Thursday, 23 June 2016

Market Lavington to Stoke HIll (Wessex Ridgeway [Wiltshire] 5)

View towards Gibbet Knoll from West Lavington

What better way to pass Referendum day than continuing our walk along the Wessex Ridgeway in Wiltshire. We picked up the route at Gibbet Knoll, just up the road from Market Lavington. It was mild but hazy. We soon became aware of a great profusion of intensely coloured Dove's-foot Crane's-bill (Geranium molle) along the way side.

After walking along the wide track for a while, past some police supervising the recovery of what appeared to be an abandoned vehicle, we turned right into a narrower path towards West Lavington. Here we quickly spotted a few Large Skippers, my first for the year, and this Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet moth (a bit of a mouthful!) on Devil's-bit Scabious.

We arrived at the southern end of the village, passing this lovely house, which I am pretty sure is the late 17th century Parsonage described in Pevsner.

A bit further on along another track we passed the church of All Saints. This 13th century church had its tower added in the 14th century and then extended in the early 15th.

Now we climbed steadily, spotting a couple of Small Tortoiseshells, to reach the wide open grassland of Strawberry Hill. To the left a wide flower margin and to the right a much narrower one; in between, a wide grassy path.

We started to see quite a few orchids - this Common Spotted one and a number of Pyramidal ones too.

Gradually some butterflies revealed themselves from the grass: lots of Meadow Browns,  a few Common Blues, a Small Heath and some Marbled Whites, with this one being very obliging.

Then there was a descent to a valley bottom at 106m and quite a stiff climb to reach the Imber Range Perimeter Road at 192m. This is the view back from about two-thirds of the way up: beautiful grassland, with loads more orchids, but few butterflies.

It remained only to walk a mile or so along the road to where we had parked the car.

Conditions: mild, cloudy, muggy.

Distance: 7 miles.

Map: Explorer 130 (Salisbury & Stonehenge) and 143 (Warminster & Trowbridge)

Rating: four stars.

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