Tuesday, 27 December 2011

willow leaves, cold, chimney meadows, duxford, pints, downton

Well, Christmas has come and gone--the day, that is. Fortunately the holiday continues and will do till next Monday. Back to work on the Tuesday but I'm not thinking about that.

Did the walk we last did in August today--Tadpole Bridge, Chimney Meadows, Shifford Lock, Duxford and Buckland Marsh. We also did the first half of this walk last year when the land was covered with snow. Such a contrast this winter--twelve degrees centigrade, a willow in leaf (second photo from top) and another in bud (third from top).

I had the proverbial 'stinking cold' and the walk was intended to help get the heart and lungs going in order to get rid of it. Not sure if it's worked but hopefully tomorrow the full effects will be felt.

Chimney Meadows are a rare group of ancient grassland fields which escaped modern agricultural methods and have a long and fascinating history--see both the BBOWT and Natural England websites (the Chimney Meadows--A Historical Perspective PDF on the former is especially fascinating). There are also a number of WWII pillboxes on the wetter parts of the meadows, which are more like marsh than grassland. A couple of stoutly built wooden bridges lead off the meadows over the Thames--the lower one for pedestrians, the upper one for farm vehicles (shown above).

Duxford is mostly made up of a handful of tall thatched-roofed cottages. Thatch used to be much more used round here than it is now. Our row of late-Victorian terraces replaced old tenements that had low walls (to about five feet) steep thatched roofs and earth floors.

Coming back through Buckland Marsh, we followed one of the deep ditches that used to be the chief means of draining the land in the Bampton area for farming during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A visitor during the latter century described the area as the Bampton polderlands. Most of the ditches have been filled in now, although some, together with a few of the sluice gates that controlled the flow of water, still remain.

After the walk we headed for a local pub, where we drank Bath cider (Jess) and Dartmoor ale (me) and opened the last of our Xmas cards.

Returned home for a late lunch and another instalment of Downton Abbey Series Two, which was partly filmed here in the spring (13th, 20th and 24th April).

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