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Countryside on the southern edge of Wokingham

Just to the south of Wokingham, the other side of the railway line, is some very attractive countryside. I regularly walk there, and in July 2008 I took my camera on two walks, to record an area that is under threat of being covered in houses and a main road. The first was my usual walk around Chapel Green, starting and ending at the footbridge over the railway. The second was a longer walk from Finchampstead Road, ending at Star Lane crossing on Easthampstead Road (see map below).

A few years ago another development proposal for Chapel Green was successfully defeated. But now the whole area is under threat again. The Council plans to designate South Wokingham as an area for major development, and despite huge opposition, the planning inspector has approved their plans. If this area is built over, we will lose a precious and irreplaceable natural amenity (quite apart from the damage to the town of yet more over-development) Is there no way we can save it, so that future generations can continue to enjoy what we have enjoyed? Once this lovely stretch of countryside is lost under a sea of brick and tarmac, there will be no way of bringing it back. Token strips of green between the houses cannot replace what is there now.

Both my original walks were in the summer, but the area is beautiful in the autumn too. It was particularly attractive on the day that I read the sad news that the planning inspector had not rejected the Council's plan. I was particularly moved by the combination of sun and mist hanging above the ground, so I took a couple of pictures with my phone camera. Several days later, I took more pictures with my 'real' camera along the route of the first walk. There was no sun to add drama on this occasion, but it was still beautiful, with nature providing abundant sources of interest.

Then in winter I took more pictures in the snow, including several of the Emm Brook, which had a major diesel spillage when we walked round a couple of weeks earlier.

Map of the area

Each section of the walks are described below with pictures. Click on the thumbnails to view the full size pictures. Click a picture to return to the thumbnails, or use the arrows to see the next or previous picture in the sequence. Enjoy the 170 pictures of this unspoilt part of Wokingham, which will be obliterated by the planned development.

First walk Second walk Other walks Later pictures
   
   

Click on thumbnails to view the pictures. Click a picture to return to the thumbnails, or use next / previous arrows.

All material and pictures © 2008 to 2015 John Harrison


Southwest and across the Emm Brook

The walk starts on the footbridge where Luckley Path crosses the railway to Waterloo. For over a century, the railway has marked the boundary between the town and the countryside here. Stand on the footbridge and look along the track, as well as out towards open country (though the trees next to the railway hide much of it from here. Over the footbridge Luckley Path continues south, but leave the main path and climb over a stile. A shady path leads down through the trees. It emerges amid luxuriant grass, with open ground on the left, and overgrown land between the path and the railway on the right. Wild flowers abound if you stop to look at them. When the path reaches the Emm Brook, there is a stile at either end of the bridge. 

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The railway bounds the town
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Trees beyond the railway
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South over the substation
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Train glimpsed from the path
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Walker heading south
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The style off Luckley Path
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Path through the trees
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Vegetation either side
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Out into the long grass
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View across the fields
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Rushes by the path
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Meadow-sweet
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Passing under a tree
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Birds foot trefoil
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Great hairy willow herb
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Purple vetch
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The stile over the stream
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Path worn in the grass
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Looking back at the stile

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Through the pasture

Past the stream, the path goes through the meadows of Chapel Green Farm where horses graze. Look among the meadow grass, and you will see many other plants growing as well.

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Horse and jumps
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Footbapth sign
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Chapel Green farm
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Dew on cobweb in the grass
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White clover
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Purple clover
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Buttercups
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Scabius
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Colts foot
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More horses grazing
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A scavanging crow

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The track south

Here you meet a cart track that is well used in all weathers by people tending horses, as well as people out strolling, since it is part of an easily walked circuit from Finchampstead Road. Past the farm, the track is metalled as it passes Lucas Hospital. Where it turns right, take the style straight ahead towards Ludgrove Lane.

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Footpath signs by the lane
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Towards the town
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Boys strolling
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Gipsy Lane behind the trees
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Hemlock growing by the fence
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Walking the dog
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Leading a horse
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The stile by Lucas Hospital

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Ludgrove Lane

You approach Ludgrove Lane along a path through the field in front of Lucas Hospital. Some years ago the meadow was ploughed to encourage wild flowers. By 2008 (early pictures) many were flourishing and by 2015 the whole area was a riot of colour (later pictures).

After the meadow turn left along the lane, which is a tarmac drive giving access to both Ludgrove Farm and Ludgrove School. You can walk or cycle along it from Finchampstead Road to Easthampstead Road, but a gate in the middle ensures that vehicles only use it for access. This first walk follows it for a short way, almost as far as the farm.

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Path across the field
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Wild flowers by the path
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Yarrow
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Thistles
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Poppies
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The town in the distance
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Sheep grazing
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Sheep resting
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Wild flowers in the meadow (2015)
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Closer view of the flowers (2015)
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A deer crossing Ludgrove Lane

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Luckley Path

Just before the farm, the lane meets Luckley Path, an ancient route that runs from near Wokingham Market Place to Gorrick Wood, north of Crowthorne. After crossing Ludgrove Lane it heads south, past the school and the market gardens, and into the forest, but we turn left and head back along it towards the footbridge over the railway where we began. The path crosses the Emm Brook, on a bridge that is good for children playing 'Pooh sticks'.

[Update spring 2011] The trees next to the bridge have been felled to protect the structure, giving the bridge a very different feel, see pictures .

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Thistle flowers in the field
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Grass flowers
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The stream (Pooh Sticks bridge)
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Looking across the field
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Undergrowth flanking the path
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Trees forming a tunnel
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Narrow path by the fence
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Path snaking round a tree
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Hedge parsley by the path
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A clump of hemlock
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Path nearing the railway
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The view to Lucas Hospital

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The second walk ...

The first walk of just over a mile, takes you around only a small part of the area under threat to the south of Wokingham. The longer walk from Finchampstead Road through to Easthampstead Road is shown below.


The lane from Finchampstead Road 

Walk down Finchampstead Road, over the Emm Brook, and take the lane on the left, just before the roundabout. You soon leave the sound of traffic behind. Passing through the gate, there are views of fields to your left. Then the lane turns sharp right by some stables.

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Leaving Finchampstead Road
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Gate across the lane
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Northeast towards the town
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Sorrel growing in the field
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Morning walk

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The track across Chapel Green

The lane turns into a track between fences. Camomile growing in the track contrasts with the red brick hard core. You join the route of the first walk and pass alongside Lucas Hospital. The lane turns sharp right where you can pause to look briefly into the garden. You meet Ludgrove Lane by a house restored and extended some years ago. A few yards to the west is the narrow bridge under the Guildford railway line. More or less opposite you is the broad track heading south towards Gorrick Wood.

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Track across Chapel Green
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Camomile growing in the track
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Passing Lucas Hospital
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Looking in to Lucas Hospital
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Where the track joins Ludgrove Lane
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Bridge under the Guildford railway
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Walk this way!
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The track into Gorrick Wood

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Ludgrove Lane (west)

Walk east along Ludgrove Lane, joining the route of the first walk as you pass in front of Lucas Hospital. Whereas on the first walk, the views were all north towards the town, on this walk, we look south, across pasture land.

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Lucas Hospital from Ludgrove Lane
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Looking southwest
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Blackberries in flower
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Cows and calf
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Bullock feeding
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Majestic oak trees
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Looking southeast
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Where Luckley path goes south

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Near Ludgrove School

Go straight on where the first walk turned left, and you pass Ludgrove School and Farm. The accommodation next to the lane was converted some years ago from farm buildings. To your left, the broad sweep of pasture continues to the east. Just beyond the school is the duck pond. It is surrounded by trees. Thirty years ago, I remember it freezing over, and the boys from the school skating on it, but normally only the ducks are there.

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Student accommodation
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Trees along the Emm Brook
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Thistle flowers
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Hens at Ludgrove
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Ducks on the road
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Taking to the water
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Leaving wakes
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View across the pond

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Ludgrove Lane (east)

The eastern part of Ludgrove Lane has fewer 'chocolate box' views, with more evidence of working agriculture, and fields full of raspberries, cabbages or pens for rearing game birds, but there is still plenty of interest to see as you walk along, with views across the fields, and several glimpses of Star Lane crossing in the distance. At the end of the lane is an attractive old house.

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Across to Star Lane crossing
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Looking back northwest
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Past the duckpond
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Fields of raspberries
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Game bird pens
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Cabbages and flowers
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View towards the town
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Houses by Star Lane crossing
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The end of the lane

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Easthampstead Road

Turn left on the road, but before you do so, admire the parkland on the other side. As you walk along, you get views of the open land to west and east through the gaps in the hedges. Look closely for detail as well.  The road rises as you approach Star Lane crossing, allowing you final views of open country to the east and west. Cross the railway and look back towards the green fields that might not be there in future.

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Parkland across the road
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Walking towards the town
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Southwest towards Ludgrove
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West from Easthampstead Road
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Convolvulus flower
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Sapling oak tree
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New growth on oak tree
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Ragwort in flower
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Star Lane crossing
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East along the railway
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West beside the railway
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Looking towards Ludgrove

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Other walks

A sunny autumn morning

I was walking down from the railway bridge to the bridge over the Emm Brook early in the morning before starting work, and although I hadn't intended to take pictures, the view was so stunning that I took a couple using my phone camera.

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Mist lying over the meadow
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Horse peacefully grazing

The misty autumn walk

A few days later, armed with a 'proper' camera, I went to take some pictures. The landscape was beautiful even without much sun, and there was much detail to look at, even though it was long past the flower season. I followed the same route (the first of the summer walks). The pictures below are in order, but I haven't broken them up into sections, like the summer walk.

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Railway disappearing into the mist
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Moss and lichen growing on the bridge
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Glimps back to the town from above the style
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Leaves strewn on the path
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Trees receding into the mist
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Remains of a willowherb flower head
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Cobwebs on hogweed seed heads
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Dewdrops on grass seeds
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Path beyond the style over Emmbrook
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A pair of Ash trees
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Lichen growing on the fence post
22FieldView.jpg
Gypsy Lane viewed across the valley
23Yarrow.jpg
Yarrow still in flower
24Deadnettle.jpg
Seed head and deadnettle leaves
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Autumn fungi among the leaves
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House at Chapel Green reflected in last night's rain
27Walker.jpg
Morning walker near Lucas Hospital
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Golden bracken
29RoseHip.jpg
Rose hips
31Path.jpg
Path across the meadow
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Someone doesn't respect the countryside!
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Cows peacefully grazing
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Beech leaves turning colour
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Hogweed head and holly leaves
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Groundsman at work
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Crows roosting in the bare trees
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Morning runner along the lane
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The path back to the railway bridge

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Winter walk

This area looks beautiful in winter as well. On the first morning after the big snow in January, I went for a walk, along with scores of others to judge by the extent to which the snow was trampled along the paths.

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Walking into the wood
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Emerging from the wood
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The path by by the field
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Droplets on the fence
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Passing trees
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Across the field in Chapel Green
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A red kite soaring overhead
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Branches weighed low by Lucas Hospital
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View across the field
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Walkers on Ludgrove Lane
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Lucas Hospital
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Looking towards the town
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A friendly cow
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Mixed trees beyond the fields
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Walker on Ludgrove Lane
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On the frozen pond at Ludgrove
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The path entering the wood
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Walking through the wood
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Back at the railway bridge
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Looking west along the railway

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The Emm Brook

On the winter walk, I took particular note each time we crossed the Emm Brook. A couple of weeks earlier it was in flood as the pre-Christmas snow melted, and the south eastern tributary was heavily polluted – covered from bank to bank with diesel for several days. On this occasion, things looked more or less normal.

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Footbridge near Chapel Green
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Ludgrove Lane crossing the southern branch
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Luckley Path crossing the southeastern branch
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Ducks near Luckley Path bridge
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Southeastern branch going under Ludgrove Lane
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Flowing away from Ludgrove Lane

Later pictures 

2011 – Tree removal

In April, several trees were felled by the 'Pooh sticks bridge' on Luckley Path. What used to be a shady spot is now open to the full sun. Only the trees close to the bridge were felled, so I assume they were cut down to protect the bridge structure. Damage done by the tree roots the the abutment walls are clearly visible.

One of the cuts shows barbed wire deep within the trunk, which must have been growing around it for years. It's not clear whether the chain saw cut through the barbed wire, or had a lucky escape.

The trees were not cut down to the ground, but left as stumps a few feet tall. By the summer, fresh growth was sprouting from these stumps.

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Bridge looking north 2011
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Bridge looking west 2011
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Tree damage to the bridge abuttment 2011
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Barbed wire deep in the trunk 2011
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Barbed wire emerging from the trunk 2011
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Fresh growth sprouting from the tree stumps 2011

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December 2012 – frosty weather

After a hard frost the previous night, everything was covered in white, and looked beautiful in the sunshine on my morning walk. The next day I took a camera with me. It wasn't sunny, so the pictures are more muted, but things looked beautiful despite the more subdued tones. The route I took is the same as the original first walk.

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Looking east from the railway bridge
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Looking west from the railway bridge
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Path down through the trees (mud frozen hard)
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Hoar frost on hedge parsley near the path
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Frost in a felled area beyond the ditch
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More frost near the bridge over the stream
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Horses wrapped up against the cold
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A frosty briar arch
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Frosty grass near the style onto the lane
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The lane past Lucas Hospital
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Contrasting bushes in the 'wild' field
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A mass of frozen vegitation in the 'wild' field
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Close up on a frozen clump
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Rose hips with frost spikes as well as rose spikes
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Frost rimmed blackberry leaves on Luckley Lane
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Cows in the frosty field
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Cows feeding on hay
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Ivy in the hedge
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View of trees towards the town
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Gate where Luckley Path goes south
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Signpost at the junction of Luckley Path & Luckley Road
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Grassy track through a gate
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Oak leaves on Luckley Path
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View to Chapel Green houses among the trees

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2014 – Path work

By 2013 both Luckley Path and the path SW from the railway were suffering seriously with many patches turning into deep mud. Standing water near the paths made it clear that the drainage was inadequate. In June 2014 a lot of stone rubble was spread on top of the mud. In the least bad areas this may prove effective but within days it was starting to sink into the mud in the worst areas. The depth of the mud is clear from the picture of the dump truck sunk up to its axle – in June! The only attention to drainage seems to be the addition of one small drain on Luckley Path.

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Dumper sunk in deep mud after spreading stones – June 2014

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2015-2016 – Various

  These pictures were taken on various walks. They illustrate the continuing variety and beauty of the area and seeing the deer was a lucky break. The recent work on the path from the railway bridge down to the style over the Embrook was long overdue and very welcome. No longer do you need to squelch through the mud or duck under the overhanging trees.

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Himalayan Balsam near the footbridge
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Flowers in the meadow in front of Lucas Hospital
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More flowers in the meadow
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Wild blackberries near the path
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A deer crossing Ludgrove Lane
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Path surfaced and overhanging trees cleared
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Ditch near the path cleared
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Path nearing the Emm Brook
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Looking back up the path with Himalayan Balsam
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Flowers alongside the resurfaced path

The next four pictures were taken on a frosty day early in 2016. The following two were taken in late spring after the ground had mostly dried out, showing how some stretches of the path that were improved last year have already deteriorated, with the newly laid rubble swallowed by the mud. In other places the less trodden edges of the rubble are already being colonised by flowers. The other pictures were taken in May when the area was as beautiful as ever but for how long?

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Early morning light with frost still on the grass
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Frozen puddles by the path south of the railway
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The same puddles looking north showing frozen mud
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Recent vegetation clearance seen from the bridge
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Rubble laid last year that has been swallowed by the mud
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Flowers colonising the untrodden edge of the rubble
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Path beyond the bridge over the Emm
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Buttercups among the meadow grass
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Colour contrast - an oak seedling
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Diverse vegetation near Lucas Hospital
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Path across the meadow by Lucas Hospital
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Campions near the exit to Ludgrove Lane

Enjoy it while you can

These pictures show how attractive this area of countryside is. But it won't be like that for much longer, following the Council's decision to ruin the area by building 2500 houses. The next generation will not be able to enjoy these walks or see these views.

Take pictures like I have, so that you can tell your children and grandchildren how attractive it was before it was spoilt for ever. See my views on development .

All material and pictures © 2008 - 2016 John Harrison


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