Greetings fellow Adventurers!
The other week we took advantage of a the lovely bank holiday weather, and ventured out to investigate Shabbington Woods near Thame, one of the last surviving areas of the once vast royal hunting forest of Bernwood.
At over 400 square kilometers at it’s peak, Bernwood must have been a very impressive place to visit. It’s said that it was a favourite haunt of king Edward the Confessor, born in nearby Islip. It was greatly reduced over the centuries, bit’s of it being given away as gifts or being sold off by various kings until it finally lost it’s royal forest status. It now only exists in history books, save for a few scattered remnants.
It’s not all bad news though, The so called Shabbington Wood Complex (comprising of this and other nearby woods) is at over 750 acres the largest remaining part of Bernwood, and is now a Site of Special Scientific interest. It is said to be one of the most important sites for butterflies in the UK with over 40 species recorded including the rare Duke of Burgandy – which I actually saw when we were there!
It is home to a large range of wildlife and has a very mixed range of habitats – all of which we noticed after we arrived and started to explore. Having dropped Ratty off in the quiet car-park we sallied-forth into the woodland to begin our quest. Who knows what adventures we would have and beasts we would see? Would there be dragons, or griffons, or unicorns? Would there be goblins, or trolls or… hark, what is that I can see scuttling across the woodland floor? Is it a Hobbit per-chance, or some other magical creature? My goodness it’s a… a…
Actually there were thousands of them, millions even. As we walked through one section we noticed that the whole forest floor was covered in large ants – the likes I’ve never seen before in England. All over the place there were massive anthills – it was very impressive to see. You couldn’t stand still for very long before they’d start to climb up your legs! Tying our best to avoid stepping on them, we departed their wood and headed off to explore further.
We crossed over an area that had recently been cleared, and then few pastures to find ourselves in a totally different type of wood-scape. Where we’d previously walked through mixed deciduous trees we were now very much amongst the evergreens.
The evidence of spring was everywhere as we strolled around, the Bluebells were out and the trees and sky were full of birds and bird-song. We wound our way down paths, across streams, over rickety bridges and along the edges of clearings. Everywhere was green and soft and peaceful.
At one point we abruptly lost the path. No matter, for we Templetons are a hardy bunch! We cut our way through the undergrowth and clambered over a fence to get back on a marked track (and found the gate a few yards further down). Following that excitement, we sat on a log pile (having looked for snakes – well I did anyway) and had a picnic – Quorn Sausage rolls and salad. Yummy!
We then walked around another part of the wood that is managed not by the Forestry Commission but the Woodland Trust. We followed a marked trail around another magical area that seemed devoid of human life. That was one of the things we loved most about these woods (and why we’ve been back since) – it was so quiet that once we got past the ‘car-park bit’ we barely saw another soul.
We got back to the car suitably refreshed from our escape from the modern world, however once again it was school the following day, it was getting late and there were baths to have an uniforms to get ready – so in best Templeton tradition we ignored it all and went to the pub…
Farewell my Friends!