Thursday, 9 April 2015

Woolhampton to Tidmarsh

Pang Valley

Walks in the Pang Valley, West Berkshire.

Compton - Hampstead Norreys
Hampstead Norreys - Frilsham
Frilsham - Bucklebury
Stanford Dingley - Tidmarsh

The first official Spring walk was a long one - 13 miles. I had to take my car for annual MoT and service and used the excuse to plan a long walk back home. Part of the route I had done about 7 years ago, but others were new to me. Very much a mixed bag, nothing of great rarity, but good to see nature springing in action. Here is map of my route:

I took the train to Midgham, which is actually the station at Woolhampton. The story is that the Great Western railway company wisely thought it was too easy to confuse with Wolverhampton so they chose the name of a hamlet Midgham a mile away. Woolhampton is on the A4 and the Kennet and Avon canal, which I went to see and almost got run over by this red cyclist.

Kennet and Avon canal

I headed north away from the Kennet valley, and soon saw some tree flowers emerging, I think it is one of the elms, whether a wych elm I can not be sure.

Elm flowers

The woods were full of Spring flowers, mainly lesser celandines, but in places wood anemones (Anemone nemorosa) were also out.

wood anenome

Less common are the dainty leaves and flowers of wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella).

wood sorrel

My walk then took me over some fields and a pied wagtail was busy on the recently tilled earth.

pied wagtail

The next section was along the extension of Bucklebury Common tree avenue. It was impressive in its length and age of oak trees that line it. This is Middleton country, with some of the pubs frequented by the Middleton family. With the Duchess of Cambridge heavily pregnant I half expected to see police milling around and blocking off footpaths. This is what happened in this area when Prince George was born back in July 2013.

tree avenue,Bucklebury Common

I then cut through a wood which had a very muddy path. I was rewarded by some nice catkins, but what I failed to notice when I took the picture was also some sort of shield-bug.

catkins,shieldbug

Wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides) has a rather strange flower, reminding me of a crab with large pincers.

wood spurge,Euphorbia amygdaloides

The church of St. Denys at Stanford Dingley is one of the oldest in Berkshire, pre-dating the Norman conquest and is Grade 1 listed.

Standford Dingley church

From Stanford Dingley I followed the valley of the River Pang towards Bradfield. There were many butterflies, most numerous were Small Tortoiseshells and Peacocks (maybe 50 of each) there were also some Brimstones and Commas but only two early male Orange Tip butterflies. This peacock butterfly was busy feeding among the blossom.

Peacock butterfly

You only glimpse the River Pang briefly, I saw quite a few fish in its crystal clear waters.

River Pang

At Bradfield two mallard drakes were snoozing. The iridescent green plumage was in fine fettle ready for the mating season.

mallard,drakes

It wouldn't be Spring without lambs! And in one field there was a flock of sheep but only one of the ewes had any lambs - and it had two as you can tell if you count the feet.

sheep and lambs

A bit further on towards Tidmarsh and I stalked a Comma butterfly. I had seen several flashes of bright orange earlier on, but only this one settled within camera view. I had to wait patiently for literally two minutes for it to open its wings out, but it was worth the wait. It does not seem to be well camouflaged.

Comma butterfly

The M4 motorway cuts through the woodland and fields at this point, and when it was built the footpath was diverted so that it now follows the motorway for about a mile.

Motorway M4

The path took me past many more butterflies over the fields to Tidmarsh. Here is the Greyhound pub which I count as my 'local' on the basis that I have walked down to it (two miles from home) and I probably have been there more than any other in the area.

Greyhound pub

From Tidmarsh I walked back home through Sulham Woods - full of dog walkers making good use of the warm afternoon sunshine.

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