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Silchester – 9 October 2019

Marion Venners and Maggie Bridges led a walk at Silchester on Wednesday 9 October, starting from the Calleva Arms. It was a bright and breezy morning, following a week of grey skies and a lot of rain. The walk started out north-eastwards across the Common. Two Buzzards flew overhead and a bright red Fly Agaric fungus was spotted under a Birch tree. The next track led eastwards towards the Roman town. A big Chicken of the Woods fungus was growing just above eye height on a Poplar and a flock of Long-tailed Tits moved through the trees beside the path. Just before the track reached the Roman walls, the next footpath led southwards through the adjoining grassy field. There were many darker green circles marking out the rings of Field Mushrooms. The path then ran beside the wooded ditch on the outside of the walls, where a Stinkhorn was seen. The route continued gently downwards across another grassy field with more rings of Field Mushrooms and a big Parasol mushroom. House Martins flew overhead. A ditch and bank crossed the field. Growing on one of the Ash trees on the bank was a bracket fungus with a dark velvet red upper surface and a wavy orange margin. A Hornet was seen here. The path continued through a short stretch of woodland where there were many puffballs. After crossing a road, the route led round the edge of a field of root vegetables, where Black Nightshade and Field Madder were seen in flower. An adjoining field had a plantation of cricket-bat willows. A bull and a herd of placid cows in the next field watched curiously as the group walked past. The footpath led back to the Roman walls and Silchester Church. A big Yew in the churchyard was covered in pink berries and a Red Admiral was feeding on the Ivy blossom. After looking round the church, the group walked up the lane towards the Roman amphitheatre, passing a pond where a mating pair of Common Darters and a Southern Hawker dragonfly were seen. A Speckled Wood butterfly and the new green shoots of Three-cornered Garlic were amongst the sightings at the amphitheatre. The route back led along the northern section of the Roman wall, where it was very windy. Black Horehound, Wild Basil, Common Toadflax, Field Scabious and very tall spikes of Great Mullein were all in flower here, while Black Medick and Hedgerow Crane’s-bill were found by the Northern Gateway. The walk was followed by lunch at the Calleva Arms.

Pictures by Fiona Brown, Rob Stallard and Laurie Haseler