On 21 February 2018, a dull but dry day with light winds, 15 members met at the junction of the Ridgeway and Swan’s Way. Julia Cooper and Ian Duddle led us south towards Hailey, and then east towards Woodhouse Farm, where the attractive metal farm sign was admired. As we passed the farm and buildings, a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming in the nearby wood. The footpath continued up the hill through arable fields. In contrast to the almost weed-free wheat crop, arable weeds were growing in the oilseed rape, and Corn Parsley was provisionally identified. There were a few Fieldfares in the valley and a Yellowhammer in the hedgerow by the track. A Skylark was singing overhead and two cormorants flew southwards, while Red Kites and a Buzzard were soaring at the top of the hill.
We then entered Mongewell Woods where there was a carpet of Bluebell leaves but no sign of flowers, and Primrose plants were abundant, with one in flower found in a sheltered spot. There were several Green Hellebore plants to the left of the path in a position recorded in 2006 by Jan and Jerry Welsh. A Marsh Tit was seen and a Jay was heard calling. Several pits of various shapes and sizes near the path prompted speculation on their origins as chalk pits, sawpits, sink holes or bomb craters.
After passing Upper House Farm we took the footpath towards Nuffield. In a strip of woodland were a clump of Sanicle leaves, and a patch of wild Gooseberry just coming into leaf. The route turned left onto the Ridgeway path – this section runs along Grim’s Ditch and is a diversion from the original Ridgeway. There was a single Green Hellebore plant by a large fallen tree, and a fine display of many more plants, some in full flower, further down the path in Morrell’s Bottom. This site was last visited by the Society in March 2003 and we were pleased to see the plants thriving here.
As we continued along the Ridgeway to complete our circuit, there was a Yew Tree in flower, a Raven was heard calling and a flock of about 100 Fieldfares and Redwings flew over us. Afterwards all the walkers and 2 other members enjoyed lunch at the King William at Hailey.
Report by Julia Cooper
Pictures by Rob Stallard