Thursday, 13 December 2018
THERE is nothing like an ancient and old hollow lane to bring the past into the present.
Today we may walk along them without much thought as to their age and purpose.
Of course, many have become roads but one only has to look at any map, old or modern, to see that they must have been once very old and important thoroughfares across our ancient landscape.
Criss-crossing our old woods and meadows, it is impossible not to encounter these old tracks. Some are eminently discernible carving their way through the woodland floor.
There are many old saw-pits too, a reminder of past industry that in all probability led to the foundation of present day Henley.
The sun has emerged and after a brief walk I meet my sister Frances where she keeps her two horses at the nearby stables by Rosehill on the way to Sonning Common. I am pleased to say that both animals seem to remember me.
We strike out along Chalkhouse Green Lane on foot to see what we can find. This narrow, winding way is a significant sanctuary from the modern world and somehow seems to avoid the scourge of noise and pollution nearby.
To the east is Abbey Rugby Football Club, to the west Tanners Lane, which is just north of Reading Golf Club. Hopefully, both of these sporting facilities will survive as a buffer to urban encroachment in the lower Chilterns.
There are some splendid trees and shrubs along here — ancient field maples with their contorted trunks, hazels that are crying out for coppicing with their heavy boughs and old common limes looking as if they have been sentinels of time past. A buzzard circles above and closer a gang of long-tailed tits makes its way to our left. There must be at least 15 of them.
They typically operate as an extended family and are nearly impossible to count as they are always on the move as they chatter between themselves, seemingly oblivious to our presence.
A great tit sounds its signature “teacher teacher” call. Robins, blackbirds, dunnocks and a song thrush announce their presence.
Toothwort (Lathraea squamaria), a strange parasite of hazel, can be found here in late April as can stinking hellebore (Helleborus foetidus). Both are uncommon plants, so may be indicators of an old local ecosystem.
As we return, I notice that I have not heard or seen any fieldfare or redwing but their time will surely come.
The horses seem content and we are too. Bring on spring.
12 November 2018
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