Thursday, 9 March 2017

Henley-on-Thames and Fawley

After missing out on what turned out to be sunny day on Tuesday I decided to get in an early Spring walk today. I was delighted to see many more Spring flowers and butterflies than I had expected. This time I decided to explore a footpath I had noticed that runs along the western bank of the Thames north of Henley. I also wanted to explore the village of Fawley, Buckinghamshire to formed a roughly circular route. I last visited Henley on foot back in April 2011 and October 2012 so I was overdue for a visit. Here is a map of the walk (about 10.5 miles in total)

Unfortunately parking in Henley-on-Thames is expensive for a full day so I went for the free option of parking on Mill Lane a mile south of Henley. The walk towards Henley alongside the River Thames proved worthwhile. A good variety of birds were enjoying the warm sunshine: Canada Geese, Tufted Ducks, Egyptian Geese, Coots, Black headed gulls, Moorhens, Mallards, Pochards, Great Crested Grebes and Cormorants. Approaching the centre of the town the number of boats increases.

boats on Thames at Henley

After walking through Henley I reached the path on the western bank of the Thames. Here was a lovely Greylag Goose with its pink feet - not to be confused with the Pink footed Goose that does not have an orange bill.

Greylag Goose

An early spring flower is Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), it goes over very quickly so it was good to find some right on the bank of the Thames at their best.

coltsfoot,Tussilago farfara

I had seen a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais urticae) in the distance previously on the walk, this one came and obligingly settled for its portrait. My first butterfly of the year.

Small Tortoiseshell,butterfly,Aglais urticae

On the opposite bank, from the Thames Path you can see Fawley Court with its tree-lined canal leading down to the Thames, but on this side you get a closer view.

Fawley Court,Henley

Passing through into a small nature reserve I had a good view across to Temple Island - well known to all the Henley rowers.

Temple Island,Henley

From the nature reserve the path leads on NW towards the Henley-Marlow Road, here there were sheep with new-born lambs and some sheep still heavily pregnant. These two twins seemed quite a handful for its mother.

mother sheep and lambs

Over the road I started to climb up into the Chilterns, and soon had a magnificent view looking east towards Marlow. It was here that I stopped to admire what I hope was a Mistle Thrush busy looking for food.

View over countryside

I then entered a long stretch of mixed woodland with some old beech trees and some hints of being an old wood (Dog's Mercury, Wood Spurge, Spurge Laurel) and a few Box bushes that were in flower.

box bush in flower

Coming out of the wood there was a bench beside the path where I had some lunch. An inquisitive robin kept popping up around me and I am pleased to have caught it looking down from an ivy bush.


Quite close to the bench was a bank covered in white sweet violets (Viola odorata) they have the distinctive scent of grandmothers!

sweet violet

But the real star of early Spring are the Lesser Celandines, I took a number of pictures of them - they were quite a number spread along the walk - these are about the best.

Lesser Celandine

Fawley has some grand houses. Sir William McAlpine bought up Fawley Hill and installed a private steam railway that runs in its grounds. I could here it tooting away in the distance. The church at Fawley (St. Mary the Virgin) has some unusual features, it was founded back in the 12th century but little remains of the early church. The chancel is in the high Georgian style (1748).

Fawley Church,henley

Right by the church is the village pond and growing around it was a plant I did not recognise. It was very popular with honeybees and bumblebees. I thought it looked a bit like borage and doing some research when I returned it turns out to be Abraham Isaac Jacob (Trachystemon orientalis) also known as Oriental borage and so quite appropriate for something close by a church.

Abraham Isaac Jacob,Trachystemon orientalis

Heading on south from the church, I chased a butterfly along the lane, when it settled it turned out to be a Red Admiral butterfly hiding among the blossom (Cherry plum or Blackthorn). The other butterfly I saw apart from the Small Tortoiseshells was a total of nine Brimstone butterflies but they refused to settle for their photograph to be taken.

Red Admiral,butterfly

I made my way down via Oxfordshire Way to Henley; there was quite a lot more to see but I have already included too many photographs. One of the most attractive streets in Henley is 'Friday Street'. It may be that it led originally to fish ponds and when religious observance dictated that fish should be consumed on a Friday required people to make a trip along the street each Friday to catch some fish to eat.

Friday Street,Henley

I retraced my steps along the bank of the Thames back to Mill Lane. I decided to have another look at the weir and lock. I was very pleased to spot a pair of one of my favourite birds - grey wagtails - busy among the catkins washed down by the Thames.

grey wagtail