Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Stokenchurch and Ibstone

September is often a good month for walks, not too hot and often some dry and sunny days. It is too early in the season to call it an Indian Summer but after a cool August it does seem like a second Summer. The focus of this walk was to cover a few more miles of the Chiltern Way which is a network built up fairly recently by linking up older public rights of way. It was also an opportunity to visit Stokenchurch which is a large village on the A40 and close to the M40 which I had not visited before. The village grew up when the A40 was built as a major London-Oxford highway in 1824. The M40 has made it a convenient home for commuters into London. Here is a map of the 7.5 mile walk:

View Stokenchurch in a larger map

Stokenchurch's name suggests it is a meadow (for stock - stoke) associated with a small church. The village has very few old buildings. The oldest is the church which has been extended from an earlier small chapel that now forms the chancel.

Stokenchurch church,church

The opening to the chancel has carving reminiscent of early Norman and is probably of 12th Century date.

Stokenchurch church,chancel

However I fear I might upset some people by including a photograph of the worst example of modern stained glass I have ever seen. The left part of the triptych is dated 2004 and is extremely kitsch with poor representations and garish colours quite out of sympathy with the rather dowdy earlier parts (1938 and 1914-19).

Stokenchurch church,stained glass

While waiting for a friend to appear to join me on the walk I observed a Buddleia bush in the car park which had a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly and a good number of Red Admiral butterflies (Vanessa atalanta) on it.

Red admiral,butterfly,Vanessa atalanta

We set off on the Chiltern Way and saw a hawthorn bush totally covered in red haws.

hawthorn bush

The fields were fairly tidily managed so there were only a few pockets suitable for wild-flowers. One of the best patches was close to some farm buildings. A tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) was feeding on Toadflax.

toadflax,tree bumblebee,Bombus hypnorum

Leaving the Chiltern Way we took the path along the northern fringe of Crowell Wood.


Here and there were signs of autumn fungi developing. A fine crop of puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum) were already showing above ground.

puffball,Lycoperdon perlatum

At the edge of a wood was a fine specimen of a Small Balsam (Impatiens parviflora) a relative of the garden plant Busy Lizzie and the foreign invader the Himalayan Balsam.

small balsam,Impatiens parviflora

Leaving the woods our path headed south over fields and there was a nice selection of arable weeds still in flower. There was a field pansy (with a field speedwell in the picture too).

field pansy

I expected to see scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensi) in this sort of area and sure enough soon spotted a good few specimens still in flower.

scarlet pimpernel,Anagallis arvensi

I had hoped to see quite a few butterflies (I saw a good selection last week) but only saw a few white butterflies and lots of (14 in all) Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria).

Speckled Wood butterfly,Pararge aegeria

To continue the Chiltern Way south we passed back through the main car park, and I was delighted to see something hovering on the buddleia bush where I had seen the Red Admiral butterflies earlier. These summer migrants are the closest we get to hummingbirds. The bush was on the other side of a wall and these were the best shots I could get of these magnificent little creatures - Hummingbird Hawk-moths (Macroglossum stellatarum) - not looking much like a moth at all. The wings beat so fast that they 'hum' and are impossible to catch on a standard camera, they always come out as a blur.

Hummingbird Hawk-moth,Macroglossum stellatarum
Hummingbird Hawk-moth,Macroglossum stellatarum
Hummingbird Hawk-moth,Macroglossum stellatarum

South of the M40 there was the same picturesque mixture of fields and woods.


At Ibstone Common I joined up with a segment I had walked four years ago. There I noted a solitary Sarsen stone which stands in the common looking like it has been there for ages. A little Internet research indicates that it is the 'Millennium Stone' and was erected in 2000, so appearances can be deceptive!

Ibstone,sarsen stone

On the way back from Ibstone the sky was full of red kites (Milvus milvus), at least thirty all circling around. They were following a tractor that was ploughing a field. Not so long ago it would have been rooks, crows and gulls that followed the plough so the re-introduction of the red kite may be hitting the populations of these other scavengers.

red kites

Just before entering the parabolic shaped tunnel under the M40 that leads back into Stokenchurch I saw some mallows (Malva Sylvestris) still flowering well on the field edge.

mallow,Malva Sylvestris