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Crookham – 17 August 2016

On the hot day of 17th August Rob Stallard led 13 members and guests on a walk around Crookham (four joining us at a later point on the walk). The four mile walk went through a diverse range of habitats. Crookham Common is much less visited than neighbouring Greenham Common to the west.  Rob took the group from the Travellers Friend pub through silver birch woodland to the southern boundary which had an impressively large oak stool right next to an ephemeral pond formed by gravel extraction. The oak had an impressive growth of chicken-of-the-woods fungus. Continuing west in the welcome shade of the birch trees, wood sage (Teucrium scoxrodonia) and earthballs (Scleroderma citrinum) were seen and one was dissected showing its black interior full of spores.  A small clearing had betony; greater bird’s foot trefoil and common toadflax. Across the road the second part of Crookham Common is open heathland with ling (Calluna vulgaris), bell heather (Erica cinerea), gorse and dwarf gorse (Ulex minor). An ancient path then went down the steep slope to the ford across the River Enborne; it had a shady stretch with a fine colony of hard-ferns (Blechnum spicant). The walk then followed the meandering river for two miles. The field to the south had grown peppermint and a good range of butterflies were seen on the few remaining plants on the field edge including: Green veined white, Small skipper, Comma and Painted ladies. The banks of the river were mainly cloaked in Himalayan balsam but other plants included Small teasel (Dipsacus pilosus), Dame’s violet (Hesperis matronalis) and Trifid bur-marigold (Bidens tripartita). Leaving the river the route went through a conifer plantation and then along an ancient trackway with many old pollarded field maples. Near a bridge over a ditch a common frog was seen. A steep climb back up to Crookham had a nice flowery ditch on one side. Red admirals, holly blue, gate keepers, and speckled wood butterflies were seen. Along the walk back to the pub swallows were seen already thinking of departing. At the pub many had lunch and a welcome drink after the heat of the sunny day.

Report by Rob Stallard

Pictures by Rob Stallard and Laurie Haseler