Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Sonning Common and Rotherfield Greys

Flowercroft Wood

A lovely autumn afternoon and I decided to take a short walk to try to relieve some stiffness. This walk starts in the centre of the sprawling village of Sonning Common. As I arrived, I was greeted by the almost obligatory kite circling above. You walk back along the main road and turn left to walk up past a pond and along another road before finally escaping into a field path across open country, with Flowercroft Wood ahead to the left.

You skirt the wood, climb a steep hill to reach a lane, where there are nice views towards the Chilterns to the east.

A series of field paths across very open country bring you to Rotherfield Greys, where you pass some old cottages and then notice one of the many structures built in the Thames Valley to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. This was has apparently been both a well-house and a bus stop.

Almost opposite is the church of St Nicholas. According to Pevsner, there are one or two Norman fragments: a round doorway can be seen on the left in the nave, for example, but the church was essentially rebuilt by Woodman in 1865. The north chapel (on the left in the photo) was built in 1605 by William Knollys, first earl of Banbury as a memorial chapel. (Now I can guess why there used to be a Great Knollys St in Reading.)

More fields, a small section of woodland and a path across a plantation, which then crosses a golf course, lead to the nearby village of Rotherfield Peppard, whose church also is Victorian with Norman fragments.

You now follow a steeply descending path field towards a delightful valley called Stony Bottom. On the way down I saw two pairs of kites circling away to the east. On the other side of the valley you climb through beech woods back to Sonning Common. Although most of the leaves now form a thick carpet on the floor, the view back through the trees towards the other side of the valley was still pleasing.

From: Rambling for pleasure around Reading (second series) by David Bounds for the East Berkshire Ramblers

Map: Explorer 171 (Chiltern Hill West).

Distance: 4.5 miles.

Conditions: bright, fresh, a bit muddy in places.

Rating: three stars.


Apart from the kites, the only other wildlife interest came at the pond on the edge of Sonning Common. There were lots of mallards and a number of what, since my walk from Turlin Moor to Poole Quay, I can now confidently identify as Black Headed Gulls. The one oddity was this bird, which looks a bit like a mallard on steroids, but initial investigations suggested may be a Bean Goose.

I contacted the RSPB to find out. They identified it as a Khaki Campbell duck, a domestic type of Mallard, which had presumably escaped from captivity. My initial assessment was not so far out!

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