A week after the long day’s walking to complete the Bracknell Ramblers Route, my feet had recovered, but new walking boots were high on my priority list. After the long walk I had realised that my walking boots were too tight around my toes, and one little toe had been completely enveloped in a blister. A visit to a local outdoor store and an hour spent trying on boots, striding up and down the boot ramp to test how they felt moving up and downhill and I was up for a walk again, fresh new boots at the ready.
We’d found a walk online through the fields and copses and by the River Loddon, of about 7 miles, so a good distance to trial my new boots. The walk was lovely, through the gently undulating Hampshire countryside.
Huge fields stretched out in front of us, with some shining bright yellow with the flowers of the oil seed rape crop, while others of a seemingly dull dark green crop, actually hid beautiful mauve and black flowers on the stems. Looking these up when we were home, they turned out to be broad beans.
It’s always interesting to me to walk through a landscape that you have previously only viewed from in a car, speeding past on a nearby road. Taking it in step by step you notice so much more and are able to take in small features of the landscape that you would not otherwise have seen. As we walked along the edge of a field we noticed a sign for the Park Pale. Wandering in to the copse to discover more, we found that this was an earthenwork that would have surrounded a deer park in the area, in the times when eating venison and hunting deer were the preserves of the nobles and all deer were the property of the crown, with special permission having to be sought to enclose them within a deer park. The park pale is now carpeted in blue bells with large mature trees, an interesting landscape feature.
We were also able to spot a badger’s sett, profusions of spring flowers, not just bluebells, but orchids, Solomon’s seal, dog’s mercury, garlic mustard and swathes of white campion.
There was even the odd white bluebell, which I believe is the result of a genetic mutation. They certainly stand out against the deep dark blue of the other bluebells.
In the woods there were also interesting fungi, including King Alfred’s Cakes, which had an interesting looking beetle on them, which I later identified as a Scarce Fungus Weevil, whose larvae develop inside the black fungus.
We also saw this amazing bracket fungus, a dryad’s saddle, the patterns are so beautiful.
We walked alongside a beautiful clear chalk stream and eventually over the River Loddon, where we stopped to savour the warm sunshine, the water rushing by, and the colours of the trees, the sky and the plants growing within the cool, clear flow of the river. As we watched, trout leapt on their way upstream, a flash of light gleaming for the split second before they glided back into the water and continued their journey.
In the late afternoon we finished our walk, feet still perfectly comfortable in my new boots, feeling refreshed by our time out in the amazing Spring countryside. I love this season of the year, the bright spring colours, the heady scent of bluebells in the woods, warmth returning and the land bursting with life. A walk like this makes me feel glad to be alive.