Friday, 1 July 2011

Boxford, Welford and Wickham

After a few days of torrid temperatures a welcome return to cooler conditions and a few showers made another walk possible. I decided to complete the infamous Lambourn Valley Way, infamous because it has failed, except for a couple of hundred yards to be all that exciting. The final section, does not go anywhere near the River Lambourn, or for that matter the old Newbury-Lambourn railway that it follows for only half of its path. Here is the map of the walk.

View Boxford - Wickham in a larger map

I started the ten mile walk at Boxford, but I stopped off on route to investigate Boxford Common. This turned out to be worthwhile as it is as 'ancient' wood and has an area of meadow where Viper's Bugloss has run riot.

Boxford Common


Many butterflies were on the wing including this Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris). (But could it be an Essex Skipper?)

Small Skipper,butterfly

About half the ragwort plants had Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae) caterpillars munching away at them.

cinnabar moth catterpillar

I then moved onto Boxford and followed the way over fields through a huge pig farm. I wonder about the welfare of these ‘free range’ pigs as although they are ‘outside’ the only food available is what the farmer provides in pellets, the pens are small and the pigs looked brain-dead, deprived of any stimulus. I think this is one of the ways the poor consumer is misled, ‘free range’ gives the impression of happy animals romping free in the countryside - the reality is often very different. However the crows and gulls love it, they were present in huge numbers.

In the distance you can see, and it is the only place you can see it, ‘R.A.F. Welford’. This is one of the remaining U.S. air force bases left in the U.K.. RAF/USAF Welford is in fact a huge munitions dump, all the big bombs used on missions to Europe and beyond are kept here. The strange 'Works Unit' junction off the M4 indicates its strategic use for quickly moving bombs around the country, for some years it had a dedicated railway branch line too.

pig farm

Anyway, with scarce distant views, flowers were the theme of the day, there was Bugle (Ajuga reptans) everywhere.

Bugle,Ajuga reptans

Walking over the fields I came to the tiny village of Welford and made a slight detour to visit the church.

Welford church

The church is unusual in having a round tower, may be the only one in Berkshire, but unfortunately everything is not as it should be. The Victorians decided to rebuild it, but taking note of the Saxon foundations when they did so. The early church is also indicated by the presence of a lovely late Norman/Early English font. It also has a brass monument to the pompous looking Victorian vicar who supervised the rebuild.

Welford church font

Over the porch is a statue of St. Gregory the Great (the Pope); he is shown with a Bible and a dove imparting Divine wisdom to him.

Welford church St Gregory

The Lambourn Valley Way led across fields to Weston, where I linked up with the section I completed last year from Great Shefford. I then headed over the fields to more woods. Here as in many pieces of 'ancient' wood were good patches of Enchanter's Nightshade (Circaea lutetiana). I'd love to know how it came by its name. The latin name alludes to a myth about Aeneas and Circe, but I reckon that this is a later tale.

Enchanters Nightshade

This led me onto a path alongside the M4, and here the farmer had left a strip for wild flowers and these had attracted this strange fly. In fact a hoverfly - Volucella pellucens.

strange fly

And also quite a few butterflies - meadow brown and ringlet mostly, but a comma and quite a few marbled whites (Melanargia galathea).

marbed white,Melanargia galathea

I then headed under the M4 to the small village of Wickham; it has a fine old church.

Wickham Church

The tower includes fragments of Roman building rubble and was built by the Saxons and claims to be the oldest church tower in Berkshire. The main body of the church is another heavy Victorian restoration with not a great deal to commend it.
Back to the flowers and butterflies. Quite a few field margins had been left (or sown?) as wild flower strips and there were many butterflies flitting around. Here was a green veined white (Pieris napi).

green veined white,Pieris napi,butterfly

Many of the paths I used were rarely walked, in most cases the farmer had taken care to maintain them even if they inconveniently went directly across their fields.

field path

In the following field of beans I saw several scarlet pimpernels (Anagallis arvensis), clearly the best place to seek them out.

scarlet pimpernell,Anagallis arvensis

The field edges were full of butterflies which were very flighty, only one or two ringlets (Aphantopus hyperantus) remained settled long enough for a close-up.


I like the spiky effect of the furled 'petals' of the Ragwort flowers.

ragwort buds

A temporary road closure at Boxford caused the narrow lanes to be busier than normal. The narrow lanes had a fine display of hedgerow plants, including this Scabious (Knautia arvensis).

scabious,Knautia arvensis

And so back to Boxford, which has only a few pretty cottages and nothing to rival East Garston. However the less tidy surroundings gave them a more homely look.



Anonymous said...

The photos on here are superb and the commentary is informative and thought-provoking. However I am wondering whether the photo labelled Bugle might possibly be Self-Heal?

Rambler said...

Thanks, yes it is selfheal