October’s walk was a circular walk starting from Swallowfield Park. Here’s Paul’s walk report.
It seemed to me like it had been raining constantly for two weeks when we met under a spinney of oaks at Swallowfield Park on Saturday morning. But for a change the sun was shining promising a fine day for walking.
This park was first recorded in 1316 and the home to many noble families including being owned by Thomas Pitt, grandfather of Pitt the elder. The first thing we noticed was a fine display of a ring of large mushrooms in a circle around one of the mature oak trees. These, possibly Parasol Mushrooms, were at least twelve inches tall and were all left untouched. Later in the day, several other people arrived there to photograph them.
We set off on the footpath around the large fields and passed the copse named as “Cuckoo Pen” before taking the quiet Nutbeam Lane and the now very narrow path to descend to the Blackwater River. The recent rain had raised the water level to make a fine display with many geese in the field on the far bank. The confluence of the Whitewater and Blackwater rivers was clearly visible.
Crossing the river near Thatcher’s Ford, where the Roman road, the Devil’s Highway, meets the river on its passage from London to Silchester, we followed the path around a field which took us away from the river and into Bramshill Plantation. We followed the wide forestry tracks past a large pond which was almost unnoticed as the vegetation on the banks has grown profusely since we were there last year – I think I know several volunteers who would willingly cut this down if ever the Forestry Commision wished to, Continuing alongside areas of dense young pines and then areas of thinner more mature trees before we followed the only marked footpath in the forest to its western edge.
We left the forest behind to take the quiet lane to Springwater Farm and through the paddocks to start to turn north. Here at a very picturesque end of the field Angus was waiting for us with his yellow wheelbarrow containing hot drinks and cakes for us.
Suitably refreshed we followed the bridleway to the wooden bridge over the Whitewater River and then past Risley Mill. The mill which was the lowest of eight mills on the Whitewater river and of late eighteen century origin. It ceased operation when the mechanism failed in 1910 and is now a private home. Then with the grounds of Wellington Country Park on our left we entered the newly created SANG on the water meadows on our right. These have been named the Wellesley Water Meadow and having areas both named Wellesley in the south of the Blackwater Valley and now in the north will I’m sure not cause any confusion to anyone! Anyway we strolled around the perimeter of the meadows on the mowed paths which again took us down to the Whitewater, unfortunately there was no sign of the kingfisher that had been spotted there the previous week but red kites did fly overhead.
We returned to the Devil’s Highway to head further west before crossing fields and quiet lanes before returning to Church Lane at Salters footbridge where the Blackwater temporarily splits into two streams. We then had a quick look around the churchyard of the thirteenth century All Saints church. Our cars were parked just at the exit of the churchyard near the grave of Mary Mitford the author of “Our Village”, based upon life in nearby Three Mile Cross before she moved to Swallowfield. We had finished our seven miles at exactly one o’clock.
I hope everyone enjoyed this, my last walk of the year and thanks to those that came along on this one and all the previous ones this year since we started at Lakeside Park in February. I’ve enjoyed your company.
Our Festival has now drawn to a close and we reflect on a fantastic week. A huge thank you to everyone who joined and supported us.
Please see our Blackwater River Festival 2019 page for further informtion.
This Festival week walk was in bright sunshine starting at Southwood Woodlands, passing many buildings of interesting history including the old wind tunnel, the Basingstoke Canal and returned via some strange concrete army structures with unexplained purpose.
“Thoroughly enjoyable and lead by Paul Sanders in his popular, interesting style”
“Fabulous walk, thank you Paul for leading and those lovely people who supplied tea and cake halfway round – a really pleasant surprise”
Paul’s walk report
For the second time in two months I had set everyone the challenge of finding a recently created car park in a new SANG (Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace) area. This time we were meeting at the Kennels Lane entrance to the new Southwood Country park. This 30 hectare area of acid grassland with 2.4km of new paths has been created on the old golf course site which will now allow Farnborough town centre developments to proceed.
Pleasingly the car park started to fill up with a good crowd of walkers as 10:00 approached and we set off following the newly mown paths through the now long grass of the former tees and bunkers and fairways and over streams feeding into the Cove Brook. We noted the wildflowers now re-colonising the site.
We crossed Ively road with the help of some very patient motorists and continued past the rather sad looking former club house awaiting development into a cafe or information centre. We crossed the road to enter the airfield site. This is the fourth time I have led this walk, albeit slightly different every time, but each time we see more of the old historically interesting buildings have been demolished and new bland grey ones take their place. This year it was noted that the old control tower was no longer there.
We passed under the recreated outline structure of the balloon sheds. The scale of this is impressive but the originals housed balloons such as the 122ft long Nulli Secundus, or more formally British Army Dirigible No 1. First flown on 10 September 1907, it was Britain’s first powered military aircraft and designed by Colonel James Templer who originally brought the balloon factory to this site and whose name is remembered by the name of the road we had been using since Meadow Gate roundabout. Its engine later being used to power Cody’s British Army Aeroplane No. 1. We briefly discussed this plane and the Cody tree as we passed by one of Farnborough’s most famous landmarks, the Grade II listed Black Shed hangers.
The sun was shining and we had good views across the airfield. I didn’t let on that our refreshments waited for us at exactly the far end of the main runway. It looked so far away.
Exiting the airfield at the Queens gate we discussed the history of the old days of pilot training as remembered by ETPS road and the old hostel and its most famous resident Laurence of Arabia before his adventures began.
As we walked down Shoe Lane we stopped to view the large grave of five famous army horses just on the edge of the army golf course and then carried on down the quiet road to the Basingstoke Canal. We walked a couple of miles along the towpath before climbing up some steps recently installed by the Blackwater Valley volunteers to meet up with Angus and Marilyn who were dispensing teas and cakes from their “yellow wheelbarrow cafe”.
We stood on the mound, or sat on the benches, enjoying our drinks as several aircraft gave us a close look at their departures. We had covered 5.3 miles out of our 9.3 mile route.
Continuing along the towpath we now got some shade from the very welcome, but hot sun as we turned off to follow the Gelvert stream as it heads north through Pondtail into Fleet Pond. Turning to the east we could see the developments on the old Pyestock site with just one of the old buildings still standing. We crossed into the next wooded area which is slated to be the SANG for Hartland Park. We stopped to look at the curious bullet riddled concrete structures in the wood then crossed Kennels Lane to walk across the football pitches before entering Southwood Woodland and returning to the car park.
I hope everyone enjoyed the walk and found something interesting or new and thank you for keeping me company. Hope to see you in October!
This was a fascinating family walk at Moor Green Lakes with Paul Richards.
We were looking for butterflies and bugs but recent wet weather seemed to have slowed down the emergence of many butterflies.
Nevertheless we found a migrant painted lady, marbled white and speckled wood (pictured), red admiral, brimstones, common blues, meadow browns and ringlets. Also an interesting day flying moth called burnet companion.
We also found several dragonflies and damselflies including black-tailed skimmer (female pictured), large red, broad-bodied chaser and hundreds of common blue damselflies. Banded demoiselles were also found.
Not to be outdone, flowers were spectacular including meadow cranes-bill, horseshoe vetch, agrimony, lesser stitchwort and St John’s wort.
Our sincere thanks go to Paul for his expertise and impressive skills with his butterfly net.