Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Beenham, Aldermaston Wharf and Rotten Row

Occasionally I look at the walks I have done (165 now on this blog) and spot an area yet to be explored. This one is fairly close to home; Beenham is a village I can't remember ever driving through let alone walking around so this was another travel of discovery. Here is a map of the ten mile walk:

As it is only two months to the shortest day we ought to be deep into autumn. Each year I am surprised on how late oaks and beech lose their leaves, as there was no real sign of this yet. For autumn colour I needed to mainly look at ornamental plants in gardens. This is some sort of dogwood giving a fine purple colour.

dogwood

During the whole walk I was hearing an almost continuous sound of acorns showering down from the oak trees, denting any cars parked underneath them. I walked from Chapel Row to Beenham, this has a prize-winning pub the Six Bells. The roof tiles looked particularly a particularly striking shade of orange.

six bells at Beenham,pub

There were fine views of the countryside to be had with autumnal tints here and there.

view

Previous postings for October have included a fair few butterflies feeding on autumn flowers and fruit. The rather cool and overcast conditions seems to have cut numbers substantially. On this walk I saw three butterflies, two in the distance but one was sunning itself and let me get quite close. It's a particularly dark example of a comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album).

comma,butterfly,Polygonia c-album

If there were more butterflies they could have made good use of the many flowers that were still out. There has yet to be a sharp frost. Here is a favourite late flower - borage - anyone for Pimm's?

borage

I walked south from Beenham into the Kennet valley, on a farm on the way were some hens on the loose, with a lordly cockerel keeping an eye on them and here hoping for some food.

cockrel

The valley holds the River Kennet, the A4 road, a Railway line and the Kennet and Avon canal - a busy transport corridor. There were a large number of boats stacked up on the canal at Aldermaston Wharf.

kennet and avon,canal,boats

Close by, I saw a mallow in full flower. This is, I think, a cut-leaved mallow (Malva alcea), a probable garden escape.

mallow,Malva alcea

The reason for the walk down to the valley was, as is my wont, to link up two networks again - the Kennet and Pang valleys. Having achieved that I set off back towards Beenham, past the busy Beenham Industrial estate. I was surprised to see an old, mature Lebanon cedar on the way. Reaching the top of the valley side I came to Beenham church which is some distance from the village centre. It is a Victorian total rebuild after two previous fires had reduced it to ashes. I found little of great age, even the font was 'modern' but there are records of settlement back to Norman age. The village of Beenham is just a scattering of old houses now linked up by modern development this is because it is on high ground and there was no water until technology allowed deep wells to be dug. Talking of water supply the roads were awash in several places - it seems the water mains still struggle to maintain pressure to supply houses in the village.

Beenham church,church

Beenham's main attraction is that it is the only place in the UK you can see wolves in the wild. The UK Wolf Conservation Trust is just north of the village, it is well worth a visit, you can go for a walk with the wolves - they treat us as members of the pack. I don't think there have been any escapes to local woodland - so this next shot is not one that I took!

wolves

I headed north through Bradfield Southend and on the track was a lovely cottage and barn. I had to wait a couple of minutes for a cloud to move over, it was worth the wait. Hidden behind the quaint thatched barn was a horrid concrete garage which you can fortunately not see from this spot.

thatched house and barn

Bradfield Southend is another case of rural ribbon development that has grown out of hand. I then headed towards Stanford Wood, just over the road from here was a cherry in fine autumn colour.

autumn colours

Rotten Row is a hamlet on a steep slope down to Stanford Dingley in the Pang valley. It has some nice old buildings with fine views. One of the house names is called ‘Wits End’ which is probably amusing to begin with and then get rather wearing, at least the owner can say with some truth ‘I am at my Wits End’!

rotten row,tutts clump

I followed the woods along the bottom of the steep slope. At one point good views open up north over the Pang valley.

autumn view

It being mid-October I would hope to see lots of fresh fungi at their best. Not so this year, it has been totally dry for a week or two which has probably held them back, the only places I saw fungi were in very damp places. The specimens I saw were rather old and bedraggled, but I retain hope for a late showing. This little group could be Sulphur Tuft.

fungi,sulphur tuft

I made my way way south to my starting point at Chapel Row. The shop over the road is a strong hint that this is a posh area, it is on the fringes of Bucklebury and just half a mile from the Middleton family property (that's Prince George's other grandparents). The L Interiors shop has a rather expensive range of items for sale.

chapel row shop,L interiors

My concluding shot is a bit of a cheat as it was not taken in the area but on my way back home. I had seen had seen rather little autumn colour in native trees and shrubs. I had been given a tip off that the Wild Service Trees less than a mile from home were worth a look, and they were.

wild service tree,autumn

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