Looking to escape from the daily grind for a few hours, a friend suggested that we meet up at Snelsmore Common, near Newbury, Berkshire for a catch-up and an explore with our cameras (both being keen photographers).
Snelsmore Common is 96 acre nature reserve managed by the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust and features a range of habitats but predominantly, heathland and woodland. At the time of our visit (late August) the heathland comes to life with the flowering of the beautiful heathers.
As you pull up to the site, there’s ample parking, a small café and toilets. Here you will also find a range of information boards, one of which has suggested walking routes that you can follow depending on your fitness and stamina. We opted to go on the lizard route and began to follow the lizard signs as they lead us away from the car park. From memory, I think this walk is around 2.5 miles in total.
It wasn’t long into our walk that we came across the heather. The sun was shining down and the honeybees were darting in and out of the flowers in search of nectar. There were a couple of different varieties of heather that we spotted and in fact, the reserve is home to three different types; ling, bell heather and cross leaved heath. The rich purples and subtle lilacs of the flowers gave a gorgeous carpet to the land and looked even nicer against the bright green of the birch trees that dotted the land.
Along the way, we spotted signs of autumn beginning to appear – several species of fungi could be found hiding on the path edges and emerging on the trunks of some of the trees. The ferns were generally still a vibrant shade of green, but some were beginning to tinge with the familiar colours of autumn.
We spotted several butterfly species along the way – mainly large white butterflies but as we ventured into more shaded areas within the woodland, a pair of specked wood butterflies were fluttering about each other in I assume some kind of courtship routine (either that or they were fighting!).
One of the highlights for me was managing to find a couple of common lizards dart from the edge of the path into the heathland. Of course they were way too quick for us to photograph though!
On this occasion we didn’t see too much in the way of birdlife but then perhaps our chatting wasn’t lending itself to finding it in the same way as if you were on your own. There was a buzzard soaring overhead at one point and a coal tit but if you take the time here then you can find species such as woodpeckers (green and great spotted), nuthatch and tawny owl. During the summer, the reserve also sees the arrival of the rare nightjar, although these are extremely difficult to see due to their amazing camouflage and nocturnal habits.
If you are lucky as well you might just spot some of the ponies that roam this land. Both Exmoor and New Forest ponies graze here and although we didn’t come across any, we certainly found a pile of fresh evidence to suggest that they weren’t too far away! 😊
After wandering around, catching up and photographing lots we headed back to the start of the walk to have a spot of lunch at the newly-opened café, The Snugg. Offering sandwiches, baguettes, tea and cakes this café is in a prime spot for those that have just finished a walk. They even catered for those walking with their four-legged friends by providing free dog water and treats and selling doggy ice cream.
This was my first ever visit to this reserve and it certainly won’t be my last. My friend and I were already planning an autumn adventure to see the changes in the colours of the ferns and to photograph some of the fabulous fungi that’ll be emerging over the coming months. I’d also like to explore some of the different walking routes that you can do here especially during the different seasons.
In the meantime, I’m happy that I’ve got another amazing nature reserve that’s not too far from my doorstop that I can explore!