Walks following the Old Street in Oxfordshire and West Berkshire.Wantage - Ridgeway
Ridgeway - Farnborough
Farnborough - Catmore
Catmore - Hermitage
Hermitage - Bucklebury
Summer 2011 turned out to be a record breaker - for coolness - the coolest since 1993. So much for the forecast from The Weather Outlook who forecast a warmer than average summer, but slightly better than last year when the Met. Office came out with their infamous 'barbecue summer' forecast. Just to spite everyone, the temperatures began to rise on the first day of September. I took the opportunity to walk a medium length (about 10 miles) that connects to a local network of walks. Some months ago I followed Old Street from the Ridgeway to Hermitage, this walk extends it to the south and east. Here is the map:
View Hermitage - Frilsham - Bucklebury in a larger map
Walking north from Hermitage towards the M4 I walked across one of a number of fields with Chicory (Chicorium intybus) still in flower. I am not sure if this used to be a crop plant some time ago, there was certainly a lot of it. I can still remember chicory being sold as a rather poor substitute for coffee.
Walking into the first of many stretches of woodland I glimpsed a deer grazing by the side of a track. It is rare for me to catch a deer this close to the camera even though I usually spot one or two during a walk. Probably a roe deer (Capreolus capreolus).
In the distant farmland there was a field that surely must be covered in poppies, I am not sure what else could have given the field that colour.
The path then joined up with the path I made around Yattendon, and this time the church at Frilsham was open. Although 'tidied' up by the Victorians it does have the feel of an ancient church with its roots going back to St. Frideswide in the Anglo Saxon period (who lends her name to Frilsham).
The walled up north door looks suitably old.
The village of Frilsham is as you might expect from its name, more a hamlet than a village, with no sense of a village centre and only a few large houses. This one has a fine old car outside.
Frilsham Common is a patch of woodland that contains another ancient monument associated with St. Frideswide. This is a 'miraculous' well, (recently tidied up) which sustained the saint while she was hiding from the unwelcome amorous advances of Aelfgar in the eighth century. In later years a religious order was founded in Oxford in her honour that survived up to the Reformation, when it became Wolsey College after Thomas Wolsey's dramatic fall from grace, Henry VIII reformed it as Christchurch College Oxford. St. Frideswide is the patron saint of Oxford.
Hidden away on the outskirts of Frilsham is a pub, the Pot Kiln, much more a restaurant than a pub. Lots of middle class couples were rolling up for lunch when I passed by. It has a high reputation for game and particularly venison, so the deer I spotted earlier had better watch out as the owner hunts for his ingredients locally.
The path turned south to the village of Bucklebury through the woods. In a clearing I spotted a pair of Speckled Wood butterflies (Pararge aegeria) flirting with each other. On this walk I saw only Speckled Woods, Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns.
There are one or two fine houses:
Bucklebury is where I join up with a walk I did some years ago from Thatcham all the way home. The main building of interest is Bucklebury Church
The south door has a decorated Norman archway with some Celtic elements, illustrating how the Norman conquest did not wipe out the art of previous ages.
Just to the East of Bucklebury is a crossing of the River Pang, even though there was water flowing at Frilsham, here it had disappeared altogether. Clear evidence that it is running over chalk and that the weather has generally been rather dry in the last few years, particularly in the Spring.
Signs of the onset of autumn were all around. Pheasants were in great numbers, many were moulting to tranform into their gaudy adult plumage.
Another sure sign were the emergence of fungi (Lycoperdon) here and there.
To the south east of Hermitage is a large mainly conifer woodland managed by the Forestry Commission.
In the middle of a forest I came across my only thatched house of the day.
And so back to Hermitage. Only one flower shot so far, so I will end on a another bright coloured flower, Greater Willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum)