On 10th September I spent a day walking (over 12 miles) in the Ashmansworth area to the south of Newbury. Here is the map:
View Ashmansworth - Highclere in a larger map
Walks following the ridge through north Hampshire, Wiltshire and West Berkshire.Oakley - Hannington
Hannington - Watership Down
Watership Down - Highclere
Highclere - East Woodhay
East Woodhay - Inkpen
Inkpen - Marten
Marten - Collingbourne Kingston
Collingbourne Kingston - Easton Royal
Easton Royal - Pewsey
It was the first walk which eventually aimed to walk the chalk ridge all the way from Basingstoke to Marlborough.
Can you identify this plant with its strange prickly appendages? I think it is a Black Horehound, but not a good specimen.
On the climb up to the ridge I got a view back to a mansion in East Woodhay. In the fields to the left are some little blue dots that are actually food hoppers for the pheasants that were extremely numerous in this area.
The best part of the walk was a path off Wayfarer's Way to Faccombe, with rolling farmland and many trees. On the side of the path was a bank rich in chalk downland flowers (unfortunately not in sunlight).
There's a historic windmill 'engine' at Crux Easton that is now over a hundred years old - renewable engine is nothing new!
Along the hedgerows this plant was fairly common, close to it looks very strange.
It is of course the 'fruit' of Old Man’s Beard (Clematis vitalba), or wild clematis. My path took my across fields, and one area had been left to a lovely natural mix of meadow flowers.
Tempting but dangerous autumn fruit, White Bryony was at its best at this time in many hedgerows. Just forty berries are a lethal dose.
The highlight came towards the end of the walk on Upper Woodcott Down, a pair of Red Kites (Milvus milvus) were swooping low over me. A neighbouring field was being harvested and the strong breeze made it easiest for the birds to hover on my edge of the ridge. They literally touched the ground at times and I was lucky to get a few snaps, some just about in focus.
They swooped around for ages before moving further along the ridge.
The route back through the Highclere estate became a bit of a trudge as there was not much to see, either distant or closer to hand. But one small gap in the hedge gave a good view of Highclere Castle.