Waterside Natural History Society visit Mottisfont

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Visitors to the National Trust Mottisfont Abbey and gardens can look forward to a good day out but many are unaware that the countryside around the village of Mottisfont can be equally rewarding.

The weather on the day of our visit in May was warm and sunny with barely a cloud in the sky reminiscent of childhood summer holidays.

When you are young time seems to go slowly and speed up as you get older.

School holidays lasted for ever and the days were always warm and sunny.

Our walk only lasted for a few hours but we could pretend for a short while that we were back on our childhood holidays walking in the countryside.

Our journey started at the church in Mottisfont and went south along the combined Test Way and Monarch’s Way towards Kimbridge.

After crossing the railway line we turned right and walked along Dunbridge Lane to the station at Dunbridge and Mottisfont.

Here we turned back over the track before turning left to follow the footpath along the River Dun to Lockerley.

We then turned north through fields and woods and eventually turned right to Cadbury Farm.

At Spearywell we crossed the road and headed diagonally through fields of corn back to Mottisfont.

The total distance travelled came to just over five miles.

We set off at a brisk pace towards the church in Mottisfont gaining on another couple of walkers who enquired if they were being followed.

After assurances of our independent intentions we continued on our walk but met them several times on our journey.

We were startled at one point on the narrow road by a loud cry only to find a baby crow by the side of the road.

It did not move although only inches from our feet but whether through fear or to attract its parents we were unable to tell.

The brisk pace lasted until we came to a wooden bridge over the River Dun in the shade of tall beech trees.

The steady flow of crystal clear water with birds singing and Beautiful Demoiselle Damselflies fluttering their wings in the lower branches of trees produced an amazing soporific effect that reduced our pace for the rest of the walk.

The scenery for much of our walk consisted of woods and water meadows created by past flooding of the river Dun.

Much of the soil is fertile loam overlying gravel and the wild plants reflect this.

At this time of year the water meadows are coloured beige and red with golden yellow carpets.

The beige is from the dying tips of last year’s rushes and the red is from the Common Sorrel flowers.

Sorrel means ‘acid tasting’ which is the only connection between Common Sorrel and Wood Sorrel as the plants are completely different.

The yellow of course is from the thousands of meadow buttercups that thrive on the rich soil.

Small patches of Ragged Robin add to the picture like a painting by Vincent Van Gogh.

In the wetter areas the nodding flowers of Water Avens attracted our attention.

We paused at the Dunbridege/Mottisfont station for a chat with someone tending his garden who very helpfully suggested we might like to avail ourselves of the free bus service that runs between Mottisfont, Hillier gardens and Romsey.

Unfortunately it had already passed the stop less than half an hour before but we were able to pick up a timetable at the station kiosk.

Shortly afterwards we stopped for lunch beneath an Oak tree on a small embankment above the water meadows.

The wet weather of the last few months has allowed the vegetation to grow prolifically so our lunch was eaten in a sea of green.

The Bluebells have practically finished flowering for this year and only a few heads remained but these have been replaced along the country lanes by the blue of Germander Speedwell, the white of Cow Parsley and the red of Red Campion.

Occasionally we came across small patches of other wild plants such as Fumitory and Comfrey.

A single example of Wild Fennel with its aniseed aroma grew by the path near the station.

A few butterflies such as Orange Tip, Holly Blue and Speckled Wood were seen but considering the warm sunny weather we expected to see more.

Birds performed a musical accompaniment to our walk. Besides the Crow we heard the sound of a Cuckoo, Blackbird and Song Thrush.

We heard the bubbling water sound of a Garden Warbler as we walked past one thicket and saw the bobbing tail of a Grey Wagtail when we paused to lean on one of the many bridges.

Our walk effectively ended when we went past Cadbury Farm as the route from Spearywell back to Mottisfont was along a diagonal path cut through two corn fields.

The argument between agricultural farmland and the right to walk through the countryside is never more evident than in these cases.

It would surely benefit both sides to change the path to go round the side of the fields.
Anyone wishing to attend our meetings or even rich benefactors should contact our secretary Ron Mintrum at 023 8089 3803.