Length: 20 minutes & 30 minutes, with a drive in between.
We parked by the Village Hall at SU372642. Immediately south of here is
Galanthus nivalis 'flore pleno'
A track peels off left to the Crocus Field after about the fifth house. Under the hedge were two other garden escapes, the spotted leaves of Lungwort Pulmonaria officinalis, and Creeping Comfrey Symphytum grandiflorum, but the latter had been badly affected by the current cold snap after a "false spring" a few days before had encouraged it to come out in full flower. (Today the air temperature was 1ºC, with a very cold east wind that gave a chill factor of some -6 or -7ºC.)
Creeping comfrey devastated by frost
At the end of this short lane a gate leads into the Crocus Field, a pasture bordered by gardens on the north and east sides and sloping SW down to a brook, where it rises again beyond.
The Crocus Field from across the brook
The dark purple Spring Crocuses Crocus vernus - there seemed to be just the one species - are distributed all over the first field, with a few having established themselves in the grass beyond the stream, where there were also some small clumps of Primrose Primula vulgaris in flower under scrub.
The densest crocus colony was straight ahead from the approach lane, along the eastern side of the field, but wherever you walk you have to be careful not to tread on the flowers. The spread, which looks as though it had started from the inhabited edges of the field (making the crocuses most likely to be ancient garden escapes), is so extensive that they have obviously existed here for a long time. A tiny percentage of the flowers are a white-coloured variety. On such a bitterly cold day few of the flowers in the open grassland had opened, despite a sunny morning, but many had spread their petals in the shelter of the brambles along the north edge.
Spring crocus in Crocus Field
Sheltered crocuses open in the sun
A few white crocuses can be found among the purple
The young ferny shoots of Pignut Conpodium majus were conspicuous in the turf, confirming that this has long been unfertilised pasture.
Spring crocus and pignut leaves, Crocus Field
The stream flowed under a thin coating of ice that had made pleasant patterns. This was the first time we had got round to visiting this unique site and we found it well worthwhile.
The Causeway, Steventon, near the church
The marsh is now dry and occupied by allotments, parkland and a playground. The grassy sides of the embankment are planted to a mixture of common bulb-plants. Those currently in flower (there were many daffodils yet to come) included more snowdrops as above, as well as the simple flowered version, also Winter Aconite, the pale purple Early Crocus Crocus tommasinianus, Compact Grape-Hyacinth Muscari botryoides, Daffodils Narcissus pseudonarcissus ssp pseudonarcissus, 'Bob Minor' (similar to last but deeper yellow petals), 'February Gold' and the neat dwarf cultivar 'Tête-à-Tête', yellow Dutch Crocus Crocus x luteus and more spring crocus, but a deeper shade than at Inkpen.
Planted spring crocus by the Causeway are darker than those at Inkpen
Compact grape-hyacinth (which has hooded leaf-tips)
Daffodils 'Bob Minor' and 'Tete a tete'
Daffodil 'February Gold'
The stream bordering the causeway, which presumably drains the lower land (although the water-table is no doubt lower now anyway), supports Lesser Celandine Ficaria verna and primrose.
Stream near The Causeway with snowdrops
Tree-stumps alongside the path had conspicuous white Lumpy Brackets Trametes gibbosa. (While 'Steventon' is usually interpreted as "estate of a man Stīf", it has also been suggested that the first part may derive from styfing OE "tree-stump"!)
The main Paddington-West railway line passes right through the village and the causeway just before the church and the level-crossing here is a major obstruction, as trains pass every few minutes at great speed. On the other side the causeway ends just before an open space bordered by streams (with Stinking Hellebore Helleborus foetidus), with the manor house, its old barn supported on brick arches, and the
Arch-supported barn near Manor House, Steventon
The church dates back to before 1086, and there must have been an earlier church on the site, as there is a venerable 1200-year-old Yew Taxus baccata at its SW corner, massive in girth, although not all that extensive in height and reach, which may have survived from an even earlier Celtic religious foundation.
Another large tree, although of a faster-growing species, is the London Plane Platanus x hispanica by the entrance gate to the churchyard.
Bole of old plane-tree by wall of
The grass is well-mown and contains few species of interest. There is a patch of snowdrops and a small fenced area just to the right of the entrance with winter aconite, Dutch and early crocus, snowdrops, and daffodils 'Tête-à-Tête', just past which, by the path, is a clump of Stinking Iris or Gladdon Iris foetidissima, so common by old churches for some reason.
Steventon churchyard: early crocus, Tete a Tete daffodil, snowdrop, winter aconite