Thursday, 5 July 2012

Baydon; Lambourn and Aldbourne

At last a short lived brighter spell between the grey and damp conditions. The forecast was for heavy showers later on, I decided to risk it though. Due to the damp and muddy conditions, I decided to head for the chalk hills that are less affected by lying water. So I drove to Baydon which is a village close to the M4 on a Roman Road that ran directly from a Roman camp close to Swindon to one at Speen near Newbury.

The area is drizzled with ancient history; there are bronze age barrows as well as iron age hill forts. The most familiar names in British history are associated with the area. King Alfred was born at nearby Wantage and has a nearby hill fort named after him that I visited recently. However it is mysterious King Arthur that has the association with Baydon. This all comes down to where the twelfth and decisive battle of Mount Badon is located. Experts agree that it is most likely to be in the general Wessex area but then they search for place names that may be corrupted forms of 'Badon'. Baydon fits the bill as well as anywhere, without archaeological evidence which is very difficult for ancient battle sites, any theory is very speculative. You can read much more about it here. This is the map of the 13.5 mile walk:

View Baydon - Lambourn - Aldbourne in a larger map

I predicted that now would be the season of butterflies and other insects rather than flowers and that proved to be the case. One of the first butterflies I spotted was a Small Tortoiseshell on a Geranium (Cranesbill).

Small Tortoiseshell,Aglais urticae

After a walk along a lane, the path on the map disappeared completely, it should have gone a straight across some fields. But as I saw people working in the fields there I chickened out and stuck instead to field margins and had to improvise a route to avoid any possible argument about 'public rights of way'. This did turn out to be a good move as it enabled me to see three roe deer standing and then bounding away. Always a delight to see these graceful creatures.

Roe deer,deer

Looking down at the margins of the field there were masses of Scarlet Pimpernell (Anagallis arvensis). There was also the common weed Germander Speedwell, and the combination of colours was striking.

scarlet pimpernell,Anagallis arvensis

Back to the butterflies. There were quite a few to be seen here, the most common species was Meadow Brown.

meadow brown,Maniola jurtina

Over in the distance was a field with an unusual scarlet colour, I presume these must be poppies.

poppy field

As well as many Ringlet butterflies there were plenty of Large Skippers (Ochlodes faunus) too.

Large Skipper,Ochlodes faunus

I had now reached the area to the West of Lambourn, close to Ashdown House. Here were more butterflies than I could possibly count, there were dozens of them, one on every flower. Just as common were Burnet moths, I think these are the 5 spot variety (Zygaena lonicerae).

Burnet moth,Zygaena lonicerae

Another common moth that I happened to see was this Yellow Shell moth (Camptogramma bilineata) sheltering on hawthorn.

Yellow Shell, Camptogramma bilineata

At the top of Bailey Hill (which I suspect is a iron age hill fort) once again the path was unmarked and difficult to follow, I believe the farmer is discouraging use as I did find a footpath marker on the ground near a post. So I had to clamber over fences and run the gauntlet of inquisitive cows to get this view.

bailey hill

I then reached the M4 near Peaks Down, this is the highest point on the motorway (all of 225m above sea level, oxygen essential!) at least in England. Good views to Liddington Hill and the Great Ridgeway to the west.

Liddington Hill

My path then took me on a straight track down to the attractive village of Aldbourne. The butterflies continued to flap around. There was another Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) on the path, there quite a few in total, encouraging as they are meant to be in decline. I also saw a Marbled White butterfly.

Small Tortoiseshell,Aglais urticae

I have posted quite a few pictures of the magnificent church at Aldbourne (here and here), to add variety to this selection (not everyone likes butterflies and moths) here are a couple of other scenic views. The pub 'the Blue Boar' is on the village green, as it should be.

Blue Boar Aldbourne

And also some cottages on South Street. Note the weather-horse on the roof, Aldbourne is very much in horse country. As you can see the sun was now more in evidence, I was grateful that it had not been out all day as it would have been far too hot to want to walk a long distance.

Cottages Aldbourne

The path back to Baydon was overgrown in parts. The view back to Aldbourne village gives a good feel for the area in dappled sunlight.

Aldbourne village

The track here was the muddiest I had to walk today, requiring frequent diversion to avoid the worst of the deep puddles. At Baydon I was rewarded by a scene with a definite 'Ahhh!' factor - baby alpacas.


I did visit Baydon church and was saddened to see a series of buckets collecting the rainwater leaking through the roof; it is a small twelfth century church. When I went back to the car I was surprised to see a small gleaming tractor being offloaded. It turned out to be a Fordson Dexter still in factory condition (about 50 years old), a shame to muddy it by using it on the fields!

Tractor,Fordson Dexter

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