3 November 2019: Dudley Iles Trail, Wantage
Leader: Cynth Napper, Abingdon Naturalist's Society
A group of 12 people (a mixture of AbNats members, Iles family and friends – some belonging to both) met at The Parish Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Wantage, on a cool overcast, but dry morning. The group included Dudley's wife Penny and son Bob/Robert. Bob turned out to be mine of great information about the history of his Dad, Dudley's involvement in local natural history and the creation of the Dudley Isle Trails around Wantage, adding a welcome extra dimension to our walk.
Our walk essentially followed the The Dudley IlesNature Trail Route 1 (https://wantage.com/wp- content/uploads/2012/11/Wantage_Walk_1.pdf). This pdf gives precise details of the walk and details points of interest. The trail was inaugurated in July 1991 and the short version (Route 1) in July 2011.There is a second part to the trail (Route 2) described in https://wantage.com/wp- content/uploads/2012/11/Wantage_Walk_2.pdf.
From the Church (the present building dating back to the 13th century) we crossed to the stream – Letcombe Brook (a chalk stream). Here we had first site of Brown Trout – seen frequently whenever we came back to the Brook. We then walked around the Betjeman Millennium Park, returned to the Brook, which then runs under the Mill, which dates back to Norman times. Having passed the last remaining building of the Wantage Canal Kings Wharf (site of the original Sack Hiring Company), we were now in modern developments, walking partly beside the ditch that is the remains of the old Wilts and Berks Canal and also on relatively recent housing estate roads. The Wantage branch of the canal was built between 1796 and 1810 and the Wantage branch is ¾ mile long originating from the main canal at Grove Bridge.
The next stage took us beside remains of an old Canal lock on the right and the Grove Sports fields on the left. The Canal was full of water but overgrown. Having walked along a main road we returned to woodland beside the Letcombe Brook, through further housing and back beside the Brook again toward the Church. On the final stretch of the Brook we searched, but to no avail, for Water Voles, which Cynth had seen previously. Bird life seen on the walk was typical of woodland, water and housing with nothing unusual seen – sadly not even the Kingfishers that haunt the Brook.
The group finally dispersed back beside the Mill as rain started to fall. Thanks were conveyed to Cynth for arranging the walk and to Bob for the extra dimension he gave to our enjoyable meander through the autumn countryside, which is so close to the centre of Wantage and new developments.