Thursday, 28 April 2011

Ruscombe, Wargrave and Henley-on-Thames

Spring turned to burning hot Summer all too early, and after three weeks there has been a bit of improvement - a cooling easterly wind, with the prospect of some rain soon. It won't be long before I have to stop long walks due to excessive heat, so I made it a long one - over fourteen miles, here is a Google Map for the 14.5 mile walk:


View Ruscombe - Wargrave - Henley in a larger map

Having to run an errand into Woodley I decided to explore Wargrave and Henley-on-Thames. Not as easy as it sounds as there are many busy roads to avoid walking along. I started at Ruscombe, a village I walked through on the way from Maidenhead to Twyford. I had planned to park near Ruscombe Church. This turned out to be a bad idea as a funeral service was in progress at the church. So I could not go in and admire it, a pity as it looks like the Chancel end is quite early.

Ruscombe Church

I then headed off north towards Wargrave. Here the owner had kindly diverted the path through woodland which was full of bluebells.

Bluebell wood

It then took me across flat farmland. All the normal spring flowers were out, including this White Deadnettle (Lamium album).

White Deadnettle,Lamium album

Over the road I came across the following warning sign, had I strayed behind the Iron Curtain?

Warning sign

Looking around I found some poly-tunnels which provided the answer - the sign was translated for the benefit of the migrant workers picking the strawberries.

Strawberries

Resisting the temptation of the acres of ripe fruit I reached the outskirts of Wargrave, where there was plenty of hawthorn blossom.

Hawthorn

Close by, a Speckled Wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria) was sunning itself.

Speckled Wood,butterfly,Pararge aegeria

And so to Wargrave itself, the church was locked, and speaking to the very sprightly old man mowing the churchyard they had had a recent burglary. I always thought Wargrave might denote connection to an ancient battle of the Anglo-Saxons or Celts, but it seems not, Wargrave is derived from 'weir grove' so it is just describing trees close to the river; rather disappointing.

Wargrave,Wargrave High Street

Anyway, growing on the church's boundary wall I found Ivy Leaved Toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis)

Ivy Leaved Toadflax,Cymbalaria muralis

Wargrave has a number of fine old buildings, including this one with Wisteria at its best.

Wargrave,Wisteria,Wargrave High Street

Walking up Wargrave Hill, another Wisteria was in full bloom.

Wargrave,Wisteria

At the top of the hill, at the point where I joined a previous walk over Bowsey Hill, another Speckled Wood stayed still for me.

Speckled Wood,butterfly,Pararge aegeria

It was then back over the fields following a tortuous route to avoid the roads, everything was already bedecked in summer foliage.

Crazies Hill

Approaching Crazies Hill, I found a very small spiky speedwell in a field, could be Thyme leaved Speedwell (Veronica serpyllifolia).

Speedwell

As a colour contrast, and a contrast of spring to autumn I found these emerging copper sycamore leaves vaguely interesting

Copper Sycamore,Speedwell

The farmland turned out fairly boring, with one farmer putting up ‘bull warning’ notices on very empty fields. However I was compensated by being able to snap a rabbit. This is a first for me, normally they have long disappeared underground before I manage to get a camera lens in their direction.

Rabbit

I was delighted to find that there were more mammals not so far away.

Fallow deer,Cervus dama

The family group of fallow deer held their ground and I took several shots of them, sheltering in the shadow of the horse chestnut.

Fallow deer,Cervus dama

This was cheating, as the path takes you down into the deer park belonging to Culham Court, they are not 'wild' deer. The house is owned by a Swiss banker and valued at over £40 million. Good to see the deer though. At Aston the path joins the Thames Path, with fine houses along the banks to the north of Henley.

Thames boat house,River Thames

Orange tip butterflies (Anthocharis cardamines) were much in evidence and once again I managed to catch a pair of them together.

Orange tip butterfly,butterfly,Anthocharis cardamines

The second part of the walk was along the side of the River Thames, and the number of walkers; joggers; cyclists gradually increased as I approached Henley. So not much scope for studying natural history just sight-seeing shots. This is Greenlands College, originally the home of W.H. Smith and now a part of Henley Business School for people taking expensive MBAs.

Greenlands College,River Thames

The normal tame waterfowl were all around, begging for crumbs including this mute swan.

Swan

Temple Island marks a mile and a half from Henley.

Temple Island

The river looks wide and inviting on the straight stretch to Henley, you can see preparations for the Henley Regatta were already well under way on the right bank.

Henley-on-Thames,River Thames

The view from the bridge over the Thames (the only road bridge east of Sonning - six miles away) includes the water front of the town.

Henley-on-Thames,River Thames

The preparations for the regatta gave an opportunity for an 'artistic' shot that reminds me of John Nash's more abstract pictures.

Henley-on-Thames,Pavillion

Henley is a busy, affluent town with quite a few attractive buildings, here is Friday Street that leads down to the River.

Henley-on-Thames,Friday Street

And the town hall is equally impressive

Henley-on-Thames,Town Hall

The meadows to the south of the bridge on the west side of the river were heaving with people out for an ice cream and an afternoon stroll. After a mile the numbers had dwindled and I could take some shots of the grand houses on the Remenham side of the river.

Remenham,River Thames

Back to nature with buttercups (Ranunculus acris)

Buttercups

And a vetch, probably Common Vetch (Vicia sativa)

Common Vetch,Vicia sativa

For the whole walk the signs of drought stress were evident, the grass already looking brown rather than green along path edges.

Dried ground

Nothing that special for the end of the walk to Lower Shiplake, so here (out of sequence) are some chickens that I saw at Aston.

Chickens

And finally, to prove the affluence of the Lower Shiplake area I saw a back garden complete with extensive model railway and a fine mansion to go with it.

Toy house

That completes that stretch of walk, linking up with an earlier one this year, so that's a continuous Thames Path walk from Shillingford to Aston which is about forty miles in length.

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