Thursday, 15 February 2018

Seven Barrows, Crog Hill and Stichens Green

Almost three months since the last longish walk. I blame the weather. I needed to do this walk so I could check it out before leading a walk along the same route in June.

I started off at Crog Hill which is the site of one of the oldest Bronze Age long barrows in the country (6,000 years old). Sadly it's been rather damaged by the plough. Here's the view across the barrow, the ditch is part of the burial complex and in summer I hope to find orchids flowering around here... As I'll be returning there I'll leave details until then.

Crog Hill

I then set off south across the chalk downlands near to the race-horsing stables of J.P. Henderson. Indeed I had to wait for two groups of horses to cross the road on the way up here. You can see the gallops on the left - they cover it in dark material. I was happy to listen to skylarks singing around and about as I walked on to the highest point on the route.

gallop,lambourn

The track entered a wooded section and here hazel catkins are fully out.

hazel catkin

I joined the Lambourn Valley Way that leads up to Uffington Castle and the White Horse - just two miles away. I then turned off it at this marker sarcen stone called Hangman's Stone.

hangmans stone

In the bushes in the distance ahead of me I could see some bird and with the help of my camera zoom I caught a shot of a pair of yellowhammers before they flew off.

yellowhammer

A dry valley leading off to the north-west looked tempting to explore one day.

view

The highpoint of the day was at the BBOWT Seven Barrows Reserve where a female kestrel was perching on one of the low bushes. It let me get quite close. I have not seen one perched like this before.

kestrel

I returned to the car and went to Lambourn to check out options for pub lunches in June. I parked by the church and the sun was was showing the church in its best light.

lambourn church

The walk I planned was only four miles and only took a couple of hours to do so I had just enough time to fit in another little exploration on the way back home. I stopped off at Streatley to have another look for the Green Hellebore plants (quite rare) that are supposed to grow near by. Unfortunately I did not find them and had to make do with some more common plants. I was pleased to see my first proper Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna) of the year - I 've seen a couple of miserable specimens before that weren't worth photographing.

lesser celandine,Ficaria verna

There was another plant with a tiny blue flower that flowers all year around, it is I think Common Field Speedwell (Veronica persica).

Common Field Speedwell,Veronica persica

About the last thing I saw of interest was just about the hairiest leaves I have ever seen. I believe the plant is Mouse-ear Hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella) - hard to be sure without a flower.

Mouse-ear Hawkweed,Hieracium pilosella

Spring is definitely on the way, indeed its just over four months to the longest day. So lots more walks to try and squeeze in the next few months.