Friday, 21 January 2022

What a joy to discover gorgeous new territory (except for a tricky stile)

What a joy to discover gorgeous new territory (except for a tricky stile)

AFTER looking at my Ordnance Survey Explorer map, I suggest to Rosemary that we visit some unexplored land between Bix, Nettlebed and Greys Green.

We will need to leave our car somewhere central as the roadsides in the area can be narrow and tricky.

I call an old friend who lives in the area who tells me a suitable place to leave the car.

A little later, nearing our destination, Rosemary steers the car through bronze-tinged, classy looking beech woods.

We head along a sinuous private drive to find our parking spot, just as described by my friend. I’m grateful.

Once out of the car, we walk past a beautifully maintained old barn which might well be inhabited by swallows in the summertime. It would certainly make an ideal home for the winsome migrants.

Strolling past the farmhouse, we turn eastwards to our left and find a track, as I had hoped.

A five-bar gate leads into an orchard with some old trees and others recently planted and protected from voracious leaf-eating deer.

Short turf shines underneath the fruit trees, which are still in leaf. The leaves carry glistening water droplets, either from rain or morning dew.

We spot a species of parasol mushroom, Macrolepiota excoriata, a handsome fungus. Other fungi, clustered around the rotting bole of a tree, look good too.

We move on through another gate and enter a woodland, so green and redolent that it is hard to believe that this is the end of October.

We stop to look around. A rowan tree has lost its footing and is struggling at a desperate angle above the forest floor, propped up by some hazels and a wonky silver birch. The roots are on display but it’s still alive with leaves reddening, Out for the count? I don’t think so.

A beech tree rises high while spreading its greenish, moss-covered, tentacled roots in all directions. It is deeply entrenched, gripping this patch of earth.

Knotty, old and strong field maples twist and turn as they slowly grow semi-erect, their leaves slipping into a bright yellow.

Silver birches glow under the sun’s blessing and dogwood turns a lovely shade of red.

This is an extremely varied woodland. Deciduous trees live alongside conifers, some of them obviously planted.

Common larch and brewer’s spruce, a native of western America, display dangling, delicate needles. All add to the scent of the woodland.

Turkeytail bracket fungus expands on fallen boughs.

It’s so exciting to discover and walk in new territory and I’m particularly taken with the views. This provides an insight and understanding of the flow of land, its history and composition.

Our path takes us down a sylvan incline filled with one of my favourite woodland plants, the hard shield-fern (Polystichum aculeatum). These plants are large, winter-green and bipinnate. We have bought and planted some in our garden, which are doing very well.

Rosemary spots some more turkeytail on a rotting, moss-covered bough, another a sign of a healthy wood.

We emerge in a clearing and then continue to the valley bottom to see that there has been much tree planting, thankfully not in straight lines. There’s a lovely mixture of native shrubs and trees.

Another right of way leads either south or north. We head north and then after a 100 yards or so go east along a right of way that leads up a gentle slope.

We encounter some well-constructed steps and another gate built by Chiltern Society volunteers.

As we ascend, we note an ancient elder bush is full of jelly ear fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae).

Then there it is, the broad expanse of water that I have been longing to see for a long time. What a beauty.

I guess that it was once a small pond that became a larger reservoir, hence the solid bank to the south. (I wonder if there is a connection with the Second World War.)

Inhabited by mallard ducks and moorhens (no surprise there), the water is clear. The bank is populated with a variety of willows, which makes sense. A small hut sits on the far bank. As it is fenced off, we cannot determine its purpose.

Rosemary clambers up to take some photographs of the water only to find a dead deer. No clue to the cause of death but so sad.

We move on through open, breezy country with lush pasture until we meet part of (I believe) the Chiltern Way and turn left and north towards Bix.

A large herd of cows, black and white and brown and white, chomps in a chicory-filled meadow. The flowers glow sky-blue among ribwort plantain, shepherd’s-purse and white clover, a bovine paradise. No wonder the cows look happy.

Moving upland along begrudging ground, we head towards the sound of busy traffic.

Beside a large farm complex to our left, we are confronted by a muddy stile with a steep drop on the far side that makes us both uncomfortable about climbing over.

This is the first serious obstacle we have come across on this otherwise splendid walk. We turn back to retrace our steps. What a shame.

Passing the docile cows once again, we drop downhill and after a twist in the path stop to admire the large pond again. I wonder what species of fish live here. Tench and carp maybe? As we retrace our steps, I notice the many larch trees, deciduous conifers with a distinctive scent.

We reach the dip in the land that we crossed earlier.

I look north along a path towards Hatch Copse, a medium-sized beech wood which we plan to visit soon.

Back home, we still have so many plants in flower that it is hard to keep a tally, especially in our front garden that is home to bright-coloured salvias and a cynara, a wild artichoke.

All are popular with bees and other insects.

In the back garden, still-green leaves are falling to the ground in silence, one by one. Others cling on to turn from yellow to red. Autumn can be beautiful.

Our conifers, in particular the giant redwood, appear uninterested. Seen it all before, I suppose.

Rosemary and I both tolerate certain creatures that share our shelter. A spider that we have nicknamed Hector (probably a female) lives inside the house by the back door and snatches any fly that comes too close.

As autumn moves on, we are look forward to scuffing through leaves on a frosty morning like we used to do as children. We’ve never grown out of it but there’s nothing wrong with that.

vincent.ruane@hotmail.com

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