Botanical Walk, Itchen Valley
The clouds had been gathering during the morning and by lunchtime it was raining.
The prospects for a botanical walk were not good. But luckily, the skies cleared and about 20 people assembled at the Couch Green Recreation Ground at 4.45pm for a walk along the disused railway line towards the Plough at Itchen Abbas.
The walk was led by Jim Thompson and Phil Allen, both trustees of The Watercress Way.
The walk started with an explanation of the project and how the various routes, amounting to 26 miles all linked together.
Management of the line aims to keep the route open for recreational use and not become overgrown, to encourage wildlife, including wild flowers and to open up views where opportunities allow.
Some significant clearances have been carried out recently by the Volunteer Ranger Service of the South Downs National Park as the line in this section forms the northern boundary of the National Park.
The group made its way along the track towards Itchen Abbas starting with a discussion of the differences between the native bluebell and the Spanish bluebell with its numerous hybrids and now to be found commonly on the line.
En route we passed colonies of wild garlic and wild chives and a good range of trees and shrubs coming into leaf.
We saw two types of fern, male fern and particularly the harts tongue fern which seems completely at home living between the cracks in the mortar of the bridges.
Fungi were limited to the many King Alfred’s Cakes, a black, rather woody cylindrical fungus which particularly colonises the dead and dying wood of ash trees.
Towards the end, we came across a large walnut tree which lead to a discussion of how it got there and whether a nut had been thrown out of a train window many years ago.
Our final point of discussion was to point out some of the few surviving artefacts of railway heritage and the occasional telegraph pole.
The final stop was the Plough at Itchen Abbas one of the local pubs which sponsors the project where we met other trustees of The Watercress Way and had well deserved refreshment.
Jim Thompson, Trustee of The Watercress Way
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