Thursday, 29 July 2010

Hambleden; Turville and Skirmett

The day had a cooler and fresher feel after a spell of mixed weather rather than oppressive July heat. The area chosen is just to the north of Henley-on-Thames last visited in January under heavy frost. This links with other walks in the Hambleden valley :Turville to Ibstone, Marlow and Turville and Skirmett Here is a map of the route:

View Hambledon - Turville in a larger map

Hambleden village is regarded as one of the most picturesque in the area, indeed so picturesque that it has been used in a number of films that need a rural setting. The church is large, but regrettably rather battered by zealous Victorian restoration.

hambleden church

The church has a fine collection of monuments including brasses and stained glass. The most ostentatious is this D'Oyley family Elizabethan monument.

hambleden church,monument,D'Oyley

It has a number of aisles and side chapels; one has a fine carved altar front. The carving is exquisite, lots of fairly eccentric figures and animals.

hambleden church,altar front

Hambleden is at the end of a steep sided dry valley running from the Chilterns in the north down to the Thames. The valley has many fine houses and attractive patches of woodland.

hambleden valley,Hambleden

The first butterfly of the day was a Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta), the first I have seen this year - a summer migrant. A grass snake was seen briefly basking in the sun nearby.

red admiral butterfly

A particularly striking Scabious was growing in the hedgerow.


Then there was a mystery, from the distance we thought they could be badgers from the shape and colour. Closer up they were clearly birds and not animals at all. Only on looking them up on return did I identify them as Guinea fowl, not something I had seen in the wild before.

guinea fowl

The silver washed fritillary (Argynnis paphia) seems quite common this year. This individual stayed still for a long while.

silver washed fritillary butterfly

Many happy minutes were taken chasing blue butterflies. The first few refused to open their wings, this pair (common blue - Polyommatus icarus) were more interested in other things.

blue butterfly

But then we reached a spot with common blue butterflies in great numbers, and one or two males (only the males are bright sky blue) did co-operate and open their wings.

blue butterfly

Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) was much in evidence; their flowers vary from pure white to highly zoned ones as in these.

bind weed,convolvulus

The tally of butterflies was enhanced by this rather bedraggled Comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album), a survivor of the winter.

comma butterfly

Also the first sighting of bellfowers in bloom in woodland. I think this is the nettle-leaved variety (Campanula trachelium)

bell flower

Another indicator of the onward march of the seasons ever onward was these toadstools (red-cracked bolete Boletus cisalpinus?).


Perhaps the most exciting flower of the day was the restrained but architectural clematis or old man's beard which was giving off a fine fragrance.

clematis,old man's beard

The village of Turville looks un-spoilt. A common destination for tourists, deservedly so; surprisingly undeveloped as it is close to the busy M40.

Turville village

Although I saw a dozen species of butterfly in the day there were a few moths too, including this burnet moth (Zygaena filipendulae) looking, for once, reasonably well camouflaged.

burnet moth

I liked the contrast of the smooth round ladybird (seven spot - Coccinella septempunctata) and the spiky thistle stem it was resting on.