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Crazies Hill – 19 September 2012

Fred Taylor led a walk around Crazies Hill above Wargrave on Wednesday 19th September. Start point was the top of Bear Lane, where a number of Red Admiral and Comma butterflies were nectaring on a clump of buddleia bushes. The geology of the Bowsey Hill area is very varied, with London Clay overlying Reading Beds in the woods, while the fields below are on Chalk. The walk started out through woodland, with Pendulous Sedge marking out the wetter areas. Many of the trees beside the path looked very old, including a big ash with an enormous bracket fungus and a series of woodpecker holes. One of the Sallows at the side of a long clearing below power lines had leaves which had been stripped bare to the midrib. (Fred went back the next day and was able to take a picture of the caterpillars which were eating the leaves – they were the caterpillars of the Coxcomb Prominent moth.)  Wood-spurge and Spurge-laurel were identified. Young beech seedlings appeared to be doing well at the edge of a conifer plantation. As the land dropped down, the path passed through an area of beech woodland, then on to a stretch where sandy soil had made the conditions especially suitable for badger excavations.

After walking through the village, the next track went through farmland, with fine views across the valley of the Thames to the Chilterns. Several Buzzards and a Kestrel were seen, but there were no signs of the Swallows which had been present a few days earlier. There was a pause to sample the small purple plums which were growing in the hedge beside the next lane. Speckled Wood butterflies were flying in the sunshine and Pale Toadflax flowers were in flower on the bank. The route then followed a footpath back up and across several fields, then continued along a sunken lane. A sheltered rushy pasture had Water-plantain, flowering mint and a number of butterflies, including a Small Tortoiseshell, several Small Whites and a Large White. New views opened up towards Reading, with the line of the Hampshire Downs in the background and the Hannington TV mast on the horizon. Further round was the outline of the Wellingtonia Avenue at Finchampstead. The path then climbed back up through the woods, with more Commas and Speckled Woods. In the final woodland section, a line of tall Poplars beside a small stream looked as if it had once been planted in a garden setting. Afterwards, some of the group enjoyed lunch at the Queen Victoria at Hare Hatch.

Pictures by Rob Stallard, Fred Taylor and Jan Haseler