Walks following the long distance path from Inkpen south towards Stockbridge and Romsey.Inkpen - Combe
Combe - Linkenholt
Linkenholt - Hurstbourne Tarrant
A spell of warm, dry summer days were due to come to an end shortly so I took the opportunity to go for an exploration of paths I have long wanted to investigate. The area is in the chalk downs to the south of Inkpen and so reaches the dizzying height of 283m (928ft). However the walk was very much a series of climbs and descents and the Google Earth elevation profile gadget tells me that the total 'climb' was 463m (1519ft). The walk links in with two of my earliest blogged walks to Vernham Dean and Ashmansworth filling in a gap in the sequence. Here is a Google map of the ten mile walk:
View Faccombe, Linkenholt and Combe in a larger map
I started off at the attractive little village of Faccombe and headed west along quiet lanes to Netherton. The road verges had the usual assortment of wild flowers. Speedwell is always eye catching at this time of year.
Netherton is a hamlet rather than a village yet still has some attractive thatched houses.
The path took me over farmland west to the attractive village of Linkenholt. This picture shows not only where it is, but also the time of day I was there.
Here I joined the Test Way, a Long Distance Path that runs from Inkpen all the way to Southampton. I did not see anyone else walking it on this day. I passed the old school house and the church.
The Test Way heads north and down to a major dry valley leading to Hartsbourne Tarrant. I heard the sound of people chatting away close by and stumbled on a camping site, probably set up by the Linkenholt Countryside Adventure.
Now for the wildlife and flowers. As I followed the dry valley north-west the farmland turns to meadows and woodland. An indicator of this is the strange flower of a Broomrape. This is a 'plant' without chlorophyll, it is entirely parasitic, different species of Broomrape feed on different host plants and to identify which one it is usual to look at the surrounding plants. In this case I think thyme is my best guess.
The path opens up into a beautiful high chalk meadow. The steep south facing slope has all the flowers you would expect from such a location. Thyme; milkwort; rock rose and, here, bird's foot trefoil just to start with.
You would also expect orchids, and yes indeed there were literally thousands of them as it is such an extensive slope. Common Spotted orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) were by far the most numerous, dotted all over the area.
Just coming up were Pyramidal orchids (Anacamptis pyramdalis) still in bud.
Much rarer and the first time I have seen them were dozens of Fragrant Orchids (Gymnadenia conopsea). The fragrance is described as 'delicate' to my nose it was so delicate that it was hard to detect. I was particularly pleased to see them as they were on my wish list for this year and I had no idea that I would find them there.
In normal years I would have expected to see a fair number of butterflies, particularly on this sunny chalk slope. All I saw on this slope were 'micro moths'. Elsewhere all I saw was Green-veined white (1); Small tortoiseshell (1); Small white (1); Speckled wood (2) and Brimstone (1). Dragging myself away from the orchids I took a track north through woodland towards Combe. Along the path was Cinquefoil.
and Red Campion in bud.
The track climbs up and down before reaching the small hamlet of Combe, it does have a nice old church (St. Swithun's) with a Saxon font and parts of Norman date. The village used to be owned by Kings College, Cambridge.
Combe takes its name from its position in a deep cut valley, surrounded by chalk downs (a cirque) probably derived from the Welsh (Celtic) 'cwm'. Welsh names are fairly rare in Southern England, Inkpen just to the north is another example of a Celtic place-name. Here is a view of the 'combe' it had mercifully clouded over as it was getting a bit hot for walking.
At the top of the downs bumble bees were feeding on buttercups.
The chalk drops away dramatically to the north forming the high scarp slope with amazing views over Berkshire and beyond. The house in the middle distance is at East Woodhay.
I followed Wayfarer's Way along the ridge as far as the path south-west back to Faccombe. Along this path is another high chalk meadow with more Common Spotted and Pyramidal orchids.
The pleasant path downwards goes through woodland where Cleavers (Goosegrass; Galium aparine) was showing its tiny flowers. You can see the tiny hooks on the leaves giving it ‘stickiness’ and hance common name ‘stickyweed’.
Finally a view of the walk back down to Faccombe.