Field Event Reports

22 April 2015 - Agatha Christie Trail

Leader: Tony Rayner

We all met outside the Red Lion pub on a fine morning, where our leader, Tony Rayner, briefly introduced the aim of the walk, summarising it as a mixture of natural history followed by a liberal dose of local history. The first stretch took us through the outskirts of Cholsey, down towards the Thames, over the Reading/Pangbourne Road. On our way we crossed the Cholsey Brook and skirted a privately owned conserved woodland. Many birds were seen, notable new arrivals from warmer climes being a sweetly singing Willow Warbler, the repetitively calling Chiffchaff, and swooping Swallows and House Martins. The second stretch took us along the Thames towards Wallingford, passing under the Wallingford bypass. As we approached Bradford's Brook, we had our first glimpse, across its gardens, of Winterbrook House, home of Agatha Christie from 1934 to 1976. Following the brook away from the Thames we reached the Reading Road and stopped outside the front of Winterbrook House, for a detailed history of the author by Tony, which included seeing the post box into which Agatha Christie no doubt posted her manuscripts. From Tony's account, there seemed little doubt that the long-standing erroneous claim by 'Wallingford' that Agatha Christie was a resident there and not Cholsey (her true home) did not sit well with Cholsey locals, despite the fact that during her life Winterbrook was included within the Parish of Cholsey – the fact that Winterbrook was transferred from Cholsey parish to Wallingford in 2014 had not helped relations. We then headed back into the countryside, recrossing the bypass and the rail 'Bunk' line passing beside agricultural fields, one field of oil seed rape in full flower. Despite these 'agricultural' wastelands two other recent arrivals were spotted – Yellow Wagtail and Whitethroat. Our final history lesson came at St Mary's Parish Church where we saw the impressive grave of Agatha Christie. On our walk back to the Red Lion, our impression that Tony was the fount of all knowledge regarding Cholsey, was confirmed when it seemed we could hardly pass a house without Tony recounting its history. A number of attendees then retreated to the Red Lion at Brightwell-cum-Sotwell for an enjoyable lunch. Very many thanks to Tony for a stimulating and wide-ranging three-hour walk – natural history and history were well met.

Jackie Hudson, Chris and Bridget Biggs, Elizabeth Drury, Susan Bowditch, Graham Bateman, Michael Bloom, Felicity Jenkins, Susan Palovich, Bob Evans, Vivienne Summers.

Graham Bateman