On Wednesday 17th February, Jan and Laurie Haseler led a walk which started from Snelsmore Common, then headed south over the A34 and down to Donnington Castle. It was a damp morning, with heavier rain forecast for later in the day. Just before reaching the castle, there was an impressive healthy-looking old oak beside the path. It took 5 people to encircle it with outstretched arms. Pellitory-of-the-wall and Ivy-leaved Toadflax, the latter in flower, were growing on the castle walls. Piles of sticks, presumably birds’ nests, were piled up in some of the castle window spaces. The walk continued through Castle Wood, where Bluebell leaves were showing well, back across the A34 and on to Bagnor. A Little Egret flew up from the bank and landed in a riverside tree. The group crossed two narrow bridges over the Lambourn River to reach BBOWT’s Rack Marsh reserve, where the meadow area has recently been fenced.
The walk continued up the hillside behind the cottages of Bagnor, then along the bridleway which leads back towards Snelsmore. There were many Spurge-laurel plants in flower beside the track. Two Bullfinches flew up into the hedge ahead. Back in the woods at the bottom of the Common, Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage was in flower beside a muddy section of the track. The herd of Exmoor ponies was browsing on Holly leaves in the woods behind the car park. All the Holly bushes showed a distinct browse line, and one less-prickly bush had a particularly high browse limit. A Song Thrush was singing loudly nearby. The walk was followed by lunch at the Castle pub in Donnington.
Pictures by Laurie Haseler