Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Little piece of paradise where I’m happy to spend an hour relaxing

Little piece of paradise where I’m happy to spend an hour relaxing

THE Warren is long and straight, beginning beside St Peter’s Church in Caversham and leading to the tiny and ancient village of Mapledurham.

Heading westwards, the River Thames flows to the left.

To the right the chalky hillside rises and is adorned with some ancient trees. Yew, beech and ash flourish here with an understorey of holly and privet that furnish nesting sites for many species of birds, both resident and migratory.

The steep hillside also provides the redoubts of many native mammals. Members of the mustelidae family all live along here, badgers, weasels and stoats. Watch out for Brock if you are cycling down here at night as he’ll shoot across the road in a seemingly desperate hurry.

The badger is often characterised as an old man who can’t find his spectacles, which is not far off from the truth, but the other two they are ruthless and cunning little hunters. Passing deliciously built villas and some more buildings of modern design, I find this old road leads to The Chase, The Fishery and Chazey Court Farm with its Grade I listed barn.

Reaching the end of the macadamized road, everything has suddenly become rural.

A huge chalk pit confronts you with its pallid stare. It is amazing to think that all this chalk is the result of the demise of ancient molluscs and that their calcareous shells compacted on a former seabed to rise from below and form these hills of ours.

An ancient track by Gravel Hill leads to the north-east towards Blagrave and Jacksons Lanes. How old these thoroughfares are is anyone’s guess but we still have them and they are quite charming.

A flock of redwings (Turdus iliacus) shoot across the gloomy sky issuing their giveaway “seep” tweets. Ascending this old pathway, I notice that there is an abundance of butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus), a member of the lily family.

Old man’s beard (Clematis vitalba), otherwise called traveller’s joy, clambers around the trees with its woolly but now defunct plumes.

A badger’s sett is obvious carved out between the wayside trees.

Above the pit the views are quite extensive but more than that, it is a lovely place in its own right. Sitting up here is like a form of time travel and the world seems to stand still.

If you are lucky, you may find that an adder (Vipera berus), grass snake (Natrix natrix) or slowworm (Anguis fragilis) is sharing the sunlight with you.

Another little piece of paradise where I’m happy to pass an hour relaxing.

Vincent Ruane

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