I decided to tackle the longest standing planned walk that had lain un-walked for over five years. I seem to remember a vague plan of extending my network of walks as far as Farnham to complete the rather neglected south-eastern part of my local area. Here is a map of the walk:
I started at Greywell which is close to the source of the River Whitewater where fresh spring water flows from the chalk downlands to the south of Basingstoke. The water is nice and clear and water cress is one of the common plants.
The marsh-loving plants were still in flower including Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria).
The stream is dammed to form a millpond and there is an attractive looking mill house, but this section is popular with walkers and so there is little privacy.
The walk by the stream is part of the Three Castles Path that runs from Winchester to Windsor. I had by chance walked a part of the Winchester section through Itchen Abbas exactly a month ago. It seems like a reasonable long distance path to try to follow from end to end. The section began along a quiet lane and then along a track from ‘Four Lanes End’ to ‘Five Lanes End’. There was a good range of flowers in the hedgerows including a lovely Nettle-leaved Bellflower (Campanula trachelium).
In fact this area had far more wild-flowers than my walk a week ago in South Oxfordshire. I then left the Three Castles Path and headed over fields to Mapledurwell. As the crop in the fields was potatoes the farmer had not sprayed with herbicide and there was a good range of ‘arable weeds’. Poppies were still flowering away.
September can be a good month for butterflies but this year with cool weather in August there does not seem to be that many. The Meadow Browns have gone and I only saw Speckled Woods (several); one Red Admiral; one Comma and a number of Cabbage Whites - this one is I think a Small White (Pieris rapae). So far this year I have not seen any Clouded Yellows, Small Coppers or Painted Ladies, but it is not yet too late.
Among the arable weeds still very much in flower, was a nice clump of what I believe is Lucerne (Medicago sativa) - which is grown as a leguminous fodder crop.
In the hedgerows the signs of autumn were showing - ivy in flower and plenty of haws and here, sloes.
I walked down to Mapledurwell which has another spring that feeds the River Whitewater. Along the emerging stream was a bank of bright yellow Monkeyflower (Mimulus).
At Mapledurwell I hoped to see a good range of plants in a marshy area I saw seven years ago. It was not to be, a new housing estate has been built and the stream has been canalised so there is no nice marshy area any more. The only plant I could see really was watercress. So I set off back towards Greywell and to avoid a busy road followed a little used path on the edge of the M3. However, like last week, I had to run the gauntlet of cattle. Instead of bullocks this time it was cows with calves - which can be equally dangerous. So I was a little concerned when they galloped over to check me out - my path took me directly through the herd. After a little talking and arm waving they kept their distance, although I am sure they were just being inquisitive.
The path led to the end of the Basingstoke canal, the final section into Basingstoke has long ago been removed and built over.
The canal is now mainly silted up with barely any water in places. Wildlife has moved in and now bulrushes occupy the main channel.
I followed the canal path up to the entrance to the famed Greywell Tunnel at 1,230 yards which is quite a length. There was no tow-path so a boat had to be pushed through by using your legs to push on the walls - it could take six hours in virtual pitch dark. The disused canal has been taken over by important colonies of bats and because of this happy chance has been made an SSSI.
I then followed the rough overground path of the canal and saw in front of Greywell House a group of guinea fowl.
At Greywell I joined up with the Three Castles Path again at the other tunnel entrance. Here the long distance path follows the tow-path of the Basingstoke canal for quite a few miles. Along the way is one of the reasons it is called Three Castles as this is the remains of Odiham Castle. The other two castles are Winchester and Windsor. Odiham Castle was built at the time of King John - conveniently half way between Windsor and Winchester which were then top seats of royal power. It then became a royal prison - for King David II of Scotland 1346-57. However it was already a ruin in 1603 with the fine facing stones re-used in other local buildings - only the 'rubble' core remains.
Here I decided there was not enough time to complete my full route, I has clocked up 9 miles and the whole planned walk looked like it would be double that and it was clouding over. So instead I headed back via North Warnborough. I explored a marshy area to the north-east of the village and there spotted a Grey Wagtail - always a delight to see these busy creatures.
To the north of the village is a very good marshy area through which a small stream flows. It had a great number of wild-flowers that prefer damp conditions. I believe this is Blue Water-speedwell (Veronica anagallis-aquatica).
Another marshland plant that I was pleased to see still in flower was Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi).
I also found one plant of Marsh Marigold or King Cup (Caltha palustris) still looking like it was May rather than September.
Having completed this section I am left with quite a large gap to link it with my other walks. I have followed Wayfarer's Way to Dummer which is over 8 miles away to the West and I have reached the outskirts of Hartley Wintney six miles to the north-east. So there is plenty of scope for more walks in this area.