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Stanford Dingley – 16 September 2020

On Wednesday 16 September, Maggie Bridges and Marion Venners led two separate groups of walkers on a circular walk, starting from the Old Boot Inn at Stanford Dingley. It was a hot sunny morning, with the temperature starting at 20C and rising to 26C. The walk started out northwards through the village, crossing the River Pang at the back of the mill and pausing at the church for a quick look round. St Denys church is one of the oldest in Berkshire, with wall paintings, a simple Norman font and an 800-year old wooden door. In the churchyard are several big old Sweet Chestnut trees. Crossing the road, the next footpath led westwards through grassy fields. The hedges were heavy with fruit – sloes, rosehips, blackberries, small apples and berries of Hawthorn and Guelder-rose. Several Green-veined White butterflies and a small yellow waxcap fungus were seen here. The path led through a strip of woodland where sightings included a Solomon’s-seal plant with dangling dark blue berries, a small Toad, a Speckled Wood butterfly and a Frog. Leaving the wood, the path crossed a bridge over a small stream which was choked with the leaves of Fool’s Water-cress and led into the next grassy field. A Little Egret flew up, a small, bright orange Vapourer moth was flying fast in the sunshine and a number of Inkcap fungi were spotted. The route then turned briefly northwards along a track before continuing westwards along another footpath which ran along the north bank of the Pang. A wet area beside the track had Comfrey, Great Willowherb, Water Mint and Meadow-sweet. Common Poppies brightened the side of the footpath, a Green Woodpecker flew up, several Small Copper butterflies were seen and a Red Admiral butterfly flew past. A flock of about 25 Lapwings was seen on the other side of the river. Although the path ran beside the river, for most of this stretch the water was completely hidden by the lush bankside vegetation, which at one point included Orange Balsam.

After crossing a bridge over the Pang, the route continued south round the edge of a field of maize. Turning back eastwards, the next footpath led into another big field of maize which was being harvested for fodder. Two tractors progressed side by side, with the first one cutting and shredding the maize and transferring it to a trailer pulled by the second one. A third tractor and trailer followed closely, ready to take over when the first trailer was full. Five Red Kites and several Buzzards circled overhead and an observer at the back spotted a Peregrine. Two Hares emerged from the crop and came out into the open field. After a brief stretch of road, the next footpath led into the welcome shade of a stretch of woodland. A mixed flock of tits, together with a Nuthatch, was passing noisily through the woodland. The route continued though a series of grassy fields, some with grazing sheep. Further sightings included Meadow Brown and Holly Blue butterflies, another Vapourer moth, Parasol Mushrooms and Black Bryony berries. Flowering Common Fleabane and a Comma butterfly were seen beside the final stretch of track which led back to the village. One of the walkers had taken a short-cut back to the pub, and she reported seeing three Giant Puffballs. Final sighting of the day was a Migrant Hawker dragonfly in the garden of the Old Boot Inn, where most of the group stayed for lunch.

Pictures by Rob Stallard