Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Nuffield and the Ridgeway

Now that the Equinox has past a series of fine clear days has come along. With a fresh easterly breeze I chose to explore more of the Chilterns as the clear air usually gives good views. Here is a map of the 10 mile walk:

I started at Nuffield and first visited the church of the Holy Trinity, a group of volunteers were busy painting the church railings. Inside there were coffee and tea making facilities with promise of cake in the fridge, I resisted temptation and admired the early Norman font that had been later engraved. In the Chancel the Victorian rebuild had laid out the original medieval floor tiles to good effect.

Nuffield church,floor tiles,medieval tiles

Nuffield is one of the few villages on the line of the 'Ridgeway' long distance path. Lord Nuffield, the 'Morris' of motorcar fame, lived at Nuffield Place just to the north east of the village. I followed the path northwards a little to where it meets the Chiltern Way (Southern Extension). I then followed the path out into the sunshine close to Harcourt Hill, the hedgerow although narrow has a good range of plants. I last followed this path two years ago which took me through Ewelme and Swyncombe. In early October it is a bit of a struggle to find much in flower. This Hedgerow cranesbill (Geranium pyrenaicum) was looking fine though.

hedgerow cranesbill

The transition to autumn although not much evident in the leaves was clear in the hedgerow fruits - here a nice collection of rose hips.

hip

With no frosts the blackberries still look very edible.

blackberry

I saw about eight Red admiral butterflies, a speckled wood and a couple of small whites, rather disappointing as it was such a warm sunny day. All the butterflies were feeding on ivy nectar, in quite a few locations I saw ivy bees on the ivy too, they are certainly spreading fast.

red admiral,butterfly

The view from the path to the north and north-west were very good.

view

I then followed Chiltern Way Southern Extension the south west - a section I had not done before. It goes through woodland and farmland. I spotted a conker just splitting open which I thought was quite artistic.

conker,horse chestnut

Nearby on the path was a strange looking thing. From a distance I thought they might be a fungus growing on beech nuts but I think they are last year's Earth Star fungi (Astraeus or Geastrum - hard to tell). I have not seen them before and would love to see a fresh specimen as they are such unusual looking things.

fungi,earth star,Astraeus hygrometricus

The peak time for fungi should be in a couple of weeks, I saw quite a few fruiting bodies emerging. I think this is Sulphur tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare).

fungi,sulphur tuft

I then followed the Lane that is designated part of Swan's Way and turned off to climb up the Ridgeway path back towards Nuffield. This sections runs along 'Grim's Ditch' which is an impressive ancient monument, I last walked this part in July 2003, it had not changed much. I did see only three other walkers doing the Ridgeway. I can't help wondering if it is more like an ancient sunken track (hollow way) rather than a ditch. Certainly the bottom has a nice gentle slope. It probably served as a tribal boundary for many centuries in the Bronze/Iron Age. The original Ridgeway never ran along this route, it is a modern diversion to take walkers from the old route that is now tarmacked. For more on the Ridgeway see my page : Ancient Trackways, in fact my car journey took me on a quite likely part of the old Ridgeway route : Woodcote, Checkendon to Nuffield.

Returning back to Nuffield I decided there was enough time to head out East to explore a new area. Here is a general view of the woodlands I was passing through.

woods

I thought these young fungi made for a nice composition.

fungi

The paths took me down to 'English Farm' which is rather a strange name for a farm, aren't all the farms around here 'English'? The barn has a very undulating surface, I presume that means it was once thatched.

English Farm

Close by was a highlight of the day. Sheltered from the wind and in the warm sunshine was a dragonfly which for once sat still. I was able to take some close-ups. I initially thought it might be the Emperor Dragonfly as it looked so big, but on proper study I think it is a male Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea).

dragonfly,southern hawker

I then crossed Ipsden Heath and followed a path through farmland.

cattle,bullocks

One of my favourite buildings in the whole area is Homer Farm. It has changed a bit since my visit seven years ago.

Farm house

While crossing the fields back towards Nuffield a red kite was using the strong steady easterly breeze to good effect. I seemed to chase it over freshly ploughed fields where gulls, crows and pigeons were searching for insects.

red kite

Finally as the shadows were beginning to lengthen I took one last distant view looking north west towards Wittenham Clumps and Oxford.

view

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