Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Mapledurham and Goring Heath

This was perhaps the last 'winter walk' of the season where it is a bit of a struggle to find anything of note. From now on I expect to see far too much and have to be more selective. Here is map of my ten mile route:

I continued to follow the route of the Chiltern Way (Southern Extension) from where I left it at Path Hill in early February. In fact I had to go back and do a bit of overlap as I had accidentally followed a parallel path to the 'official' route last time. This took me passed some geese, who for once were showing more interest in feeding than chasing me away.

geese

Spring flowers are coming along nicely. Not only these dog violets but also ground ivy was coming into flower.

dog violet

Most of my route was through woodland or close to it, this picture gives an impression of the general scene.

winter woods

On a good day the path gives excellent views over the whole of Reading and Purley-on-Thames. It was much too misty for that today. This is the view north along the Thames up to Pangbourne - you can just make out the Toll bridge at Whirchurch in the distance.

river Thames

I then reached Mapledurham only 1.5 miles from home as the crow flies. You can go and see it in action during the Summer. It is the last water mill on the River Thames, only kept open for tourist visitors. As well as a water mill it now has a turbine to generate some electricity.

Mapledurham mill

Mapledurham House was still closed for the winter but the church was open. The church and village are famous as the filming location for much of the war film The Eagle Has Landed. As often is the case the oldest thing in the church is the font. This striking barrel form is considered to be early Norman (1,000 years old) and is unusual in having some paint on it (of what I age I am uncertain).

Mapledurham church font

Another unusual feature is that the church has a ‘closed aisle’ containing monuments to the Lords of Manor. This is screened off from the body of church and there is a small door, very rarely used, to gain access. The church is dedicated to St. Margaret of Antioch.

Mapledurham church

I then continued on the Chiltern Way (Southern Extension) to the East up through more woods. I saw a bracket fungus still in good condition.

bracket fungus

The next section was dominated by a golf course, the Caversham Heath Golf Course which was surprisingly busy for mid-week in March. This is the 'barn-like' club house.

Caversham Golf Club House

I came to the end of my walking of the Chiltern Way at Tokers Green, one garden here had a Quince bush bursting into flower.

Quince blossom

A lot further on, after walking through more woodland and some farmland I stopped for a drink, and looking around, I noticed that a bramble leaf had a very nice example of the work of a leaf miner (probably the Bramble Leaf Miner Moth [Stigmella aurella]). You can see the tiny grub starts off and zig zags along the edge getting bigger and bigger as it eats away before emerging as a small moth some weeks later.

leaf miner

Now for my main excitement of the walk, on a woodland fringe I came upon a small flock of tits. I could see blue and great tits but was not sure about a smaller one accompanying them. It is I think a Marsh tit (Poecile palustris).

marsh tit

It was showing a lot more interest in the hazel catkins than the other birds. A real treat to see in the countryside away from bird tables.

marsh tit

A favourite flower this time of year for me is the Lesser Celandine, it has a warm yellow colour and does not flower for very long.

The last picture is of a field that has just been ploughed. In years gone by it would by crows, rooks and gulls that fed on the worms and other invertebrates. In the Chilterns it is now more usually red kites that do the foraging. I find it odd to see birds of prey strutting around in a field, there were about a dozen in total.

red kite

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