With the forecast claiming the next few days are due to be dull with showers it seemed best to go for a long walk while it was clear and dry. Continuing the theme of linking together previous walks this one linked Great Shefford to the Ridgeway going back seven years. I started near South Fawley, I was last there five months ago in the autumn. Here is a map of the 15 mile route:
View Fawley - Great Shefford - Weston in a larger map
Lambourn Valley WayNewbury - Bagnor
Bagnor - Boxford
Boxford - Weston
Weston - Great Shefford
East Garston - Lambourn
Lambourn - White Horse
This time I set off east up the side of the valley to Woolley. One big disappointment was that the views were hazy, it was cold with a frost overnight and a fair breeze so I had hoped for better. This is the view back over the fields to the village of Fawley. You might also make out a white rail around a gallop. This is a racing horse rearing and training area not far from Lambourn.
At Woolley Farm the path was blocked by electric fences which had to be climbed over, I was then faced by a bunch of very inquisitive heifers. Always a bit of a concern when walking on your own and several tons of muscle gallop over to greet you.
It was a day for farm animals, because on reaching the village of Chaddleworth there was an assortment of fine fowl including a cockerel and his escort.
Not far along, some early spring flowers (dog violets) and a honey bee feeding on them for good measure.
Chaddleworth is an attractive village with some thatch houses; a 'manor house' and a small but beautiful church.
The Norman arch over the south door is a fine example of the zig-zag design for early churches such as this.
The path led me down to the West Berkshire golf course, where I took pleasure in tramping directly over fairways, to some consternation of the golfers. It is one of the joys of public footpaths that not even private golf courses find it easy to get them re-routed.
Then onwards and dramatically downwards to the village of Great Shefford. This is an ancient place on the River Lambournand also the busy A338 Wantage Road but with some modern housing. I then struck out east to follow the River Lambourn. [Now this always gets me. Pangbourne (with an 'e') is on the River Pang, so why is it not the River Lam, isn't ‘bourne’ another name for a stream?]. Not so far along I saw a fish in the crystal clear water - this is because it is spring water from the chalk aquifer. A few yards on I stopped for a bite to eat and was delighted to see a darting movement of electric blue. A kingfisher flew under a bridge and alighted not six feet away only to fly on when it saw me. No picture of that, of course, you will have to make do with the 'fish'.
The Lambourn Valley Way is disappointing along this stretch, only a few glimpses of the river and often the view was blocked by hedgerows. This is because it follows the route of the old railway some distance from the river.
I reached Weston Mill which looked idyllic, but Weston itself just a random sprawl along the road
To avoid retracing steps I took a long detour over farmland to the south. There were good views back north, but rather misty.
Walking on I turned back north-east at Oakhanger House, and met a creature I was not quite expecting to see there, a turkey-cock in all its finery. The markings and colours are quite amazing, especially side on. The wattle is by contrast quite unappealing. I have to say it looks a distinctly odd creature, and definitely not English!
I hasten to add that the display was for the benefit of a nearby hen.
And then back to Great Shefford. The church was locked but the recently restored round tower looked good in the afternoon sun.
The churchyard was a mass of snowdrops, they did really look drops of snow here.
I followed the River Lam some way upstream and turned north for a long trek over farmland.
Few spring flowers are out yet, I saw a few more Lesser Celandines, and Dogs Mercury in bud, but I did happen upon a group of yellow flowers, which in summer you might dismiss at a glance as dandelions, but on closer inspection they had pink scaly stems and no leaves, so these were the somewhat rarer Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara).
And so back to South Fawley, and here leaving aside a lively bunch of Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula), I passed through a field of distinctly brown and distinctly pregnant sheep. Such dainty legs too.
To end, a glimpse through the trees at a rather grand and exotic house at South Fawley.