Tuesday, 3 February 2015

A walk to Newnham Windmill

I didn't set out with the intention of visiting Newnham Windmill. It was a cold morning but the biting wind of the last forty-eight hours had eased off, to make walking a far more pleasant prospect. My objective was simply that of investigating the minor Daventry-Newnham road as a prospective spring/summer target.

I set off, threading my way through residential streets, delayed only momentarily by the mine of the micro-moth Lyonetia clerkella on a shrub of Bay, Laurus nobilis; not an exciting start.

A few minutes later I found myself on the road to Newnham, crossing the busy A45. Ash trees were spreading their branches across the bridge parapet, allowing me to photograph their distinctive soot-black buds.

The moss Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus beside the
 Newnham Road, Daventry. Note the flecks of snow.
2 February, 2015

A little further on I noted that the grass of the roadside verge was interwoven with the common moss Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus. Though a rather poor photograph it is easy to see the characteristic reddish stems of this species. It is one of those mosses which can become a real nuisance in lawns. 

I stood by the roadside gazing west across fields when a Land Rover pulled up beside me and the cheery occupant - clearly a farmer -  called out, 'Are you looking for something?' I explained that I was new to Daventry and was simply familiarising myself the area. 'Don't be put off my locked gates,' he said, pointing to a small fenced and padlocked field, 'but some people park their cars here and make a nuisance of themselves with litter and so on.' He then invited me to wander where I wished. He explained that he and his neighbouring farmers recognised their stewardship duties regarding the land and were happy for people to enjoy the countryside. One occasionally hears of truculent or even aggressive landowners but I have to say that I have always found farmers to be interested and helpful when my intentions are explained.

He drove off and I took him at his word and set out across sheep-grazed pasture.

I soon found myself being inspected by a group of the local residents. The dye on their backs showed that these ewes were probably in lamb so I'll pay another visit in spring to see how they're getting on. I'm no expert but I suspect they are Texels with a broad head and dark tear ducts.

Bulrush, Typha latifolia, in a small pond
adjacent to the Newnham Road.
2 January, 2015

Perhaps the sheep were curious because I had been crouching down to examine a small but interesting pond. It contained Reed-mace, aka Bulrushes, Typha latifolia. This pond gives me yet another reason to re-visit the area.

Ash trees in a hedgerow near the Newnham Road,
Daventry. 2 February, 2015

The most prominent trees in the landscape were ash, Fraxinus excelsior, with this pair being typical. In fact the one to the rear looks rather oak-like but I can assure you that it was ash.

As I made my way up a steep hillside an odd-looking structure gradually came into view. It took me a moment to realise that it was Newnham Windmill.

Newnham Windmill. 2 February, 2015

As more of the structure came into view it could be seen that the brickwork had been seriously defaced by graffiti; so much for farmers allowing access to their land! (I checked later and a report in the Daventry Express suggests that the vandalism occurred in early September last year.) This is a Grade II listed building so perhaps steps will be taken to remove this ugly mess.

Looking west from near Newnham Windmill, with gorse
in the foreground. 2 February, 2015 Note the 'yellow',
lichen-covered tree.

The windmill sat atop a prominent hill at 203 metres O.D. from which there were superb views across to misty blue hills far beyond Badby. I suspect that the soil is on the acid side and I would expect to find harebells, Campanula rotundifolia, there in the summer. The gorse - in flower of course - does not prove that the conditions are acid but this shrub is at its happiest where the soil is at least neutral. 

John Clare makes a couple of references to gorse (furze) in his poems:

             When the furze has leave to wreathe,
             Its dark prickles o'er the heath.

                                                    Cowper Green, 1821

             And yonder, mingling o'er the heath
             The furze delights to dwell.
             Whose blossoms steal the summer's breath
             And shed a sultry smell.

                                                    Shepherd's Calendar, 1827

Note that in both cases he associates furze with heath.

Gorse may be found right across Northants but is most commonly encountered here in the west. The Scots Pines, though planted, seemed entirely appropriate in this landscape. 

Time to turn back. Conditions were bleak on the hill top and, having strolled around and enjoyed the view, I set off back to Daventry.. 

Tony White.  E-mail: diaea@yahoo.co.uk

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