Saturday, 11 June 2011

Bagnor, Snelsmore and Boxford

At last, cooler conditions with sunshine and showers, ideal for walking and photography. And here is the picture to prove it - raindrops on bindweed (not roses or whiskers on kittens).

Bindweed,Convolvulus arvensis

I set off from the village of Bagnor famous for the site of the Watermill theatre on the bank of the River Lambourn. Here is a Google Map of the 11 mile walk:


View Bagnor - Boxford in a larger map
Bagnor,River Lambourn

Not far away across the A34 are the ruins of Donnington Castle. One of the many Donningtons spread over the UK. It has a medieval ruined castle which is quite a rarity in Berkshire, and this is a good example. In the Civil War (1642-1651) - there were three separate 'Battles of Newbury' it was severely damaged by the end of which the castle was then slighted.

Donnington Castle

On the slopes leading up to the ruins was this small heath butterfly (Coenonympha pamphilus) taking an interest in the bindweed flowers.

Small Heath butterfly,Coenonympha pamphilus

Walking north I sheltered during a shower under an oak tree which was also home to this grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). Quite well camouflaged against the bark.

Grey squirrel,Sciurus carolinensis

Now for an innovation. A set of four pictures of the same plant species showing how the flower opens and develops eventually to seed. The plant in question is Goat's Beard (Tragopon pratensis) or to give it, its prosaic name ‘Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon’. It was present all along the walk, more prevalent than I have seen it before...

Goat's Beard,Tragopon pratensis
and opening a little more...
Goat's Beard,Tragopon pratensis
and a little bit more, and a female swollen thighed beetle (Oedemera nobilis) on it...
Goat's Beard,Tragopon pratensis
and after flowering you can see how it gets its name.
Goat's Beard,Tragopon pratensis

Just at the end the of Donnington Golf Course was a patch of brambles which had butterflies feeding on the flowers. Here was a Large Skipper (Ochlodes faunus).

Large Skipper,Ochlodes faunus

The track led me up to Snelsmore Common, a large area of 'heathland' with heathers and bracken in contrast to the usual chalk downland. Too large an area to explore fully in an hour or two. I did find a boggy area on the north side with its mosses, grassy tussocks and insectivorous Common Sundews (Drosea rotundifolia).

Sundew,Common Sundew,Drosea rotundifolia

Also in the boggy area were hundreds of common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii).

Sundew,Common Spotted Orchid,Dactylorhiza fuchsii

Quite an impressive number over the area as a whole.

Sundew,Common Spotted Orchids

Amongst the reeds was a common field grasshopper (Chorthippus brunneus).

Common Field Grasshopper,Chorthippus brunneus

The shower clouds came over again and I was lucky to be sheltered in woodland. Here I found sweet smelling honeysuckle in abundance.

Woodland honeysuckle

I left the woods appropriately at Honeybottom and there was a large field of linseed or common flax (Linum usitatissimum).

common flax,Linum usitatissimum

Going down the slope I reached Winterbourne, a brook full of chalk fed clear water

Winterbourne

The brook winds its way gently down the valley. This house had impressive hedges that provided quite an artistic composition of snaking lines and enticing 'just around the corner' focus of interest even though there is nothing much in the photograph.

Winterbourne

Winterbourne is a small village with just a few thatched houses and an interesting 'gastro-pub'. I walked west from here across farmland. Nothing out of the ordinary, good examples of speedwells and a magnificent marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis) with this time a male swollen thighed beetle (Oedemera nobilis) beetle on it.

Marsh Mallow,Althaea officinalis

I crossed the eternally busy M4 on a footbridge to cut across to the Lambourn valley and chased a small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) butterfly along the path.

M4

Small Tortoiseshell,Aglais urticae

Braving fields with dire warnings of a bull, I reached Westbrook farm where I had to run the gauntlet of these cows (are they shorthorns?).

cows

The path then followed the Lambourn down to Boxford, a nice stretch.

River Lambourn

I hoped to see a kingfisher, had to settle for yellow flag irises (Iris pseudacorus)

yellow flag irises,Iris pseudacorus

Boxford is a quiet village with a few attractive houses. It is unusual in having a church that is in the process of complete renovation. The new rendering certainly makes it look as good as new.

Boxford church

At Boxford I joined the Lambourn Valley Way and followed it back to Bagnor. A most disappointing section. No view of the 'river' and high hedges on both sides for much of it. The Bagnor Estate have many, many signs about ‘Private property’ so walkers not at all welcome. There was an interesting footpath over the river at Jannaways. The best I can offer is a dock plant with a severe case of the pox. I believe it is some kind of rust, common on docks but a pleasing colour contrast.

Dock plant,rust

And so back to Bagnor, I briefly explored the BBOWT nature reserve and found a good Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) plant to round off the walk.

Ragged Robin,Lychnis flos-cuculi

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