Friday, 6 October 2017

Hartley Wintney and Three Castles Path

After a rather special 200th posting I set out on a less ambitious mainly farmland walk to the south of Reading. It remains an ambition to walk all the way around Reading (in sections), I have reached Basingstoke, Newbury, Wallingford, Henley and Wokingham. The missing sections are mainly to the south and east. It ended up being 14 mile walk.

I started off at Hazeley Heath. This is an RSPB reserve with large areas of boggy ground as well as heathland. Much of the walk was on acid soil as it overlays clay, quite a contrast to my last walk on chalk downlands. The views make you think of Scotland rather than somewhere only 35 miles from London.

Hazeley Heath

Bell Heather (Erica cinerea) was still out in the heathland area.

Bell Heather,Erica cinerea

Walking down to the Hart River there were fine Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) still in flower. A very invasive plant, that is pushing out native wetland plants. Current research is looking into a rust fungus from its native habitat that may help control it.

Himalayan Balsam,Impatiens glandulifera

I then picked up the Three Castles Path as it emerges from Warren Heath. In a field catching some warm midday sun was a horse and a goat. I immediately thought of ‘the lion lying down with the lamb’. Looking up the phrase I was astounded to find that there is no such Biblical quote, the closest is from Isaiah where wolves are with lambs; leopards with goats and lions with calves.

horse and goat

In early October you can easily imagine it to be late summer if you look at the oak trees. It will about another month before they lose their leaves.

oak leaves

I then came to the village/town of Hartley Wintney. I remember the late Frank Muir saying it sounded like a posh friend rather than a place. According to Wikipedia the origin of the strange name may be from ‘forest clearing where the deer graze by Winta’s island’. It is blighted by the busy A30 road running through the middle. It has appealing green areas near the centre. The modern church of St. John has a tower that reminded me of a minaret. A service/event was going on so I did not venture into the church.


The original church of St. Mary's is out on its own up the hill. It has some medieval wall paintings and was in the process of being extensively renovated. It is early October, and some harvesting was still taking place. If you ever wondered where potatoes come from, well this should help. The tops are mowed off first and then the tubers dug up and processed.

potato harvest

After taking another unintended detour by misinterpreting a blatantly clear sign I eventually arrived at Winchfield Church for lunch. It is a small church but unfortunately locked. It has one of those crazy early Norman doorways that make it seem you are in the land of Noggin the Nog or entering Hell.

Winchfield church

Continuing on the Three Castles Path I reached the Basingstoke Canal. It would have been good to walk as far as Odiham Castle and so meet up with a walk made a month ago but that would be too great a distance for one day.

Basingstoke Canal

I headed off to Odiham Common. This is an area I have never been close to before. The common is now a managed forest but with some old trees dotted here and there are some open areas. I spotted this Tormentil (Potentilla erecta) in one of the clearings.

Tormentil,Potentilla erecta

On the railway bridge over the main Basingstoke-London line there was many harts tongue ferns (Asplenium scolopendrium). Looking underneath the fronds the fruiting bodies (sori) were very evident.

harts tongue fern,Asplenium scolopendrium

Walking over more fields I came to the hamlet of West Green. It has a 'stately home' West Green House now managed by the National Trust. The hamlet had some other appealing buildings too.

West Green

Just opposite this house was a tree stump with a bracket fungus growing all over it. I guess it is of the Ganoderma family. The spooky effect is just down to the chance position of a couple of gaps.

Ganoderma,brakcet fungus

Well Green has a Common that is mainly mature oak trees. However it was the notice that really caught my eye. To have a woodland map as a wood carving seems a brilliant idea.

carved notice

I made my way back over more fields and close to a house found some Autumn Crocus (Crocus speciosus) out in flower.

Autumn Crocus,Crocus speciosus

There was also a lovely late flowering dog rose (Rosa Canina).

wild rose, dog rose,Rosa Canina

Coming back to Hazeley Heath I spotted a dozen or so Parasol mushrooms (Macrolepiota procera) on the way suggesting it may turn out to be a good year for fungi.

Parasol mushroom,Macrolepiota procera