Sulham and Pangbourne AreaWalks in my local area just west of Reading. Spring 2016
Another month gone without a posting, and what an amazing month weather-wise. Last winter was worryingly warm all the way into January, but unlike the rest of the northern hemisphere Britain has had a late winter with widespread snow in the last week of April. In some ways this is good news, as the average temperature from a combined mild winter and cold spring have evened things out. For wildlife it is a bit of a disaster, with short springs in the last few years many creatures have become active earlier, but this year low temperatures mean few flowers and few insects. The swallows that I saw a couple of weeks ago must be struggling to find food. As far as spring flowers has been concerned it has been generally good news, all too often a warm and dry April has caused the spring woodland flowers to be over in just a week or two.
This posting comes from three walks I have done in the last week in the local area. I have made a point of exploring some local woods I have rarely visited in Spring,.
The first picture is of some magnificent old beech trees that I have so far missed out on, they are in McIlroy park
McIlroy Park has fine views to the centre of Reading and also, as here, the River Thames over to Caversham.
Closer to home in Newbery Park is a stream that appears as a spring and after a hundred yards disappears down a swallow hole. This is because most of Tilehurst is on clay that overlays chalk, the lower slopes have had the clay removed and so the water is soaked up by the chalk. In the short stream section I saw two birds, a magpie and a crow making the best of the rare supply of running water.
I then explored Blundells Copse near the centre of Tilehurst. Here there is a larger stream with very marshy bits. It had a very impressive range of wildflowers, but the first plant I saw was a large patch of Allium triquetrum (Three-cornered leek) looking very lovely.
As a harbinger of things to come here in this post, here is a clump of English bluebells. You can see that they are English because the bells droop downwards and all the bells are in a rough line. The Spanish bluebell and the hybrid Spanish-English bluebell have bells pointing upwards and the bells point in all directions.
In the woods all about are patches (and some large areas) of a rarer plant. As it has a greenish flower for only a short period it is often overlooked. It is Moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina) or more helpfully 'Town-hall clock' because the curious flower head has five flowers four pointing in all four directions and one on top.
Apart from the other plants, mainly of interest to botanists, I managed to capture an Arum lily (Lords and Ladies) at about its best.
The other main area I explored is Harefield Copse and Boxgrove Wood on the western edge of Tilehurst just south of Sulham Woods. Here were many of the woodland flowers you would expect to see, wood anemones, woodruff, wood sorrel etc.. This is sanicle (Sanicula europaea), a somewhat rarer plant
Primroses that grow in gardens are more at home in the woods.
Yellow archangels (Lamium galeobdolon) are a very attractive member of the non-stinging nettle family.
An indicator of ancient woodland is the slow growing Butcher's broom (Ruscus aculeatus) with its very spiny stalks (the green things are not leaves they are botanically modified stems.
What I was particularly keen to see were the earliest of orchids in this area - early purple orchids (Orchis mascula). Sad to say they were still not in full bloom, and many had been damaged by careless walkers. In some previous years they have been passed their best by the end of April.
A final flower, the familiar forget-me-not, although I think this is the wood forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica).
Not a bad little collection considering all these were found from just walking a few miles from home.