Monday, 4 November 2013

West Ilsley and the Ridgeway

After some much needed rain in the last month the weather has been not too good for walking. After about an inch of rain last night the weather was forecast to be clear and bright. With so much rain I decided I must choose a walk over chalk to avoid muddy paths. I naturally thought of the Ridgeway near Wantage as the main path is never wet there, I looked at previous walks and one village I had missed out on was West Ilsley. It lies just to the west of the busy A34 and of course East Ilsley the focus of a walk two and half years ago. Here is a map of the walk:

View West Ilsley and the Ridgeway in a larger map

With a cold, fresh north westerly wind the views were spectacular, it was a good time to walk the Ridgeway to capture distant views. The Didcot power station is the most noticeable landmark.

ridgeway,didcot power station

The Great Ridgeway has the width of a motorway here, I presume because it was used for droving flocks of sheep. On the horizon as a tiny blob is the figure of another walker.


After walking East for half a mile I turned south on a track leading towards West Ilsley. Riders were taking horses up the gallops. Some fungi in the grass were still looking fairly fresh. Probably Common Bonnet (Mycena galericulata)


In the hedgerows there was plenty of fruit: apples; haws; sloes; rose hips; bryony;elder berries; guelder rose and here the tempting berries of dogwood (Cornus)


Also tempting looking, but poisonous to animals, were the berries of Bittersweet or Woody nightshade (Solanum dulcamara), a member of the potato/tomato family.


I reached the small village of West Ilsley, but not much to be seen. The church was closed due to an unsafe roof and there is no shop.

West Ilsley churchyard

The houses are of mixed age with some attractive old ones here and there.

West Ilsley

I then headed south and autumn was now in evidence in all the trees.

autumn tree

At this time of year the only flowers still out in any number are ivy flowers. In one patch the ivy had attracted a mixture of different types of fly and also wasps. I had hoped that butterflies might still be possible but I did not see one. This fly is I think the flesh fly (Sarcophaga carnaria).

flesh fly,Sarcophaga carnaria

The paths over the downs were attractive in the November sunshine.


One field had attracted a flock of gulls enjoying the sun in a valley protected from the cold wind.


I passed some ancient woodland on my way to join up with another long distance path: Old Street. I walked this section a couple of years ago on the East Ilsley walk. This track was loved by John Betjeman, who used to live at nearby Farnborough. Alongside the ancient track were some lovely old trees, beneath one beech tree was a collection of purple fungi - blewits I think.


While the beeches were showing some sign of colour change and dropping their leaves, some mighty oaks were still in total denial that it was getting rather late in the season. The photograph would have been the same two months ago.


This section of Old Street is higher than the Ridgeway and when it emerges from the woods excellent views all around are revealed.

Old Street,path

In places the fine autumn colours add to the scene.

autumn view

At Starveall Farm - not the most encouraging name for a farm - an old barn also had rich autumn colour.

Starveall Farm

I made my way back up to the Ridgeway, and here was pleased to see, as I often do at this time of year, a group of Linnets feeding on the hawthorn berries.


I am in danger of a post without a single flower. Even though it was November there were blackberry flowers, yellow hawkbits, white deadnettles, red campions and here some thistles.


Along the Ridgeway, it was the tremendous views that inspire, here is another view towards Didcot.

ridgeway,didcot power station

And finally one of the distant view of the Chilterns, from Goring up to at least to Watlington in the East.