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Bowdown Woods – 11 May 2013

Fred Taylor led a walk on the morning of Saturday 11th May at Bowdown Woods near Newbury, a reserve of the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT). The walk started in the recently-cleared area at the top of the reserve, near the bomb-site car park. Under one of the tin sheets were 3 Slow-worms, the 2 older specimens pale, while the younger one was brown. The group then walked back into the main part of the reserve, heading for Bowdown Woods, the western section. The Bluebells were close to their best, covering parts of the reserve in sheets of blue. The first part of the walk was on the acid soil at the top of the reserve, where Wood Sage, Bilberry and Heather were amongst the plant sightings. The oak trees were covered with dangling flowers and new yellowish-green leaves. Fred showed the group an area of rough ground with piles of brash beside the track which is apparently a good place to look for basking reptiles, including Adders. Closer inspection revealed tangles of plastic and other debris, giving clues to its former use as part of the sewage plant of the Greenham Common airbase.

The walk continued downwards through the reserve. Close to the western car park was an area of woodland with a particularly rich selection of plants, including Solomon’s-seal, Pignut, Three-nerved Sandwort, Yellow Archangel, Greater Stitchwort, Wood Sorrel, Wood Anemone, Wood Speedwell, Common Dog-violet, Bugle and Red Campion. The path continued down to a fenced off area, protecting a recently-coppiced section from browsing deer. The flowers of Moschatel, Yellow Pimpernel and both Wavy and Hairy Bitter-cress were identified in the area next to the fence. Continuing downwards to the bottom of the wood, the ground became wetter under foot. On the left of the path was a clump of 3 Early-purple Orchids and further on another single specimen was seen. The tiny plants of Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage were abundant next to a particularly damp section of the path. The route then turned back upwards towards the top of the reserve. A wave of perfumed scent came from the sheets of Bluebells on the bank to the right of the path. Half way up the valley was a series of ponds. Dragonfly nymphs were spotted in the water, but despite careful searching, no tadpoles were seen. In the marshy area next to the ponds were yellow Marsh-marigolds and Lesser Spearwort. Continuing upwards, the path climbed back onto the acid soils of the top of the reserve. The leaves of Spotted-orchids, with prominent transverse purple spots, were growing conspicuously beside the path. The group then retraced their steps back to the car park. Birds seen or heard during the walk included Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Jay, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests.

Pictures by Rob Stallard, Laurie Haseler and Jan Haseler