Wildflower Walk in May

Hosehill Lake

This is a lakeside walk suitable for any time of year but I enjoyed this easy circular walk in mid May. Dogs are permitted but there are signs asking for dogs to be kept under control to prevent them disturbing the nesting birds. This is a popular nature reserve for those bird watchers, particularly, wetland birds. It also boasts a wildflower meadow. The site is managed by
Bucks, Berks and Oxon Wildlife Trust. https://www.bbowt.org.uk/nature-reserves/hosehill-lake

Hosehill Lake information board
Hosehill Lake information board near the entrance.

Bird Sanctuary

As mentioned, this nature reserve is also a thriving bird sanctuary. You will spot many bird boxes in the trees as well as viewing platforms and bird hides around the lake. This place is popular with local bird twitchers
www.berksbirds.co.uk/, dog walkers,who may also appreciate the local dog friendly pub, www.foxandhoundstheale.co.uk/ and ramblers.
www.ramblers.org.uk/berkshire

Lakeside Views

The views across the lake are stunning with plenty of variety. This gentle walk certainly encourages a sense of mental wellbeing, with its small beaches and the gentle waves lapping the shores. There are also plenty of reed beds rustling with wildlife. Fortunately there are also many viewing platforms and rustic seats dotted around the lake’s edge from which to enjoy these beautiful peaceful views. If you want to spot the wide variety waterfowl, then a good pair of binoculars will prove very useful.

Wildflower Meadow

To the east and south of the lake the land is reserved as meadow. The eastern meadow is cut and then grazed by wild Exmoor ponies for a short period in the spring and autumn. In the southern meadow there is a butterfly bank. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hosehill_Lake

More Wildflowers

The wildflower meadow to the east of the lake is a visual treat with its abundance of wildflowers throughout the spring and summer months. After that it is cut and then grazed by Exmoor ponies.

Conclusion

narrow bridge
narrow bridge

This wildflower walk in May will take you along a mixture of grass and surfaced paths. Whilst fairly flat around northern part of the lake the paths become more undulating to south. This makes it tricky for pushchairs or buggies unless they are the off road variety. The narrow bridges do add charm to the walk. Some of the paths can be muddy in winter. The walk is approximately one mile, but can easily take up to one hour at a slow pace as there are many interesting places to stop and enjoy the views.

Happy Wildflower hunting in May.

********************

Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

 *PARENTS* Get your FREE play with nature activity ideas here.

Spring Walks-2

Binfield Heath

If you love a bluebell walk as I do, then late April is most likely to be the best time for this walk. This is an easy 4-mile circular walk across farmland and through woodland. We tried it in mid-April and saw plenty of bluebells but they were not yet at their best.

bluebells
Hybrid Bluebells

We actually saw the first bluebells at the edge of the car park near the recreation ground in Binfield Heath. http://www.binfieldheath.org.uk/ Although these were the hybrid type, more upright and unperfumed. Not our native bluebells which tend to droop to one side with their familiar and lovely perfume.

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/plants-and-fungi/woodland-wildflowers/identify-native-bluebell/

Car park at the end of Kings Common Close, Binfield Heath.
Car park at the end of Kings Common Close, Binfield Heath.

After crossing the recreation ground we turned right and just before the post office stores ( here we bought a nice cup of coffee while waiting for our friends to arrive), and then turned right along Heathfield Avenue. We turned left down a narrow hedged path and crossed the road at the end, continuing straight to enter a field with fine views over the rolling countryside.

path across agricultural field
Path across agricultural field

High Wood

We followed the well-trodden track and into the next field where there was a gap in the hedge leading into a woodland. This is the steepest part of the walk but its only a short section. At the top, we emerged from the wood to go across another field into High Wood. This is where we found plenty of English bluebells in early bloom and now we really started to enjoy this bluebell walk, even though we were a little early for the best display.

We passed an archaeological site on our left where apparently a Roman building is believed to have been sited.
https://www.henleystandard.co.uk/news/community/98834/could-roman-temple-be-buried-in-woods.html

At the far end of the path through High Wood, we continued down a drive and then along the roadway, turning left across a track opposite a house called Little Spinneys to reach another beautiful woodland path through Shiplake Woods.
https://getoutside.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/local/shiplake-woods-south-oxfordshire

Then along a broad grassy track, eventually turning right at the end up a lane towards a large property situated behind a field of oilseed rape. After passing the house on the right-hand side, we made a sharp left turn to walk along the edge of a field, turning right at the end and walking along the roadside (there is a path up some steps for part of the way). Along these tracks and paths, I saw plenty of common wildflowers including Borage, Forget-me-nots and Speedwell as well as those shown here.

Wildflowers

We turned right just before Teapot cottage, through two fields, going between the houses at the end to reach the gravel roadway which returned us to the recreation field car park. For refreshments, we enjoyed the Bottle and Glass Inn which we found very dog-friendly. The food is excellent but it is probably best to book a table.

bottle and glass inn
Bottle and Glass Inn

Conclusion

This is a lovely part of the local area. So many different paths can be explored. The best map to find other paths is probably the OS Explorer 159 Reading, Wokingham and Pangbourne.
https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/shop/explorer-map-reading.html

It is a lovely part of the world to explore at any time of year but if you manage to go in late April or early May then I hope you enjoy your bluebell walk.

Happy Wildflower hunting in April.

********************

Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

 *PARENTS* Get your FREE play with nature activity ideas here.

Spring Walks

Waterside Walk in Spring

This is a fairly easy linear walk starting at Whitchurch-on-Thames and ending at Goring-on-Thames where there is a station and the trains run regularly back to Pangbourne, near the start of the walk. It is a popular walking route particularly along the Thames Path stretch and also makes a great walk for dogs although it is not suitable for buggies. There are just a couple of short steep ascents/descents but most of the walk is flat and easy.

Whitchurch-on-Thames

We parked near the Dolphin Activity centre in Whitchurch-on-Thames
https://adventuredolphin.co.uk/ and walked across the road over the Whitchurch Bridge noticing the breathtaking views high above the River Thames on either side. This was a great start to our walk. https://whitchurchonthames.com

Whitchurch Toll Bridge

whitchurch toll bridge
Whitchurch Toll Bridge

Continuing past the toll gate and along the High street in Whitchurch, we passed the Ferryboat Inn on our right-hand side and a little further along was St. Mary’s church on the left. Both of these places looked like they would be worth further exploration. The Greyhound Inn was not much further along on the right-hand side but we continued up the road through the high street, past the Modern Artists Gallery. Another time, I must stop and browse.http://www.modernartistsgallery.com/ . The High Street continues bearing left and going uphill but we had to take care as the pavement runs out although after passing a flintstone wall we took a sharp left-hand turn onto Harts lock Bridleway. https://whitchurchonthames.com/about.html

The Hartley Steps

We followed this path which includes a steep descent and equivalent ascent. But this part of the path was made much easier by the construction of some helpful steps.
h

The Hartley Steps
The Hartley Steps

Continuing on, eventually, a signpost indicated the Thames Path,
https://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/thames-path/route/goring-pangbourne taking us across the fields which were straight ahead. This path soon arrived at the river. This part of the walk is very peaceful and the path continues along hugging the riverbank.

Along the Thames

Wildflowers

Eventually, the path began to drift towards the right and away from the river but before long we found a sharp left turn, signposted Thames Path which took us back alongside the river adjacent to a wonderful wildflower meadow.

Wildflower Meadow beside the Thames

Goring-on-Thames

We finished our walk by taking a sharp righthand turn towards a roadway just before the train line ahead. Then we continued up Manor road into Goring https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goring-on-Thames

In Goring, there are several good pubs.
https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurants-g1046995-Goring_on_Thames_Oxfordshire_England.html We stopped at the cosy Catherine Wheel as we had half an hour to wait before catching a train from Goring and Streatley station back to Pangbourne.
https://www.gwr.com/plan-journey/stations-and-routes/goring-and-streatley

At the station garden, I spotted this ladybird enjoying the forget-me-nots. From Pangbourne station, it is just a few minutes walk back to the Dolphin Activity Centre carpark.

ladybird on forget me not
ladybird on forget me not

Conclusion

This walk took us about 2 and a half hours at a leisurely pace. The trains run at approx. every half an hour https://www.thetrainline.com/ and the journey only take 5 minutes to returning to Pangbourne. I am looking forward to repeating this walk again and taking more time to explore the towns of Whitchurch and Goring.

Happy Wildflower hunting in March.

********************

Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

 *PARENTS* Get your FREE play with nature activity ideas here.

Tips for Photographing Wildflowers

Wildflower Photography Tips:-

Wildflower photographs

for the non-photographer.

If you don’t have a  camera or just didn’t bring it with you when you spot a wonderful wildflower, you can still take some great photos using a mobile phone camera. These wildflower photography tips will help you.

Scabious Wildfower photography

Sharper images.

Our eyes are always drawn to the sharpest part of an image so consider carefully which part of the wildflower you want to be in focus.

Using a tripod is always helpful but they take time to set up. Shoot lots and lots of photographs because wildflowers are often so gentle that the slightest breeze sends the flowers bouncing and bobbing. Try to protect them from the wind, using your own body or get a friend to hold your jacket as a shield. This can be difficult and also sometimes means that the lighting direction becomes spoilt by your own shadow.  You can always try to capture the flower in between the movements of the wind. Again, you will need to shoot lots and lots to stand the best chance of a sharp result.

Background wildflower photography

Best backgrounds.

A good background is essential because it helps to draw attention to the main subject of the flower. Often the best backgrounds are:-

1) a strong contrast colour from the flower

2) smooth and seamless

3) out of focus

You may need to look around to find the best bloom that with a background made up of one smooth colour which contrasts well with the flower. To get the out of focus background without the use of any specialist equipment or lenses, you simply need to maximise the distance between the flower and the background.

wildflower photography

Creating flower portraits.

The perspective you choose when you take your photograph makes a big difference. If you stand directly above the flower (the most natural angle in many ways) you will be looking down on the flower and this psychologically diminishes feelings of friendliness. To create a more intimate and friendly feeling it will help to make the viewpoint eye to eye. This may mean lying down on wet grass or other unpleasant surfaces, but the results will be worth it.

leave no trace

Leaving no trace.

Be careful where you step. Stick to paths where possible.

Clean away seeds from your shoes and backpack before and after your hike. To help prevent the spread of invasive species.

Only clear dead vegetation from your backgrounds. Don’t remove anything that’s growing no matter how tempting.

Leaving no trace ensures that the next visitor can enjoy the same experience but importantly it greatly increases the chances for wildflowers to return again next year.

wildflower photographs

Make identification easier.

One of the most rewarding aspects of wildflower photography is learning how to identify them. When we can place a name on something, we feel more connected to it. To help with this process, take photographs from lots of different angles. Take photographs of the leaves, both the stem leaves and basal leaves as these may be different shapes or sizes. See how the leaves attach themselves to the stem, e.g. some will have stalks, some will clasp the stem. They may be arranged in directly opposite sides of the stem or be alternately placed on the stem. Look to see whether the stem or leaves have any hairs on them. If there are seed heads, photograph these for reference also as their shape and size are likely to prove important. All these details can help as you look through any wildflower guidebook. When you have identified your flower then label your photograph. If you are not sure what it is, then consider its specific location as that can also provide important clues. If you are stuck and would like some friendly help you can try posting it on #wildflowerhour  onTwitter. Lots of keen experts are online between 8.00p.m. and 9.00p.m. on Sunday evenings to help if they can.  I recommend posting your photos, alongside the question:- Can anyone help with ID? Don’t forget the hashtag #wildflowerhour.

Conclusion.

I hope these simple wildflower photography tips will encourage you to capture the next beautiful or interesting wildflower that you see. Go on, give it a try.

****************

Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.

Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.

Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.

Kim Mackenzy Andrews - Childrens Author

Kim Mackenzy Andrews  Children’s Author
https//: www.facebook.com/KimMackenzyAndrewsChildrensAuthor
Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

 *PARENTS* Get your FREE play with nature activity ideas here.