We started and finished our walk through areas of tall, old sweet chestnut trees.
The ground was littered with the prickly husks of chestnuts, some with two to four nuts still inside, others empty. It's a good idea to wear a hat at this time of year as the nuts regularly fall from the trees!
Many areas of the forest are grazed by Highland cattle and ponies and are fenced and accessed by kissing gates, stiles or weighted swinging gates. At the end of this ride there is a padlocked gate to allow access to forest maintenance vehicles. A pedestrian weighted gate is adjacent to it. This worried Gus, so he scrambled through a hole in the fence. By the time we had completed our walk he had become accustomed to following us through these strange devices.
The next part of the forest was dominated by silver birches. Jenna and Gus didn't mind where they were so long as they could play. Frodo was at my side as usual, but enjoying all the sniffs.
First Jenna had the kong . . .
. . . then Gus carried it.
Shortly afterwards we went through another gate into a boggy area. A notice informed us that livestock were grazing in this part but though we saw signs that they had been there we didn't see any of them. On the right there is evidence of the fire last year that destroyed much of the habitat of Silver-studded Blue butterflies. It was believed that the butterflies would not have survived but a few males and females were observed and thus fears were allayed.
There’s a great deal of water . . .
. . . which Gus and Jenna thoroughly appreciated. Frodo went in for a cooling paddle too.
The water table is very high – in places it is higher than the board walk but contained within a bog system . . .
. . . and draining into ditches.
Passing through yet another gate we walked alongside a fenced-off body of water, full of interest for botanists and entomologists. It gives way to heath and heather where roe deer are safe from questing dogs, although the deer easily leap the low fences and can be seen anywhere in this part of Berkshire.To the other side were puddles and ponds, all of which had to be splashed in by the dogs.
Simple benches are placed at various places, some overlooking valleys, others positioned to allow people to watch the world go by.
Boards are laid down at strategic points where the ground becomes very soggy. Wires are criss-crossed over the boards to give grip.
Out into more open countryside again we were struck once more by the colours. There are many shades of green and the bracken is mostly brown now.
The leaves are beginning to change as they lose their chlorophyll and allow the reds and yellows to show.The heather that was so vibrant just a short while ago has lost most of its colour. With the young Scots pine saplings and the tall bracken it is a wonderful place for Labradors to practise their retrieving skills . . .
. . . and everywhere the spiders set their larders.