Local walks

Photos from walk on Thursday 14th September from Goring to Whitchurch

The Chiltern Way, climbing out of Goring looking west over the Thames and the railway line.


Yellow train


Green train


The “new build” in the centre is West Lodge. Several existing buildings were demolished and this “2 storey” building received planning permission in 2022.


To the left is “The Grotto”, Streatley.


The Grotto House or Basildon Grotto was built in 1720 by Viscount Fane of Basildon Park for his wife Lady Mary Fane who was a Maid of Honour for Queen Anne. The original much smaller house was attached to a ‘grotto’ elaborately decorated with shells and an adjoining ‘rock room’ for Lady Fane’s ‘retirement and pleasure’.


After the Basildon estate was sold to the Sykes family in 1771, the original Basildon Park manor house was torn down and The Grotto House was substantially altered and expanded in size – although this involved the dismantling and removal of the original shell grotto that gave the house it’s name. The Sykes family, who had built a new house on the site of the former Basildon Park Manor then leased the extended Grotto House to various families over the ensuing years. When the last member of the Sykes family died in 1875, the house was bought by a long term tenant Arthur Smith who subsequently became the High Sheriff of Berkshire.


It remained a family home until 1953 when the last occupiers sold it to the Institute of Park & Recreation Administration (later known as ILAM – Institute of Leisure Amenity Management) who used it as their head offices and training college. It stayed in use until around 2007 when ILAM left the premises and it was sold to a new owner. It appeared that they started work on the building at some point as the end of one of the wings is stripped right back to bare brick, however it doesn’t appear to have gotten off the ground and I presume it was after the work stopped that the steel shutters went up over every floor except the very top.


Inside it is obvious that a lot of the damage done to the fabric of the building was done when there was work being undertaken on it, all the pipework and plumbing has been removed and there are various holes knocked here and there but it’s still surprisingly solid inside with no rotten floors to speak of. On wandering around it really did remind me of Lillesden in terms of the general condition, internal colours and architecture – the building is a proper maze with stairs going off in all sorts of random directions to different areas with all the extensions added over the years. [source]


The new owner was a James Hull who purchased the estate in 2008 with the intention to return the property into a home, which proved unviable, and so the property has since sat vacant and was in a “poor state of repair”. The site is now a joint venture between Hull and SUSD, who later applied for permission to convert the site inot a hotel and a spa. The promotional website still exists.


However, the buidling was badly damaged in a fire which raged overnight between Friday and Saturday, March 5/6. 2021. And there it still is.


Apparently it is referenced in Phillip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage


Ladybird on greater knapweed seed head (maybe)


Beech canopy in Great Chalk Wood


At coffee, on Stuart’s shirt, a Robber fly (Tolmerus)


On the nettles, a spider, possibly a wolf spider (Lycosidae)


Ivy growths were buzzing with bees, bumble bees and flies, and this critter, larger than most, is probably a European hornet (Vespa crabro). It didn’t stay to pose for a better photo.


At lunch, in the brambles, a spider. Species unkown.


Room with a view over the Thames. A Type 22 pill box. Leaves and soil building up inside the entrance. And I’m told there is a bench mark on the front. Probably a bit unreliable, given the way many pillbox have a habit of sinking into the Thames [link]

4 replies on “Photos from walk on Thursday 14th September from Goring to Whitchurch”

I hope that was a wolf spider, because it’s just won an IgNobel Prize for Mechanical Engineering.


Citation: “Te Faye Yap, Zhen Liu, Anoop Rajappan, Trevor Shimokusu, and Daniel Preston, for re-animating dead spiders to use as mechanical gripping tools.”


Rice University graduate student Faye Yap noticed a dead curled-up spider in the lab hallway one day and learned that spiders curl up when they die because of internal hydraulics. She thought it might be cool to use the bodies of dead spiders as tiny air-powered grippers for picking up and maneuvering tiny electronic parts. So Yap and her colleagues—including adviser Daniel Preston—did just that. They transformed a dead wolf spider into a gripping tool with just a single assembly step, essentially launching a novel research area they have cheekily dubbed “necrobotics.”


Inflating spider corpse creates robotic claw game of nightmares
As we reported last year, a spider’s prosoma, or hydraulic chamber, contains internal valves that enable the creature to control each leg individually. Once the spider dies, that control is gone, and the legs work in unison. All they needed to do was insert a needle into the prosoma of a dead spider and affix it to the spider’s body with superglue to form a hermetic seal. The whole process took 10 minutes. The other end of the needle is attached to either one of the lab’s test rigs or a handheld syringe. Administering tiny puffs of air pressurizes the chamber and activates the legs instantaneously, causing them to open. Depressurizing the chamber causes the legs to close up again.


The team tested their spider-gripper on a variety of objects. For example, they used it to remove a jumper wire on an electric breadboard to disconnect the LED, to pick up a block of red-dyed polyurethane foam, and even to pick up another dead spider. The spider-gripper could reliably lift objects that were more than 1.3 times the spider’s body weight, exerting a peak gripping force of 0.35 millinewton. The spider-gripper also proved to be surprisingly robust, completing 1,000 open/close cycles before the wear and tear on the joints caused the body to break down after a couple of days. As a bonus, the spider bodies are fully biodegradable.


[source which includes a cool animation of the use of dead spiders as robotic grippers]

I’m astonished that The Grotto remains in its current condition, although in an astonishingly good position.
Fine critter images as ever David!

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