Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Hartslock to the Holies

This walk covers an the 'Goring Gap' segment of the Thames as it cuts through the chalk of the Chilterns. I have visited the area many times: here are accounts of trips in May 2013; August 2013 and August 2010. I walked the route in preparation for leading a group walk to commemorate the life of a much missed friend: Catherine Side.

View Hartslock to the Holies in a larger map

Walking from our starting point at the Bull at Streatley, we passed the church of St Mary's at Streatley looked attractive in the midday sun.

Streatley church

One of the busiest locks on this stretch of the River Thames is Goring Lock, it is one of the best maintained ones with flowerbeds beside the lock. The Thames does not look very full, due to the below average rainfall this summer.

Goring lock

There are a number of grand houses along the Thames, not many of which can be seen clearly from the public Thames Path. This one looked compelling complete with mooring and a boat, however the weeping willows will soon obscure much of it from view.

Streatley house,thames,boat

My prize for prettiest plant of the walk goes to Pale Toadflax (Linaria repens), it has small purple veined flowers and dainty foliage and not all that common.

pale toadflax

A sure sign of onset of autumn is the flowering of some flowers including Felwort also known as Autumn Gentian (Gentianella amarella).

felwort,autumn gentian

The plant appearing to cling on for dear life in poor conditions was this clustered bellflower, it was growing on a very steep slope in the Hartslock Nature Reserve. I have visited Hartslock a number of times to see the Monkey Orchids amongst over things.

clustered bellflower

The loveliest view is from Hartslock down to the River Thames and the Brunel bridge over it. It has been suggested that part of the picture of J.M.W. Turner's Steam and Speed was based on the view from here. Turner did stay at Basildon House and did some sketching in the area so it could be true.


Here is the picture courtesy of Wikimedia. It is the left-hand part that looks rather similar to the view from Hartslock.

Turner steam and speed

Walking back through Gatehampton, one of the brightest plants we saw near a railway bridge was Dark Mullein (Verbascum nigrum).

dark mullein,Verbascum nigrum

Over the last couple of weeks a good number of migrant Red Admiral butterflies have made there way over the channel from the continent.

red admiral,butterfly

Butterflies like the Red Admiral are easy to spot. Others are masters of disguise; this Meadow Brown, fairly inconspicuous at the best of times, was well concealed, given away only by its eye spot.

meadow brown,butterfly

The town of Goring-on-Thames has a fine mixture of old buildings on one, rather busy, road.


Across the Thames at Streatley, Vine House had an appropriate crop growing around the front door.


Perhaps the rarest butterfly I saw on the day was a Brown Argus (Aricia agestis). It is quite similar to a female Common Blue butterfly, but has not a hint of blue on its wings and also has the dark marks on the fore wings.

brown argus,butterfly,Aricia agestis

We then climbed a very steep path (over 200ft) to catch the best views east over the river to Goring and the line of the Chilterns in the distance.


This is the view from the top of the Holies with the view NE across to Goring.


I have been trying to get a good picture of a Large White butterfly to complete my recent 'egg to butterfly' page, but it turned out to be Green-veined White (Pieris napi).

Green veined white,butterfly,Pieris napi

I also saw a Brimstone butterfly doing a passable imitation of a leaf.

brimstone butterfly

The rarest plant I identified on the walk was Basil-Thyme (Acinos arvensis) it looks a bit like basil and smells like thyme. I had not expected to see it here and this added to the delight and surprise of seeing it.

basil thyme

This is the view from Lardon Chase, just to the NW of Streatley looking over to the line of the Chilterns.