Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Fawley and Farnborough

Old Street

Walks following the Old Street in Oxfordshire and West Berkshire.

Wantage - Ridgeway
Ridgeway - Farnborough
Farnborough - Catmore
Catmore - Hermitage
Hermitage - Bucklebury

After completing the long trek around the Vale of Pewsey I set about completing the recording of the routes as Google Earth paths. Here is a Google map of this one (14 miles):

View Fawley - Farnborough in a larger map

Looking at the tapestry of walks over the last ten years I considered what should be my next project. To my, perhaps too ordered, mind I wondered about linking together some of my previous walks. The most glaring omission was a tiny segment of the Ridgeway. Although I have travelled the full length, I must confess one small segment (less than a mile) was made by car rather than on foot. I decided that this walk would put that little omission to rest. I started at Fawley, a small village in the Berkshire Wessex downlands. I have always imagined this was where Thomas Hardy set the opening chapters of Jude the Obscure, his last and most controversial book (the 'hero' is named Jude Fawley and the descriptions all fit). A gloomy but all too reasonable take on rural communities in Victorian England. Jude Fawley sees the lights of Christminster (Hardy's name for Oxford) from the Ridgeway to the north of his small village .Inspired to become a scholar, of course impossible at the time for a poor farm labourer, his life alternates between misfortune and tragedy. Back to the walk... The first of several views is from the path to the Ridgeway looking west towards Lambourn and the White Horse.

Fawley view west

The Ridgeway is an impressive path, here it is of dual carriageway width. This stretch is one of the few that is believable as a drover's way - as it is wide, dry and flat it would be suitable for driving livestock to market. Other stretches that are labelled 'Ridgeway' would be totally unsuitable.


The tiny stretch I needed to walk was as boring as I had expected (just a 'road' with no views), however just to the north is the impressive Iron Age camp at Segsbury Camp. It is vast with a ditch and rampart all around it. From inside you can look down on the town of Wantage and to the north east Didcot power station is a prominent landmark.

Segbury castle

Wantage view

A mile or two further along the Ridgeway is a monument to the wife of Lord Wantage. A Victorian who helped found the Red Cross Society.

Wantage monument

I then turned off the Ridgeway to walk down a pleasant dry valley running south and out of the stiff north-easterly breeze. It's name is appropriately enough 'Old Street' that runs from Wantage to Reading.

Old Street

It is getting late for flowers but there were patches of bright Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris).

Toadflax,Linaria vulgaris

The long haul up a muddy path to the east of Farnborough was rewarded by a lovely view to the east, towards the Goring Gap in the far distance.

View to West Ilsley

One of the few other flowers that looked fresh and bright in the sunshine was this chickweed (Myosoton aquaticum)


Black bryony fruit were glaringly evident in the hedgerows.

black bryony

Turning west to Farnborough the sun caught this Old Man's Beard.

Old mans beard

Last year I found at this time a good selection of butterflies feeding on ivy. I did see three red admirals and a few other butterflies but only one Comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album) was at all co-operative.

Polygonia c-album

Farnborough, (that is Farnborough in Berkshire, no aeroplanes in evidence), is a tiny little village with a small church to match.

Farnborough church

On the way back to Fawley I happened to spot the most impressive creature of the day. Growing out of a beech tree was a massive fruiting body, each bracket was larger than a dinner plate (probably Polyporus squamosus). It was about the only fungi I saw all day, quite surprising for early October.

Polyporus squamosus

From the sublime to the sinister. On the wires of the fence I walked along were two dried up corpses of what I believe were moles. Why I do not quite understand, except perhaps this was close to gallops and the owner wanted to make a point of removing the hazard to the horses.


The final shot is a more comforting scene, except of course when considering that these partridge will be providing sport for the guns in a week or two.