Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Nettlebed - Bix - Pishill - Russell's Water

I decided to complete a couple more missing sections of the Chiltern Way (Main and Southern Extension) to the north of Reading and also walking a fair deal of the Oxfordshire Way (which runs all the way from the Cotswolds to the Chilterns).

A recent switch to colder northerly airflow had brought on autumn all of a sudden. Beech woodlands give spectacular colours for only for a brief, few days, the leaves change rapidly and immediately drop. I seem to have chosen the right day for best colour this year. Here is a map of the 9.5 mile walk.

I started at the evocatively named village of Nettlebed, which is blighted by the busy Oxford-Wallingford road running through it. Nettlebed is famous for its bricks and pottery, this only came to an end a hundred years ago. The local deposits of Reading clay proved very suitable and a number of kilns were in operation. The only bottle kiln in the country that remains is preserved in Nettlebed, hidden amongst modern housing. A lot more about the Nettlebed kilns can be found here.

brick kiln,nettlebed

I walked west to Crocker End which also produced bricks. Here I found a maple/sycamore (ornamental) was in good yellow colour.


I then followed the Chiltern Way (Southern extension) east through Wellgrove wood. There were a good range of fungi here .


At Bix Bottom I then picked up the Oxfordshire Way and followed it north. The Warburg Nature Reserve was showing fine autumn colours. I had caught the trees at just the right time - some are still green while others are deep red - no colour enhancement needed! The combination of green and red emphasizes the richness.

Warburg Nature Reserve,autumn woods

Flowers in bloom were in short supply, this dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) seem to think it was early summer.


Continuing north the path took me to Maidensgrove (another evocative name) where beside Lodge Farm a garden had let Chinese lanterns (Physalis alkekengi) escape into the edge of the path adding to the autumnal colour theme.

Physalis,Chinese lantern

Oxfordshire Way then continued into some ancient woodland which had a good range of fungi. I had thought the camera would have chosen to focus on the mushrooms but it latched onto the foliage - but it still created an interesting effect.


My star fungi of the day was picked out by a ray of sunlight. I think it is False Deathcap (Amanita citrina var. alba). Not considered poisonous but so similar to the real Deathcap that it is not worth taking the chance.

false deathcap,Amanita citrina

The path then emerged into farmland and along the hedgerow I spotted a butterfly in flight and then tracked it down to where it settled. I was delighted to find that it was a Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas); this is the latest (2nd November) that I have ever seen one. I did not see any other butterflies on the whole walk even though a Red Admiral is still around in my garden back home.

butterfly,small copper

Oxfordshire Way then continues to Pishill - a hamlet I had admired last October - and in the sunlight the little church/chapel looks much more attractive.

Pishill Church,church

I continued over fields and then into woodland to complete a new section of the long distance path. The managed woodland had less in the way of fungi but the autumn light was quite striking when it hit the odd tree in the woods.

autumn woods

I then left the Oxfordshire Way (I had previously followed its continuation towards Watlington) and turned onto the Chiltern Way. More woods and a few more fungi here and there were to be found. I think this is a form of funnel mushroom (Clitocybe) but not sure which one.

fungi,clitocybe,funnel mushroom

After a couple more miles I emerged onto a road and had managed to follow the full Chiltern Way correctly for once (there is a permissive path that you are encourage to take as it avoids walking along the road) and it was worth the detour - there was another woodland edge full of amazing colour.

autumn woods

The Chiltern Way leads through Russell's Water which I had visited in 2014 and 2015 so I need not add another picture of its famous pond. It then leads steeply down and on the path I found to my surprise a dead grey squirrel. Turning south onto what was clearly an ancient track there were old coppiced trees. I spotted this snapped off tree trunk and thought it looked unusual in the sunlight.

tree trunk

My ambition for this walk was to complete a missing section of the Chiltern Way (Southern extension), this is quite hard as the O.S. map says 'Chiltern Way' on lots of bits of path that are not entirely correct. I reached the point where the Chiltern Way (Southern extension) splits off from the Chiltern Way and followed it up the side of a valley towards the west side of the Warburg reserve. Here once again the colours were truly spectacular. You can see that the trees had already shed a number of their leaves to colour carpet the field edges. The path with the stile is the Chiltern Way - a section I have not walked so no doubt I will be back here again some day.

autumn woods

The walk then fringes the woods of the Nature Reserve heading back south to Crocker End. Along the way bryony fruits were shiny in the hedgerow. I think this is black bryony (Dioscorea communis) rather than white bryony - not so easy to distinguish now the leaves have gone.

black bryony,Dioscorea communis

I took in all 142 photographs, so this is but a very small selection. A memorable day full of autumn colour.