|The Thames at Goring|
The journey turned into something of a refresher course on the upper and mid-Thames valley and associated drainages, though missing out the Wiltshire section. In the Cotswolds we crossed the upper reaches of the rivers Churn, Coln, Leach and later the Windrush, all draining eastwards to the Thames. We reached and first crossed the Thames proper at Newbridge in Oxfordshire and then again at Abingdon, travelling south on the Oxfordshire side to Goring.
At this point I should confess that I had an ulterior motive in undertaking this mobile geography lesson. Just outside Goring is the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust's Hartlock Reserve, a scrap of Chiltern chalk grassland that has avoided being ploughed or fertilized; as you go along on the train it's the only bit of grey-looking grassland to be seen in the whole Thames valley - grey is always good, amid the lush green of fertilized but non-flowery fields. For decades Hartslock has been the only site outside Kent known for the Monkey Orchid, Orchis simia, which was once widely found in the Chilterns. From the low point in 1950, when only a tiny number of plants were known, the population has been carefully managed and last year 448 plants were counted (according to Bill Temple in the January 2011 Journal of the Hardy Orchid Society). Unfortunately, despite the earliness of the season, the Monkey Orchids were not in flower yesterday, visible only as still-furled inflorescences.
|Orchis x angusticruris|
|A Hartslock hybrid - Orchis x angusticruris (O. purpurea x O. simia)|
|Orchids at Hartslock: the bare patch is erosion |
caused by photographers