On Wednesday 18th January, a day of bright sunshine and hard frost, Susan and Peter Twitchett led a circular walk which started from the car park of the Red Lion pub at Upper Basildon. The route led along the recently-resurfaced path from the Primary School to the Village Hall. Beside the path, Red Dead-nettle and Groundsel were in flower, while a plant with shiny hairless green leaves puzzled the botanists. Close inspection and the use of plant keys in the pub at the end of the walk revealed that it was Annual Mercury. The walk continued steeply down through woodland to Hook End Lane, where the first of 3 Stinking Hellebore plants was in flower. The next footpath led up towards the Royal Berkshire Shooting School at Tomb Farm, where the second Stinking Hellebore plant was found, then continued first along a sunny field boundary, then through Hazel Coppice. Dog’s Mercury was coming into flower and the first Bluebell leaves were spotted. Growing out of a tree stump was a shiny orange cluster of the fungus Flammulina volutipes. Catkins were coming out on the Hazels and about 25 Fieldfares were seen in a nearby field. The walk continued past Grim’s Ditch and down a shallow valley, before turning sharply back towards Drift Farm, where the third Stinking Hellebore plant was found. On a bank by the farm were Snowdrops, with a few specimens in flower. The group then headed back to the Red Lion for lunch.
Pictures by Laurie Haseler