Saturday, 23 July 2011

Brimpton - Greenham Common

With northerly winds, the cool trend continues, so pessimism about an impending heatwave was not justified, and it looks like, thankfully, July will exceed average rainfall. This walk was another jigsaw filling exercise: an unexplored area joining up paths already trod. Here is the map of the 17 mile walk.

View Brimpton to Greenham Common in a larger map

I chose to follow the River Enborne that rises near West Woodhay and heads east to join the Kennet at Aldermaston Wharf. It marks the Hampshire-Berkshire border for a long stretch.

I started at the small village of Brimpton. It has all the normal village features, a pub, a village store, a thatched house.


As well as a fine church.

Brimpton church

In the churchyard I found a family of wrens, the parents trying to teach the fledglings what an alarm call means, this youngster had not quite caught on, fortunately for me.


In late July the wild flowers are looking a little tired and less varied, this is compensated for by an increase in butterflies. My tally for the day was Comma; Red Admiral; Common white; Common blue; Brimstone; Silver-washed Fritillary; Small Skipper; Speckled Wood; Meadow Brown; Small tortoiseshell; Peacock; Ringlet and most numerous of all, the Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus). This male had particularly striking markings.

gatekeeper,Pyronia tithonus

One of the plants still doing their thing were hawkweeds (here with three hoverflies on board).


And also geraniums.

Many signs of mellow fruitfulness on the way, including elderberries -


and fungi

I came across another family of birds, blackbirds, in this case the fledgling chose to play dead and camouflaged - quite successfully as you may be able to see.


I took a detour to the south towards Headley, and it proved a good idea. I came across this bird, right by the side of the path, once again playing dead, but less convincingly camouflaged, I think it is a young female pheasant, probably an escapee from rearing pens.


In the woods there was a patch of blackberries that had attracted many butterflies. In fact, compared to Buddleia, I would rate blackberries as better for butterflies. This silver washed fritillary (Argynnis paphia) took a little patience to catch in the lens, fortunately it kept coming back to the same bush.

silver washed fritillary,Argynnis paphia

I then came down the River Enborne (again this should really be River En or the Enborne see Lambourn) which had vast amounts of the Himalayan Balsam invader along its banks. There was Enchanter's Nightshade too.

Enchanters Nightshade

The 'river' (really a stream) was rather overgrown and difficult to see, this shot should give an idea of the area.

River Enborne

Here are there along the meandering route were patches of wild teasel (Dipsacus fullonum), with its unusual banded arrangement of flowers.

Teasel,Dipsacus fullonum

I then reached Crookham Common, this is a large expanse of 'acid heath' plants. Although efforts are being made to aid diversity by felling birch there was not very much to see. There was loads of Wood Sage and bracken with patches of Bugloss. I then walked over the road to Greenham Common, the famous abandoned USAF base with its cruise missiles and camp of women protesters, now full of dog walkers. It had a mass of short wild-flowers: clover; trefoil; centaury.

Greenham Common

To continue the birdy theme, I did catch this Stonechat having a good look around from the top of a gorse bush.


After walking a couple of miles along the old runway I turned north and followed an unprepossessing lane down to the fringes of Newbury and the Kennet and Avon canal and the inevitable shot of a long boat emerging from a lock.

Kennet and Avon canal

I do not really enjoy canal paths - straight and flat with stagnant water alongside. In recent years it is a question of dodging cyclists who seem to think they have right of way. There were a good selection of wildflowers especially comfrey along the way. However I did manage to catch the flowers of Bittersweet or woody nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) in focus for once, another poisonous member of the potato family.

Bitter sweet,Solanum dulcamara

Just before ending my four mile trudge along the canal bank I spied this moorhen on a raft of flotsam.


And so along a busy road to Brimpton, the only village I visited along this unintentional long (17 mile) walk. Few views but compensated for by birds; butterflies and flowers. To end, and to emphasise the farmland theme of the walk, a healthy looking herd of heifers.


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