Winter walks

Riverside Walk in December

 

The mild weather this month has made for great walking.  Good boots, preferably proper walking wellies are essential as the ground almost everywhere is soggy and muddy at this time of year. An easy flat walk, there and back along the River Lodden was a relaxing way to end the December after all the festivities.

Sandford Lane to Whistley Mill

Taking the footpath from the layby about three quarters along Sandford Lane – on the right-hand side (when entering from Davis Street). I was hopeful about seeing some wildflowers, but this was not a great place for them. Nevertheless, this walk provides lots of interesting things to see.

Alder Trees

The first thing I noticed were these dark, reddish catkins. Less common than the frequently seen, golden catkins in this area, I checked their type when I returned home https://www.countryfile.com/wildlife/trees-plants/how-to-identify-catkins/ and found that they are Alder catkins ‘Longer, more knobbly and darker than hazel, these are the first catkins to shed pollen in spring. They’re carried on the tips of twigs, often alongside clusters of tiny red-tipped female flowers.’ The Alder is a lovely native British tree. https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/native-trees/alder/

Lavell’s Lake

Not far along the muddy path, a green metal bridge can be seen and on the right-hand side just before is an old wooden sign, informing visitors of a conservation area, which is fenced off with wire to keep the public out. Not much further along and a bird hide entrance is signposted but locked, only accessible for permit holders. But it becomes clear that is a nature reserve for waterfowl.  Cormorant and other birds can be seen from the path, through the bare twigs of the winter hedge that follows the edge of Lavell’s lake. Further along and more signage reminds visitors about the private nature of the reserve and this only serves to mhttp://www.wokingham.gov.uk/countryside-parks-and-conservation/country-parks/lavells-lake-nature-reserve/

River Lodden

Continuing along the well-marked path alongside the River Lodden, plenty of crack willow trees can be seen. Mallard duck and Tufted ducks are also enjoying the river and on the other side, flocks of Canadian geese can be seen in the fields and further along more plentiful flocks can be found- this time they are grazing sheep.

More Wildlife

Continue past the disused iron bridge on the left and keep your eyes on the ground to see some good examples of bracket fungus, growing on the dead, damp wood. The familiar golden catkins of hazel are also growing along this stretch and the river swirls gently downstream.

Finally, reaching the road at Whistley Mill, Lane in Hurst. This stretch and the lake at Whistley Mill are both very popular with anglers who boast of catching carp, bream, rudd, and roach. https://www.rdaa.co.uk/lakes 

Turn around to retrace your steps along the path, to the layby at Sandford Lane.

Conclusion

This pleasant walk will take about an hour and a half at a very gentle pace. If you want to extend it, then cross the road to find yourself at the edge of Dinton Pastures Country Park where you can walk around Sandford Lake, White Swan Lake and Black Swan Lake.  There is also an activity centre and a coffee shop on this site.

River Lodden
Autumn leaves provide ground cover beside the River Lodden.

 

November Wildflowers

November Wildflowers

Although wildflowers are fewer and farther between in the winter months., that just makes finding them even more exciting. The milder Autumn weather that we are enjoying this year has extended the wildflower season for some hardy species. Here is a November round-up of wildflowers seen around the Bracknell/Reading area.

Sulham Gap

November Wildflowers
Wild radish flourishes at Sulham.

Sulham Woods is a really popular dog walking area, just beyond Tilehurst. The whole area is criss-crossed with footpaths.  The woods slope down westwards towards the valley of Sulham Brook and the River Pang, which flow side-by-side from south to north. There are woodland and copses throughout the area, on the high ground and also on the slopes and lower down in the valley. The woodlands are interspersed with fields and open grassy stretches of countryside. In these open areas, where the winter sunlight still warms the ground, it is not too difficult to find November wildflowers.

 

Wild radish grows abundantly across the fields between the woods.  Both  the white and yellow varieties are plentiful here. Wild radish is edible and grows to  a metre tall.  It has dark green, deeply lobed leaves and the roots are white, long and slender with a tough outer core. Peel before eating.

Tall Melilot, November Wildflowers

Tall Melilot also grows here but there are only a few plants still flowering in November. The stems grow about up to 1.5 metres. The main stem is strongly ridged and the bright yellow, pea-like flowers grow along the smaller branch-like stems.

Swinley Forest

Swinley Forest
Swinley Forest

In the open spaces at  Swinley Forest, Bracknell there are plenty of November wildflowers to be found. The woodland is part of the Crown Estate,  stretching over 2,600 acres from Bracknell to Crowthorne. The Look Out is based at the edge of Swinley Forest and is a popular place to begin exploring the area.

Bracken.

Today, Swinley Forest is mainly comprised of Scots pine trees. Among the trees bracken,  covers much of the ground and is one of the most common British ferns.  Dying back in the Autumn,  bracken turns orange and brown during Winter months.

Red Dead Nettle.

red dead nettle November Wildflowers

Red dead nettle can still be seen here in November. The leaves are aromatic, hairy and heart-shaped with toothed edges. Some leaves near the top of the plant have a lovely purple tint.

Common Field Speedwell.

Common field speedwell November Wildflowers

Common field speedwell is a low, short and sprawling plant with branched stems and hairy leaves.  Growing throughout the year in cultivated grounds, gardens, and arable fields. The pretty, blue flowers of the common field speedwell are widely seen throughout Britain.

Lesser Hawkbit

Lesser hawkbit, November Wildflowers

Lesser hawkbit is a short, slightly hairy plant without leaves or leaf-like bracts on the stem. Lesser hawkbit grows in grassy places and it particularly likes sandy or chalky soils. The best months to see Lesser hawkbit flowering are from June to October.

Happy Wildflower hunting in November.

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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
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Twitter:@Kim_M_Andrews

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