Thursday, 21 October 2021

Explore outdoors

TURN left after Middle Assendon and follow, with care, the narrow lane towards Bix Bottom, parking by the old Church of St James, now a picturesque ruin. From here a chalk track ascends to the right, the rains having eroded the thin layer of topsoil. The verges grow chalk- specific flowers and their attendant butterflies abound.

Entering the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust reserve, you may encounter the sheep/
grassmowers and welcome shade. At the top turn back to the right and take the old holloway down to the Stonor road. Here are badger dens and chaffinches galore, feeding on the beech mast, as well as muddy cyclists with no bells.

At the road you can turn back to the right and walk on the footpath over the hill to the Bix Bottom road, past a magnificent wildflower meadow and the timid young partidges which fly up in terror at your approach. From the church an equally pleasant round is possible to the left, up past the little plantation where the orchids flower to the patch of clover, or sorghum in some years (land set aside for the game birds), into the beech woods, where there are always squirrels, and then to an unusual, mysteriously dark yew forest. What was the purpose of this plantation?

Emerging into a pasture along a thorn hedge, you soon reach Crocker End. Here, you can turn back across the pasture towards Soundess House and thence right again, down into the nature reserve and the road which leads back to your car. You will certainly startle, or be startled by, a pheasant or two and probably see a muntjac in the woods, a roe in the crops or a fallow deer on the margin of the field to your right.

These are good walks for children with sufficient variety to keep them interested, especially if you take a snack.

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