A two month gap in walks due to limited opportunities and rather few fine days. This year (2017) has quite a few hard frosts and Spring is delayed by a week or two, plants usually in flower at this time were not yet ready and there were only a few buds bursting open. This all should change now that Atlantic mild air spills over in the next week. I am due to lead a walk at Turville in July and so I needed to check out the route and book the pub for lunch, and that was why I chose this walk. However I did tack on an extra section though through Fingest and Skirmett. I have visited this area several times now: July 2010; August 2010 and most recently April 2015. Here is a map of the walk (about 8 miles in total)
One of the key landmarks of the area is Cobstone windmill up the slope on Turville Hill.
I headed west from Turville through woods - nice woods but nothing much to see in February. Along the way I tried to creep up on a buzzard that was perched on a dead branch but it took flight before I could take a decent photograph.
The first plant offering of the year is an Arum lily (Lords and Ladies; Cuckoopint) unfurling itself from the ground, a welcome sign of Spring.
The churchyard at Ibstone had a remarkable display of snowdrops, still at their best.
The church is an old one, with parts dating back to the early 12th century and some alterations in the 14th and 15th century. The information boards suggest that Ibstone suffered under the Black Death and the village was then re-established one mile to the north. I am not entirely convinced as it is close to Ibstone Manor and it could have been the manorial church. It has an old font of probable 12th century date. The churchyard has an ancient yew - possibly a thousand years old. A very pleasant little church in the middle of nowhere.
As well as snowdrops, one area of the churchyard was putting on a lovely display of Winter Aconites (Eranthis hyemalis).
But I think the snowdrops were even more spectacular in the sunshine.
February in a cold winter is a hard time to find genuinely wild flowers - the snowdrops and aconites don't count as they were planted. So I was pleased to see several Spurge Laurels (Daphne laureola) in full flower. Other members of the Daphne family are grown in gardens for their Spring fragrance, the Spurge Laurel has only a faint fragrance. My botany book tells me that the four triangular parts are tepals rather than sepals or petals.
I heard and saw a good range of birds: long tailed tits, finches, tree creeper, partridges, red kites, blue tits etc. but they proved elusive. I even saw a pair of cock pheasants fighting. However a pair of jackdaws seemed to be enjoying the sunshine too much to be disturbed so I managed to snap one of them.
I then reached the village of Fingest that has a striking looking church.
Following the Chiltern Way south the path climbs up steeply, the reward was a good view of the valley towards Stokenchurch.
Walking down a track I did at last see some signs that Spring was on the move, elsewhere the buds had not burst but this Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum), always one of the first, was ahead of the game.
A reminder of last year was just beside it - Old Man's Beard (Clematis vitalba) living up to its common name.
On the same track was a good patch of hazel and its catkins made a fine sight in the afternoon sunshine.
It will be interesting to see how the same walk will look when I return in July.