Thursday, 19 September 2019
IT is a steep climb up Streatley Hill. Years ago, it was a challenge for a young cyclist; today it’s a seemingly never-ending ascent but well worth the effort.
The train journey to Goring and Streatley from Reading station does not take long and affords some tantalising views.
The Thames is ever-present with a wealth of birds to spot even in these dark days.
Coots noisily clatter about, moorhens can be spied as they clamber among the fine twigs of riverside willows and greylag geese do what geese do (paddle about and honk). If you are lucky, you may also catch a glimpse of a pied wagtail as it flies in its undulating fashion along the river bank.
At Tilehurst the rookery seems as boisterous as ever and then, reaching our destination, we are greeted by another mob of these birds atop their nests.
Me and my companion Dave Kenny are now in the famous Goring Gap, where the Thames is framed on either side by huge deposits of chalk and its associated downlands. Crossing the river is a huge experience in itself. The bridge from the Oxfordshire to Berkshire side is vast. The water roars by the entrance to Goring Lock as it traverses many weirs and sluices.
There is plenty of good fishing to be had here if that’s your bag. I stopped angling many years ago but have been assured that this is good barbel water.
Having crossed the river and passed the Bull Inn at Streatley, a very steep hill leads upwards towards our destination. Lardon Chase and Lough Down, both owned by the National Trust, are some of the few places that are quintessentially English. It would be impossible to attempt to describe this to people from other shores.
It seems perpetually windy up here on the crest of the hill. The views are superb. Scanning the horizon, you can spot similar high ground at Nettlebed, Ipsden and beyond.
There is one blot to disfigure the view to the north but then the whims of opulence can become the driving force behind the ambition to build a brutalist supercar playground when rich beyond compare. Kites, buzzards and kestrels fly above. Maybe there’s much prey to be caught on the golf course with its captivating slopes next door.
Underfoot there remain the dessicated flowerheads of last summer’s marjoram and carline thistle. Old anthills abound and there is considerable evidence of subterranian mole activity.
At the top of the hill gorse is in flower, a lovely thing to see in December. I love it up here with all its nature as raw as it is and so should it remain. Travelling home and admiring the views, I feel blessed to feel an intimacy with our local landscape.
31 December 2018
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