|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.