Sunday, 6 September 2015

Chinnor Hill

I grew up in Chinnor, so the hills above the village are a very familiar part of the Chilterns. It's always surprising how much you overlook though when you're somewhere you've known all your life, so I was really looking forward to this mornings guided walk around Chinnor Hill, a BBOWT nature reserve. What little treasures would our guide, Peter Creed, point to us today?

Peter Creed showing us our route on the map
We started off walking through the woods where we found about a dozen violet helleborines, most of which had gone to seed. However one plant was still flowering, with the flowers at the top of the stem still open. It's really hard to get a decent photo of them as they grow in the deep shade of the beech trees. I did my best though!

Home to spiders and flies

Most had gone to seed already
Walking further through the woods we came across lots of fungi that had started to fruit after the cool, damp weather.
Newly emerged amethyst deceivers

Red cracked bolette - Has a distinctive red stem and yellow pores (instead
of gills)
Saffrondrop bonnet - a Chilterns speciality that grows on
fallen beech masts. You can squeeze the saffron coloured
juice from the stem and write with it!
I could hear all sorts of birds in the trees, but I had to look closely to see a very strange bird sitting on a nest!

We carried on out of the woods onto the chalk grassland. It was a lovely sunny morning and the view was wonderful, with Chinnor below and Oxford, Aylesbury and Didcot in the distance.

The Chinnor Chuffer chugged along the bottom of the hill - today it was a
diesel engine but quite often it's a steam engine

The grass and flowers were full of grasshoppers and crickets, which kept Bug Mad Girl busy as she chased them around. 
Roesel's bush-cricket

Speckled bush-cricket

Meadow grasshopper
We walked down to some Juniper bushes that were growing on the slope and found some lovely little juniper shieldbugs hiding in amongst the berries. They used to be confined to juniper bushes in Southern Britain, but have now started to spread and become more common as they also seem to be able to survive on Lawson's Cypress, which is found in many gardens.

A paraglider launched himself into the air by running down the slope next to us. He must have had such a great view from up there, but I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to do that!

To finish off our walk we headed to a tucked away corner of the reserve where we found a patch of short grass full of beautiful gentian. It's so stunning with it's purple star shaped flowers with white fringed centres.


What a great morning and so nice to walk around with an expert to point out all the things we might otherwise have missed.

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