Walks following the chalk downlands of south Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire on or near the Chiltern Way north of the Thames.Checkendon and Stoke Row
Woodcote and Goring
Stoke Row; Nettlebed and Bix
Cookley Green; Watlington; Stonor and Warburg
Rotherfield Peppard and Henley
Woodcote and Exlade Street
Cookley Green and Russells Water
Stokenchurch and Ibstone
Swyncombe and Ewelme
Whitchurch Hill and Crays Pond
Watlington and Britwell Salome
Mapledurham and Goring Heath
Turville and Fingest
Sonning Common and Kidmore End
Russells Water and Pishill
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.
Spring flowers are coming along nicely. Not only these dog violets but also ground ivy was coming into flower.
Most of my route was through woodland or close to it, this picture gives an impression of the general scene.
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.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.