Monday, 18 February 2013

Over Solden Hill

The sunny conditions prevail, so yesterday I strode out to do a circular walk taking in Solden Hill (otherwise known as Farndon Hill) and West Farndon.

Byfield from the flanks of Solden Hill. 18 February, 2013
Garden Gnomes on Solden Hill. 18 February, 2013

Solden Hill is not particularly impressive and as I crossed the highest point I was only at 184 metres. Nevertheless, despite a hint of mist I was afforded a fine view of Byfield, its tall church spire framed by trees. A small clump of trees is home to a flourishing colony of Gnomus vulgaris subsp. hortensis (sometimes given specific status as Gnomus hortensis). The colony has grown over the years but breeding habits remain a mystery as no babies or juveniles have been found.

On this higher ground there was a chill wind. It was never troublesome but I was glad that the next stage of my walk was in the lee of a south-facing hedgerow. I continued heading east and gradually dropped down to the pretty hamlet of West Farndon (where is - or was - East Farndon?). In gardens the bird feeders were attracting large numbers of Goldfinches, with their tinkling calls; chaffinches were pinking and occasionally were moved into a rendering of their full song ending with a flourish. (I once taught a pupil whose surname was Pink. He was puzzled by this as, being Afro-Caribbean, it could hardly refer to his skin. I explained that 'pink' was simply an old name for a Chaffinch and therefore belonged with a group of surnames related to birds, such as Bunting, Wren, Crane, Finch and Raven. He seemed vaguely relieved.)

Until I reached West Farndon there had been a dearth of insects but Common Dung Flies Scathophaga stercoraria were present on sheep droppings and I secured a very common bluebottle, Eudasyphora cyanella, which was basking on Ivy foliage. Snowdrops were in flower but little else; the chilly start to the month has held things back.

The final stage of my walk was a longish slog along a fairly busy road, not the most attractive of conditions but I was heartened by soaring skylarks doing their best to mimic Ralph Vaughan Williams. Fieldfares chak-chakked in annoyance at my approach.

In six weeks time Chis and I are off to France on a walking holiday and I'm some way short of being fit enough, but today was helpful - and very pleasant too.

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