Thursday, 1 September 2016

East Garston and Eastbury

Another month gone and only one long walk to show for it. Generally August had been hot and dry, too hot for a long walk.

This time I chose a long planned walk to link the walks along the Lambourn Valley and the B4000 Roman road that links Swindon and Newbury. I started at East Garston. Here is a map of the 9 mile walk:

The church looked fine in the morning light.

East Garston Church.

I then walked along the disused railway line 'Lambourn Valley Way' up the valley to 'Eastbury'. I had not really explored this small village before and it has some picturesque thatched buildings. Like East Garston the houses are packed either side of the River Lambourn which at this point is more like a stream.

Eastbury

I continued along the Way to Bockhampton - an abandoned medieval village which is now just a set of indistinct bumps in the ground. Looping back on the other side of the river I then climbed up the south side of the valley. Here the farmer had planted a strip of Sunflowers for the benefit of pheasants. They a splash of bright colour that was popular with bees.

sunflower bee

Reaching Cleeve Wood I took a detour to the Watts Bank Nature Reserve close by. It had a great range of plants that were enjoying the midday sunshine. An area was covered with Devil's Bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) apparently so-called because the root looks like it has been bitten off. Here is one flower in bud.

devils bit scabious bud

They are very attractive to bees and butterflies. I saw Small Tortoiseshells, Small Whites and this Painted Lady feeding on the nectar.

painted lady butterfly,devils bit scabious

This time of year Harebells (Campanula rotundifolia) are out. Such a delicate and perfect flower.

harebell

A related bellflower was also on display in good numbers is the Clustered Bellflower (Campanula glomerata).

clustered bellflower

There were a few gentians in one area, I think they may be Chiltern Gentians (Gentianella germanica) rather than Autumn Gentians, they were certainly growing on a chalk bank. I had previously visited the Reserve in Spring and it was good to see such a good range of plants in Late Summer. Nearby I saw a pair of Chalkhill Blue butterflies to emphasise the point.

chiltern gentian

Leaving the reserve I set out south along shady tracks. I came across a Red Admiral sucking up some nutrients from the mud, it stayed still and let me get quite close.

red admiral butterfly

Reaching the Roman road (B4000) - one of many named 'Ermine Street' - I walked a rather tricky mile along it dodging lots of fast moving traffic and then headed off north through woods an fields. The first field had a good range of arable weeds including Scarlet Pimpernel and Field Madder.

field madder

The rearing of pheasants for shooting is prevalent in this area, I came across dozens of pheasant poults close to their feeders. As young birds they are reasonably well camouflaged against ripe grain in the fields.

pheasant

Coming back to the Lambourn valley there were lovely distant views to be had.

view

Walking through a field of dead broad beans, yet to be harvested, the path yielded quite a few arable weeds. After stepping on a patch of tiny yellow flowers I stopped to take a closer look. I was soon excited to note that the flowers were 'snapdragon' like and it must be one of the two fluellens. I think it is Round-leaved fluellen (Kickxia spuria) which I had not seen before. It is a charming little plant.

Round leaved fluellen

Shortly before returning to East Garston there was an ivy hedge that was already in full flower. Many bees and wasps were tucking in as well as no fewer than five red admiral butterflies. Close by a female Holly blue butterfly (Celastrina argiolus) was sunning itself on an ivy leaf. The full list of butterflies on the walk was: Small white, green-veined white, meadow brown, chalkhill blue, holly blue, red admiral, painted lady, small tortoiseshell and speckled wood (masses of these).

holly blue,Celastrina argiolus

I explored the picturesque village again and retook scenes I have posted from a previous visit. The main lane through the village shows the high number of thatched properties.

East Garston Lane

And some lovely 'cottages' this one is right by the Lambourn.

East Garston, cottage

I reached the car just after 4pm and decided there was an opportunity to quickly re-visit another local nature reserve. Having seen lots of Devil's Bit Scabious at Watts Bank I thought I would check up on Seven Barrows which is also a noted location for this plant. I had vaguely hoped to see a good range of butterflies but regrettably only a few Small tortoiseshells, small white and this green veined white was seen. In May or June the rare Marsh Fritillary may possibly be seen here - I failed to find any on 29th June last year - they need Devils Bit Scabious for the caterpillars to feed on.

green veined white

As a final picture I have chosen a spider, probably Araneus quadratus and heavily pregnant.

spider

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