We have wanted to take a walk on the “Downs” for a while now and we have it written in our “to do” book. However whilst visiting my brother, Graham and his wife Vicky in Farnham we took the opportunity to make a half hour drive which led us to the car park at the start of a gentle walk along Old Winchester Hill. The panoramic views gave an added incentive to get going despite a cold, biting wind.
Although it is still relatively early in the year we had expectations of seeing site specific plants and birds. We were not to be disappointed.
Lady’s Bedstraw, White Deadnettle and Cowslip were probably the most frequently occurring flowering plants.
It was good to see one of our native Euphorbias growing along the woodland margins. This Wood Spurge looked so similar to some we grow in our Plealey garden.
As we reached the end of the ridge the path changed direction and we walked along a track between woodland and open fields. The woodland birdlife was in full song with summer migrant Warblers joining the resident Robins and Dunnocks. Above our heads Swallows called constantly. Over the farmland the song of Skylarks and the calls of Lapwing, two of our ground nesting birds, was carried on the wind for us to enjoy. We were really surprised to see large areas of very mature yew trees growing within areas of the usual deciduous trees, as we do not see them growing like this at home in Shropshire. They formed dark patches on the hillsides. We ventured underneath them and all of us found them decidedly spooky as they cut out all sound and much of the light leaving us in gloom. Beneath them nothing ventured to grow, apart from one lone, brave Elder seedling.It is no wonder that they feature strongly in ancient myths and folklore.
When we stopped for our coffee break on the only bench on the walk we were soon joined by a small flock of very inquisitive rare breed Herdwick Sheep, the sort I think that Beatrix Potter helped to save from extinction up on her Lake District farm.
Beyond the sheep the views were stunning and far-reaching.
After our coffee break, with a slice of cake as well of course for added energy, we walked through the ancient hill fort with its Bronze Age burial mounds. It is amazing how interesting mounds of earth can be!
I shall finish off with one last view of this unique downland landscape and one of the wildflowers growing right alongside the track. We have waited a long time for our first walk on the Downs. It was worth the wait.