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Tuesday 28 June 2011

7 miles, circular walk around Avebury, West Kennet Long Barrow & Silbury Hill.

This walk is impressive; giving insight to our ancient past, starting from the the car park at Avebury.

Click to expand the above, or any other picture.

Leaving Avebury on the Wessex Ridgeway are fine views of the stone circle; from right to left in the diagram below.

Up on the Ridgeway most of the New age travellers had left after the summer solstice.
The view from the Ridgeway above to Overton Down.
A feature of Fyfield Down and neighbouring Overton Down are the sarsen stones that litter this intriguing chalk limestone landscape. Sarsens are natural deposits of extremely hard siliceous sandstone that derive from Tertiary deposits, later eroded and moved by glaciation some 25 million years ago. Although found elsewhere, they are not on the scale seen in the Marlborough district. Sarsens are also known as 'druid stones' or 'grey wethers', the latter due to their resemblance at a distance to a flock of sheep, the word 'wether' coming from the Old English for sheep. 

Sarsens, zoomed shot.
Meadow Crane's-bill were flowering in the hedgerows.

A zoomed view of the Avebury circle from the Ridgeway.

Greater Knapweed attracts Burnet moths and beetles as well as butterflies.

Silbury Hill from the Ridgeway.
The largest man-made mound in Europe, mysterious Silbury Hill compares in height and volume to the roughly contemporary Egyptian pyramids. Probably completed in around 2400 BC, it apparently contains no burial. Though clearly important in itself, its purpose and significance remain unknown. There is no access to the hill itself. 

The weather was scorching hot and we went to the churchyard in East Kennet to seek shade and a bench.  No benches.  But there was shade under an ugly Cyprus tree and a cool wall to sit on.

Leaving East Kennet via the bridle path from the church we headed to the Long Barrow, with views of Silbury on the way.

West Kennet Long Barrow sits on top of  a hill. 
It is one of the largest, most impressive and most accessible Neolithic chambered tombs in Britain. Built in around 3650 BC, it was used for a short time as a burial chamber, nearly 50 people being buried here before the chambers were blocked. Part of the Avebury World Heritage Site. 

You can enter the tombs around the back of these stones.

The temperature drops inside the burial chambers and the rocks dripped with condensation on this hot, humid day.

Gloria was pleased to have made it to the top of this detour to the Barrow and to enjoy the views to Silbury Hill.

From here it is just a few miles back to Avebury.
Perhaps this blog entry may encourage you to do this walk.  It is worth the effort of getting there.

Kennet valley & Savernake Forest walk.

After attending a memorial service in Bristol, we stayed a couple of nights in Marlborough to walk a bit in Wiltshire. 

We walked 10 miles along the crystal clear river Kennet before heading south to Savernake forest.
Heron in the river at Marlborough.

Common Spotted-orchids in Savernake, famous for its Beech trees, below.

Sunday 12 June 2011

Nine native orchid species found on one Sussex walk.

On this walk from the Mid Sussex Ramblers' programme, lead by me, six of us found NINE separate orchid species on this day in the rain.
First off were Twayblades and Early purple-orchids, both of which were going over.  It helps to have posted their pictures on this blog in the preceding weeks.  Enter a name in the search box and you can see them in full flower.
Above is what Early purple-orchids looked like today -- gone to seed.
The walk started from Hurstpierpoint and along the track southwards was this Pyramidal orchid.  That was the third species that we saw.
Moving up the hill were lots of Common Spotted orchids, above.  That makes four species.
The basal leaves of this Twayblade are shrivelling as the plant produces seed.
Ascending the hill, we entered the zone of Fragrant orchids.  There were thousands.  You need to get your nostril right next to the flower to appreciate its exquisite scent.  Above, Ramblers about to get on their knees on this Sunday afternoon!  How many times have you seen that before?  Never I imagine!
Well worth getting on your knees for!  Here it is; the lovely Fragrant orchid -- the fifth species this day so far.
With winds gusting to 30mph and continuous rain, we sheltered in this depression half way up the hill to eat our lunch out of the worst of the weather.
The walk over the top was wet and cold but the group elected to carry on and not shorten the walk at the first logical escape route.  A great decision as we will see.
Where the woods had been cleared over a year ago were many Fly orchids.  Last year, near here, we photographed them with pollinating Digger wasps.  I also met Julia Bradbury here the following day!

So here it is; the Fly orchid.  Species no. six on this day.

Species number seven was the Butterfly orchid; still in flower in this sheltered spot.
Isn't it lovely?

Species number eight was the Bee orchid.   This was a beautiful specimen...... and I messed up the wide photo somehow.  It was blowing a gale.  Perhaps I'll go back again with a tripod.

The rain was unrelenting and I shortened the walk to escape the rain and to spot a ninth orchid.

Its white flowers went weeks ago but these are White Helleborines.  And that is species number NINE. 
Our goal was eight species.  We found NINE.
My thanks to the six Ramblers who braved the weather on this day and especially to Gloria, who would not (yet) describe herself as a Botanist, yet who consistently finds rare plants that I miss.

Thursday 9 June 2011

Puss Moths, Cerura vinula

My thanks to Bob Bayliss for hatching these Puss moths, Cerura vinula and alerting me to their emergence.  For size comparison it is Bob's thumb above.
Click on any picture to expand it.
This is a male with undeveloped wings.
He approached the female but she was having none of it and ran away.  Perhaps it was too light.......
Thanks again Bob, for showing me these fine moths.

Sunday 5 June 2011

Common Spotted & Fragrant Orchids on a 5 miles circular walk from Box Hill

From the National Trust parking east of the viewpoint on Box Hill, we set off in light rain, through the woods to Juniper Top and this great view northwards with Juniper Hall in the valley.  Click on the picture to enlarge it.
The air was heady with the scent of wild privet.
And as we descended there were lots of Common Spotted-orchids, including this white one.
Descending further down the Northern side of Juniper Top we entered the zone where a different orchid thrives.
Fragrant orchids.  It is worth getting wet knees to place a nostril next to this flower to experience its wonderful fragrance.

We took the path westwards past High Ashurst Outdoor Education Center and then south to Box Hill village.  On the way were Twayblades, above.
The path by Brocham Warren and through Oak Wood brought us back to the car.  It was a lovely walk in the welcomed rain; even if I did take a tumble when I slipped on a wet tree root.

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