After a warm sunny weekend I risked Monday as it had the best forecast for the week, however it was still overcast and cold when I set out, and remained for long after it was supposed to lift. I decided that winter was over and I should investigate woods and fields again. My last walk visited Fawley in Buckinghamshire so I decided to visit Fawley in Berkshire. I have previously visited the village - but back in October 2010 and March 2011. I started at Farnborough Church (there is also a Farnborough and Fawley in Hampshire just to confuse things). Here is a map of the walk (about 13.5 miles in total)
The Old Vicarage is famous as the former home of Sir John Betjeman from 1945 until 1951. It now has splendid gardens that are open to the public each Spring. It has been voted Britain's best parsonage.
I walked East from here to investigate Old Street, one of the oldest trackways in the area. I was pleased to see a number of plants that confirmed its antiquity including Wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) and Moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina). All the woods had a blanket of either bluebells (one or two were already out!) or dog's mercury. This is the male Dog's mercury (Mercurialis perennis) plant.
I then moved out of woodland towards Brightwalton. On the side of a lane a Small tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais urticae) was feeding on one of the few flowers along the lane - a dandelion.
A little further on I heard the distinctive song of a yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) and was just about able to catch a long distance shot of it looking in my direction.
From Brightwalton village I headed off towards Chaddleworth, on the edge of a wood I spied a lovely display of wood anemones.
Larches, those strange deciduous conifers, were coming into leaf and flower.
Chaddleworth has some lovely old buildings, I have featured the church on previous walks.
I saw masses of Sweet violets (Viola odorata) in several areas. I had up to now considered them 'uncommon' as I only seemed to see dog violets. With a little better understanding of identification (studying the sepals) I seem to be seeing it everywhere.
Blackthorn (sloe) blossom was now out in the hedgerows.
As well as sweet violets another plant I had considered 'uncommon' was Moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina). I have been on walks where a group were excited when seeing a single clump. Well on this walk there was plenty of it, in almost all the woodland on the eastern half of the walk; I will have to consider it as 'locally common'. It is an ancient woodland indicator - it spreads ever so slowly and it is true that I only saw it in the clearly older woods. It was just coming into flower - only the up-facing flower of the 'town hall clock' was open.
I saw a further four small tortoiseshell but no brimstone butterflies. However I did see this lovely Peacock butterfly (Aglais io) when approaching South Fawley.
On the track to Fawley I saw my first 'shield bug' of the year. I think this is a Forest bug (Pentatoma rufipes).
Fawley is the setting for Thomas Hardy's bleak novel: Jude the Obscure. I had always suspected the village was the setting but had no hard evidence. However a booklet in the church tells the story. Hardy's grandmother a Mary Head led a depressing life in the village - called Marygreen in the novel and that form the core to the opening scenes of the book. The church at Fawley is a Victorian rebuild of an earlier construction. It is a rather grand building with a round apse.
From Fawley I walked passed a large stables complex and then on towards the main Wantage - Hungerford road. I was surprised to see a herd of fallow deer (Dama dama) in a small field. These are farmed rather than wild ones, I saw a similar herd over near Skirmett.
Eventually I made my way back to Farnborough, rather glad that the clocks had moved forward as it was now nearly 5pm.
To return to my original subject, Sir John Betjeman is memorialised at the church with a splendid John Piper stained glass window. The sunshine gave it a real warm glow. I am not entirely convinced about his depictions of flowers and butterflies though.