Monday, 3 February 2014

West Farndon and beyond

I really haven't been doing much walking lately - no more than strolling really, so today I set off for a longer, brisker walk. It was only about three and a half miles but with some steepish climbs on muddy tracks, and into the teeth of a blustery wind, it felt further.

West Farndon, looking from the west
3 February, 2013

I left Byfield via Church Street and set out, with a strong east wind making my eyes water, along the uninspiring road towards West Farndon. It is quite a pretty little hamlet with a population, I suspect, of under fifty people. (The village of East Farndon, near Market Harborough, is considerably larger.)

My walk by-passed West Farndon and in a short distance I left the road and struck off west, heading for Farndonhill Farm. A couple of dozen fieldfares rose as I approached, chak-chakking testily. These migrant thrushes have largely escaped me this winter and this was the largest flock I've seen this year. In a few weeks they'll be getting restless and set off for Scandinavia, pining for the fjords (see footnote). Skylarks rose from fields of cereals and oilseed rape, but after a short flight quickly settled again; their famous towering flights seem to be restricted to the breeding season.

I was now climbing steadily, with superb views in all directions, to reach a height of 184 metres. The wind was from the south-east - not the coldest quarter but nevertheless finding every chink in my clothing. Although I could see for many miles, particularly to the east, a camera would not do justice to this lovely but, compared with somewhere like the Clee Hills, a relatively featureless landscape.

White Campion Silene alba.
Farndon Hill, nr Byfield. 3 January, 2014

In these exposed conditions I was surprised to see White Campion, Silene alba, flowering. The soil is, I suspect neutral to slightly acid and in the summer Harebells flower in the same location.

The local farmer is clearly friendly towards the environment. Owl boxes were positioned in trees and there is some good amenity planting.

Amenity planting on Solden Hill.
3 February, 2014

This little grove of trees included cherry, oak, birch and beech. The latter two are probably not native to this part of the county but are nevertheless good choices.

Witches Brooms on birch trees.
Solden Hill, 3 February, 2014

Already the young birches were displaying 'witches brooms', about which I wrote in my blog for 9 February, 2013 called "Midwinter Miscellany". Research continues into these curious malformations which, though often quite large, seem to do no harm to the tree.

Our slowly growing gnome colony, Solden Hill.
3 February, 2014

I briefly paused to check on the well-being of our local colony of gnomes - Gnomebase? - before continuing my journey. I suspect there has been some inbreeding in this isolated group with its limited gene pool as some of the specimens were quite grotesque.

By now Byfield was in sight across the fields and I had under a mile to go. Unfortunately the last leg was along the busy A381 but it had been a good jaunt. 

Footnote  Apologies to Monty Python's 'Dead Parrot' sketch.These birds, amongst our larger thrushes, do not actually reside in the fjord regions but breed inland, through Fennoscandia into Russia.

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