been extensively rebuilt by the Victorians from the outside but there were many original features inside including an unusually decorated font and some nice brasses. In the porch were some of the original medieval floor tiles - I liked the endless knot design motif that I had not seen before.

harpsden church,medieval tiles

In the bright autumn sun some of the oak trees were still in full leaf.

oak tree

I hoped to see lots of fungi but instead it turned out to be a wild flower-fest instead. Amongst the many unusually late flowering plants was a whole bank of Hemlock (Conium maculatum) along a field edge. Along this stretch I linked with a path along the Thames from six years ago.


On the hedgerow of a lane we saw wild basil in flower and here Hedgerow Cranesbill (Geranium pyrenaicum).

geranium pyrenaicum, hedgerow cranesbill

The Bottle and Glass pub at Binfield Heath is an old thatched house. The pumpkins outside show they are ready for Halloween. Not sure what the strange bird is supposed to be on the top of the thatch though.

Bottle and Glass,Binfield Heath

In terms of butterflies there quite a number of Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta) and one Peacock but sadly no Small Coppers.

Red Admiral,Vanessa atalanta

Our path took us through some mixed woodland, regrettably no fungi were evident but the autumn light did make for an attractive view.

autumn woods

Turning north we came to an unusual looking barn, this is because I was reliably told that it has been relocated from Suffolk so is not in the local style. I had already walked this small stretch two years ago.

suffolk barn

The walk over fields gave good views over surrounding countryside.

A hedgerow had a number of wild-flowers as well as shrubs laden with fruit. This Common mallow (Malva sylvestris) was in good shape considering it is late October, but then there has yet to be a frost.

common mallow, malva sylvestris

Approaching a new housing estate on the outskirts of Henley-on-Thames we were surprised to see a plant in full bloom. Initial guesses were Physalis (Chinese lantern) or Thorn-apple. A little research found it to be ‘Apple of Peru’ Nicandra physalodes so it is a member of the same Solanum (potato) family. It grows best in disturbed ground and is non-native it crops up here and there because the seed is often found in bird seed. Online references have differing opinions on toxicity - most Solanums have some poisonous parts - but it seems it is much less of an issue that the nightshades and thorn-apple.

apple of peru, nicandra physalodes

At last, on an old stump I did find some fungi - but rather tiny. May be one of the Coprinus family but it was a very poor day for fungi - it has been too dry.

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