Sunday, 18 November 2012

Theale, Padworth and Aldermaston Wharf

With a month to go before the shortest day, opportunities for walks become more limited and there is much less to see now most fungi are over. Earlier in the year I had claimed I had completed the Kennet and Avon canal all the way from Reading past Hungerford into Wiltshire. I was wrong, I had missed out a fairly local section of the canal between Theale and Padworth. So this walk on a crisp Sunday corrects the omission. So I can now claim to have now walked the whole of the Berkshire stretch (30 miles). Here is map of the walk - 10 miles in all.


View Theale - Padworth - Kennet and Avon in a larger map

You might think this was the Lake District from the picture. The old gravel pits around Theale never have much in way of wildlife interest. They look good in autumn though.

Theale,lake

Many leaves have fallen, but not all by any means, Sycamore was on the turn.

leaves,sycamore

My path led up past Sulhamstead Police College (complete with a Police museum). At a farm there were hundreds of starlings - a rare enough sight these days. The muddy path then led through a field of cows; I was a bit concerned when they all cantered over towards me. One word and they were spooked and ran off, before approaching me again a little more carefully and then running off.

cows

At Sulhamstead Bannister Upper End (about the longest English place name I have ever come across) was a house caught in the midday sun.

Sulhamstead Bannister Upper End

The path runs along the edge of a ridge with good views over the Kennet valley, north-west to Beenham and Bucklebury.

view

With few flowers and no butterflies I have to resort to farm animals. I am not sure which breed of horse these are. The piebald markings make them look somewhat like Jersey cows from a distance.

view

Oak trees were still in leaf, and a few were still predominantly green, others had changed to deep orange-red.

oak,autumn

Of the few flowers still out was hogweed. Close by I was delighted to see a group of goldfinches feeding on seed-heads.

hogweed

Following a recent talk on Hairstreak butterflies I have another thing to look out for. Brown Hairstreaks lay their eggs in Blackthorn at about eye level. They are fairly localised in distribution and unknown in Berkshire so worth scanning for. In places buckthorn berries were abundant.

sloe,buckthorn

I can't resist including another shot of magnificent old oaks in autumn.

oak,autumn

The path led me to Padworth, I have visited the church several times before, with the sun in the position where it was, the tower was the best feature.

Padworth church

I have published a few pictures of burdock, including some in bud. Here is the seed-head with all those incredibly efficient hooks.

burdock

I then reached Aldermaston Wharf which is two miles down slope from Aldermaston itself, it is still a busy canal port with dozens of boats tied up there. There are some grand houses along Mill Lane leading down to the canal.

Aldermaston Wharf

Then it was back along the canal tow path all the way back to Theale. There were many fishermen along the banks, several with very long rods to reach the opposite bank. A little further the most spectacular autumn colour of the day came from a large field maple.

field maple,autumn

I saw only one boat actually moving on the waters. This was the most interesting looking moored boat.

Kennet and Avon canal,boat

The seeds were all ready to be blown away.

seed head

Not many waterfowl on the canal, this swan hissed at everyone who passed.

swan

A final shot of the Kennet and Avon canal in autumn glory.

Kennet and Avon canal,autumn

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