Friday, 20 April 2007

Kingsclere: Hollowshot Lane and Hannington Village

St Mary's church, Kingsclere

I just didn’t feel like working this morning and so I bunked off to go on this walk.

It is a circular walk starting in the centre of Kingsclere, south of Newbury, up onto the North Hampshire Downs – home of the famous Watership Down which inspired Richard Adams.

The route winds uphill to the Downs along Hollowshot Lane, a broad hedged track. At the top I took the shorter alternative and went right along a long ridge, with magnificent views to the south. The silence was broken only by the birdsong and the sound of the rind in the trees. Then back towards Kingsclere alongside some horse gallops.

My route was 4 miles – the full route is 6½. I look forward to doing the whole thing before long.

Rating: 4 stars.

From: Rambling for Pleasure: Kennet Valley and Watership Down by David Bounds for the East Berkshire Ramblers’ Association Group.

Map: Explorer 144


I was struck by the intense yellow of the massive field of oilseed rape to the right of the lane. Later looking down on it from the ridge, the intense contrast with the surrounding country and the tractor tracks within the field gave it abstract geometrical quality. I know it’s not very traditional but I confess I quite like the intense colour.

Then – not by coincidence – I saw an interesting piece in today's Guardian entitled “Seeds of discontent” . 

Apparently, oilseed rape now accounts for 17% of the crops cultivated in the UK, and production has risen 17% in the last year. It was originally grown for lamp oil and more recently for cheap cooking oil, margarine, cattle feed and other humdrum uses. Now it is used for bio-fuel, and most of the UK’s production is destined for Germany. In addition, some enterprising farmers are marketing “extra virgin rapeseed oil” to rival the olive product.

However, the downside is that it is vulnerable to numerous pests and diseases and therefore needs extensive chemicals to keep them under control.

And while on the walk I came on two notices by a field of barley giving information about the crop and about supporting nature by allowing field edge weeds to thrive. They were sponsored by LEAF – Linking Farmers and the Environment - a charity which promotes Integrated Farm Management: “A whole farm policy providing the basis for efficient and profitable production which is economically viable and environmentally responsible. IFM integrates beneficial natural processes into modern farming practices using advanced technology. It aims to minimise environmental risks while conserving, enhancing and recreating that which is of environmental importance”. Seems like a worthy endeavour.


5 species of butterfly: small white, large white, brimstone, a blue of some sort, small tortoiseshell.
And a yellowhammer – a bird I haven’t seen for ages.

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