Fiona Cummins went to some trouble to organise a walk at Dinton Pastures Country Park on Wednesday 19 February but, following storms Ciara and Dennis, much of the proposed route was under water and all the bird hides were inaccessible. With the help of Rob Stallard, the walk was moved at short notice to higher ground at Ashampstead. After gathering next to the village sports ground, first stop was the early 13th Century church of St. Clement. Built into the north wall are the remains of a Yew tree. Inside the church are 13th Century wall paintings, thought to have been created by a monk from Reading Abbey. Snowdrops, crocuses and hellebores were flowering in the churchyard, a flock of Greenfinches was seen and a Song Thrush was heard nearby. The walk continued westwards along a footpath before turning left into a bridleway. Bluebell leaves were showing well in the strip of woodland beside the track. Further on Chaffinches and a Bullfinch were seen in an adjoining hedge. There followed a short stretch of road which ran next to a ploughed field. Just appearing were the feathery green leaves of Shepherd’s-needle, remembered by a botanist with a good memory from a visit to that location in 2015. The route then led back eastwards through Beche Park Wood. Outlined clearly in muddy patches of the path were a number of different sets of deer tracks. The biggest ones were thought to have been made by Fallow Deer, while smaller ones were from Roe Deer. Bright red Scarlet Elfcup fungus was found beside the path. Blue Tits, Great Tits, a Green Woodpecker and a Nuthatch were heard calling. The track emerged at Ashampstead Green. After a short stretch along a quiet lane and another footpath, the route continued down a steep lane through woodland. Growing on the high banks at the side of the road were Woodruff, Dog’s Mercury, Wild Strawberry and Bush Vetch. At the bottom of the hill, another footpath led south-eastwards through the wood. A number of big trees had fallen recently, including an Ash with a rotten core. A Raven flew calling below the wood. The first Primrose was found in flower and the leaves of Wood Spurge were seen. The final section of the walk was along a track through open farmland back to Ashampstead. House Sparrows were chirping in one of the back gardens and there were Goldfinches and a mixed flock of tits in the trees and bushes on the south side of the sports ground. The walk was followed by lunch at the Four Points pub near Aldworth.
Pictures by Rob Stallard and Fiona Brown