Jan and Laurie Haseler led a walk starting from Swyncombe Church on Wednesday 20 September. The leaves on the Horse Chestnuts beside the track from the church were brown from the leaf miner, contrasting with the green foliage on all the other trees. The route led down the valley, through a short stretch of woodland and then out into arable fields. A Thorn-apple plant with both flowers and a spiky seed head was an unfamiliar sighting. A section sown with bird seed had tall flowers of Perennial Sow-thistle growing in front of maize, with both Large and Small White butterflies on the wing. Kestrel, Red Kite and Buzzard were all seen here. The next field had an interesting collection of arable weeds growing in the margin, including Dwarf Spurge, Scarlet Pimpernel, Field Madder, Black-bindweed and Field Pansy. Skylarks were singing high overhead. The walk continued across another arable field, along a short stretch of road and then steeply up through woodland to Swyncombe Downs. There was a profusion of Wild Candytuft, mostly in flower but also with patches of the distinctive seed heads. Other flowers here included Dropwort, Pale Toadflax, Harebell, Common Rock-rose, Stemless Thistle, Wild Thyme, Small Scabious and Wild Mignonette, A Small Copper butterfly was nectaring on Wild Marjoram. The views from the top were superb, stretching from Aston Rowant to the north-east, across much of Oxfordshire and even as far as the distant line of the Hampshire Downs. A small party of Swallows flew southwards over the ridge and a pair of Ravens flew overhead. The route continued eastwards along the ridge. Whitebeam, Buckthorn and Dogwood were all covered in berries. An open grassy section had abundant Pale Toadflax, Devil’s-bit Scabious and a few Juniper bushes. The track joined the Ridgeway, climbed steeply up through woodland and then dropped down the other side, before the final climb back up towards Swyncombe Church. Several flower spikes of Dark Mullein were seen here. Most of the group then went on to the Shepherd’s Hut at Ewelme for a relaxing lunch.
Pictures by Laurie Haseler