The Perch and Pike at South Stoke was the starting point for a circular walk led by Ian Esland on the warm and sunny morning of Tuesday 22 May. The route led past the school and church, then eastwards out of the village along the Woodcote Road. Cow-parsley and Hawthorn blossom were a constant theme throughout the walk. On the roadside banks were Hedgerow Crane’s-bill and White and Bladder Campion. Two Corn Buntings were calling from the tops of low bushes and Skylarks were singing overhead. A narrow footpath across the fields led first through winter wheat, then through spring barley, then onto a flowery and grassy area where Small Heath and Common Blue butterflies were seen. At the end of the next wheat field was a bank, where 2 years ago there had been an interesting collection of arable plants. Sadly none were to be seen this time, following ploughing right up to the field edge and spraying. The route then turned westwards along the Swan’s Way. Yellowhammer, Blackcap and Whitethroat were heard and seen along this stretch. At times, the petals of May blossom blowing in the strong breeze looked like snow. The walk continued to Littlestoke. Long-headed Poppies were flowering on top of an old flint-and-brick wall and Dwarf Elder, an uncommon plant in South Oxfordshire, was found at a known site on a lane-side verge. A pair of Brimstone butterflies zig-zagged upwards together, keeping a constant distance apart, as if joined by wire, with the female above and the male below. The route then led through the garden of Littlestoke Manor, down to the River Thames and along the footpath which followed the riverbank southwards. The explosive call of a Cetti’s Warbler was heard, a Kingfisher flew downstream and Hobby and Kestrel were seen. Comfrey and Meadow Crane’s-bill were in flower, Water Dock was noted on the bank and there were tall stands of Hemlock. Banded Demoiselles were perched on the riverside vegetation. Finally, a Sedge Warbler was watched as it sang from a tall seed head above a marshy area. The walk was followed by lunch at the Perch and Pike.
Pictures by Laurie Haseler