Friday, 25 August 2017

Stadhampton, Drayton St. Leonards and Newington

Moving from the extreme west of my region for walks in my last walk near Devizes, I took advantage of some sunny weather to explore an area near the northern extreme - not all that far from Oxford. I had intended to revisit an area near Goring, but I decided I must seek pastures new. It also provides a bit of a break from all the flowers I have been posting recently. Back in December I explored parts of Shakespeare's Way and this walk extends the coverage as far as Chiselhampton. :

I started off at Stadhampton Church. This is a church where a lot of money has been spent to turn it into more of a community centre than a traditional church. The pews are replaced with stacked chairs and there is a kitchen and toilets in the church. It is an attractive modern building, but call me an old romantic, I do really prefer crumbling ruins!

stadhampton church

The area I explored is on the lower stretches of the River Thame before it joins its confusingly named bigger brother the River Thames at Dorchester-on-Thames. The Thame valley is rich rolling countryside and the river itself rather placid.

river thame

A Red Admiral butterfly was warming itself close to some blackberries by the side of the road near the Thame at Chiselhampton. The other butterflies I saw on the whole walk were Small White, Green-veined White, Common Blue, Small Tortoiseshell and Speckled Wood.

red admiral butterfly

I then headed south to Drayton St Leonards on a track between fields. In this area of rich soil the farmer had left very little space for wild-flowers and I only saw a few plants other than nettles including this knapweed - probably Common Knapweed (Centaurea nigra).

knapweed

The village of Drayton St Leonards is named after the church of St. Catherine and St. Leonard.

Drayton St Leonards church

It's a small church and not a great deal inside, but the decorated pulpit (1880s) is unusual. The angel looks rather glum.

Drayton St Leonards pulpit

The village is not that far from Abingdon and Oxford, and so it has many modern commuter homes, but here and there are some older buildings of the original village.

Drayton St Leonards cottage

After crossing the River Thame again I retraced part of walk from last December to Newington. A reminder that it was late summer was the presence of pheasant feeders. A rather startled pheasant was not far away.

pheasant

As I was having my lunch sitting on a stile I began to study the immediate vicinity and to my delight a tiny ladybird was crawling over a leaf. I think it is the 22 Spot Ladybird (Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata).

22spot yellow ladybird, Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata

I came back to the small village of Newington. The church is now ‘redundant’ but its grandeur reflects previous glory.

Newington church

An old path leading directly to the church took me out of the valley. One of the fears of walking alone through fields is the possible attention of a bull, particularly on very rarely used paths like this one. Well in this case it was a whole herd of bullocks. They have an inquisitive nature and followed me along. the path They played Grandmother's footsteps for a while - sneaking up on me whenever my back was turned. They looked pretty fearsome, particularly the closest one. I retain some sympathies for them, as regrettably, they are not long for this world having reached the target weight.

bullocks

Escaping the herd over a style I came across a large mass of Black Nightshade (Solanum nigrum) and within it a few plants of Woody Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara).

woody nightshade

After surviving the herd of bullocks the next challenge was a field of corn (maize). The first section was fine - the farmer had chopped down a path through them but then I was faced with a further field across the stile in the picture - a wall of corn six foot high. It was a large field with no margin so I had no choice but forge a path through the corn as best I could. Without GPS it would have been all too easy to get lost in the middle of it all!

footpath blocked

I emerged from the corn and rejoined the Shakespeare's Way and followed the path back towards Stadhampton. Along the field margin was a delightful flower - Greater Willowherb (Epillobium hirsutum).

greater willowherb,Epilobium hirsutum

I crossed the parkland of former Ascott Park with its strange dovecotes to reach the fringes of Stadhampton. Here I found a single Bugloss plant (Anchusa arvensis).

bugloss,Anchusa arvensis

Back by the church I noticed that there was a large number of swallows and house martins getting ready to depart. I had seen another flight of swallows at Drayton St. Leonard, so they must have got through the cool, damp summer OK.

swallows,house martins

And last of this very mixed batch, focusing in on a smaller group of birds in their departure lounge among the wires.

swallows,house martins