The Chilterns in Spring

Who cannot be impressed by the beauty of the countryside at this time of year. The rains of the last few days have made everything look even more beautiful. Lambs running round the fields, bluebells in the woods, birdsong everywhere – it just makes you feel good to be alive.

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Those of us who are able to access the more remote places are rewarded with special treats but there are plenty of wonderful experiences to be had very close and accessible to urban areas.

Paths are better and the Chiltern Society have invested heavily in gates in place of stiles so that access is possible for those with mobility problems.

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More Bluebells with the health walkers

IMG_0754On Saturday I joined the Goring Health walkers for a lovely walk above Streatley taking in part of the Ridgeway and then visiting a woodland of bluebells and wild garlic. Not only were the woods beautiful but the view from the top of the hill over the Oxford Plain was spectacular.

After the Health walk Graham and I went off to the other side of Streatley to look at more bluebells, the stone circles and gaze over Goring from the top of the hill.

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Health walk Goring

 

Nordic walking through the bluebells

We set off from Bix across the common and into the woods which were full of bluebells, birdsong and fresh green leaves on the trees. The forest floor is still light without the full shade of leaves on the trees and the ground underfoot was ideal having dried out from the recent rains but still soft enough to be easy walking. As we came down toward Bix Bottom farm the tiles on the newly restored barn and the beautiful traditional farmhouse stood out against the green grass and the wheat crop.

The woods towards Nettlebed are a blaze of blue from the carpets of Bluebells all over the woodland. In some other places the brambles have taken over and it shows the importance of woodland management in keeping these lovely places in check. Last week in the woods near Crowsley it was disappointing to see a much reduced show of bluebells due to the encroachment of the undergrowth.

From Bix Bottom we turned up towards Catslip and followed the valley bottom along lovely grassy fields with cattle grazing. The birdsong was wonderful and there were no other walkers anywhere to be seen – we were alone with the wildlife, glimpses of muntjac deer and pheasants. The path eventually turns up a steep hill through wood which had people pausing to catch their breath but then rejoins a bridleway and becomes a wide and level path back toward Bix Common and back through yet more bluebells. Stretches on the common and all felt that they had been well exercised.

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Up with the larks

Who knows whether ‘up with the larks’ refers to the time of day when the birds are most active or the way they soar skywards emitting their glorious song. Either way this morning was wonderful. As we walked across the top of the hill larks were everywhere soaring in to the sky, filling the air with their song. Often they were not visible as they were too high in the sky but that beautiful noise signified their presence.

Below on the ground hares were visible – lollopping around the field and enjoying the warm spring sunshine. Primroses, violets and other wild flowers scattered the ground adding colour to what was winter pasture.

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Everything is early this year and bluebells are already coming out under the trees and will soon be a blaze of brilliant blue – the most spectacular sight.

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Spring time at Red Kite cottage

I love the Spring and there is nothing more lovely than waking to the sound of the birds. This morning the sun was shining and we set off with the dogs across the fields. The larks were soaring high in to the sky with their beautiful song all around us, they reach heights where they are not visible but still you can hear them. Newborn lambs were lying in the field in groups or with their mothers. Occasionally a pair would stand up and stretch before bleating loudly and running towards a welcoming ewe for a drink. Having been brought up on a farm I love the sight and sound of lambs and the lambing season heralds the start of spring.

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The Oxfordshire Way on a sunny day in Spring

The most beautiful March day dawned and we set off for Adwell from where to walk back to Henley on Thames.
Our start was Wheatfield near St Andrews Church which is almost all that remains of the village of Wheatfield.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheatfield,_Oxfordshire

Where we started you can see Elm trees which is a rare sight in Britain today following the introduction of Dutch Elm disease. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulmus_procera

As we crossed the fields we stopped to watch groups of hares frollicking in the sunshine. They are such beautiful animals and were really enjoying the warmer weather and the onset of spring.
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My iphone does not do justice to such sights so I have included a close up picture of a brown hare too.

Towards Pyrton you pass a farm called Model farm where you can see an example of early mechanization involved which revolutionised British agriculture
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The long distance path wends its way on to Pyrton and then up towards the Ridgeway and on up to Christmas Common on the ridge above Watlington.
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People driving on to the upland ground and damaging the ecology have necessitated installing natural barriers such as these tree trunks.
Red Kites were everywhere and this one perched close by on a telegraph pole to get a good view
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Shelters in the woods are becoming common as children explore their natural world and amuse themselves outdoors
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We are soon up in Christmas Common after a steep climb up the hill and enjoy sustenance at the local pub. http://www.brakspear.co.uk/our_pubs/pub_page/50
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On through woodland towards Pishill, Bix and back to Henley on Thames
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The wild plants and animals on the walk were all signs of spring
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Centrica Arctic Challenge

The girls from Centrica are now in the Arctic as part of their Arctic challenge raising funds for Rosa Uk.
A Foot in the Chilterns trained them in Nordic walking in Windsor to prepare them for their adventure.

Thanks to Tom Waller of Luminous photography for some excellent photography of the sessions and to Windsor Racecourse for allowing us to use their grounds for training.

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We look forward to hearing about their adventures on their return.

Even the sheep change colour

The persistent rain has had wide reaching effects. Not only are paths muddy, the Thames still flooded and trees down in many places but even the sheep have turned a bright white in contrast to their normal greyish colour!

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Henley dodging the floods

angel on the bridge flood_0260The floods of the past weeks have brought misery to many local businesses and home owners and the recent sunshine has brought a definite change in mood. It seems only a few months ago that we were basking in sunshine and the river was a gentle stream.

Bridges have been closed causing chaos and potholes abound concealed by the water covering them.
Walking, however has been an enjoyable way of getting around and it is very satisfying when the sun comes out and you return having dodged the latest shower and remained dry. On other occasions a brisk soaking makes coming home even more enjoyable!
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Spring has now emerged and the snowdrops and primroses are providing colour and interest. This morning walking the dogs the larks were soaring skywards with their wonderful song filling the air. We can cast off all the winter clothes and rejoice in springtime.

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The calm between the storms – Nordic walking at Wittenham Clumps

It has been a very stormy January and the river has remained flooded for much of the month so far.

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We are therefore forced on to the higher ground but the benefits are finding new and different walks and experiencing lovely views when the sun shines. Even the rain does not dampen the spirits – it is invigorating to return after bracing the elements and the reward of a hot drink and warm kitchen make it even better.

Today we scaled Wittenham Clumps http://www.nashclumps.org/ and the sun shone. There was a keen wind and we were grateful for the exercise pushing ourselves uphill with the nordic walking poles. The group were on the second lesson of the 4 week course and manged extremely well in the sometimes rather slippery conditions but the terrain ensured that they all got a good grasp of both up,and downhill technique.

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