Saturday, 8 October 2016

The coming of Autumn

Another busy few weeks for me, so apologies for the delay in posting. During that time, however, the mornings are certainly much more autumnal now, and the days are drawing in.

I did manage one last brief final exploration of summer a couple of weekends ago, by taking advantage of the glorious sunshine and heading out to pastures new. Well, the start of the walk was along familiar ground along the Ox Drove by Salisbury Racecourse. We then opted to turn off and walk along the top of the valley for amazing views across Fovant Wood towards the distant enormous expanse of Grovely Wood. It certainly gives you a sense of perspective - no wonder I've barely scratched the surface of walking through Grovely!

We continued on towards a small area of Open Access chalk grassland, featuring amazing ancient earthworks, wildflowers still in bloom (small scabious and rough hawkbit in particular), and stunning views across to the end of the Fovant escarpment - this then becomes home to the Fovant Badges further up. All the while, we encountered nobody - so peaceful and a feast for the eyes!

Last week during work, we held a highly-contrasting by comparison area-event down at Royal Victoria Country Park. This is the site of an old military hospital on the shores of Southampton Water, with 'delightful' views of Fawley Oil Refinery across the water and Southampton Docks. In this busy industrial landscape, it's incredible that wildlife can still find the space to live - part of the shore is Weston Shore Local Nature Reserve, and we observed oystercatchers and black-headed gulls feasting in the mud.

Last weekend I ventured even further afield, visiting friends in Devon. The narrow country lanes and ancient droveways are so different to Wiltshire's, with their high hedgebanks festooned with flowers and gnarly old trees. We also visited the Exe Estuary via the RSPB Topsham reserve - great views of godwits (probably bar-tailed), avocets, wigeon, lapwing and black-headed gulls -a bit early in the season but soon the great migration to our shores will begin.

Finally, this week after work, I managed a quick yomp around Martin Down, walking through the interesting scrub and grassland mosaic nearer the main road. It's a rarely-explored area but very interesting botanically. This late in the season, I was surprised to see wild basil, knapweed, agrimony, red clover, yarrow and hawkbits all in flower still. It will be interesting to see how long they hold on, now the weather has turned slightly.

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