One of my other passions, apart from my love of flowers, is cross country running. I joined Abingdon Athletics Club this year and am enjoying taking part in races. The Chiltern Chase this month has been one of my favourite events so far.
It was a beautiful sunny day and I was amazed by the number of pretty wild flowers I saw as I walked from the car to the start-line at Cow Common in Ewelme.
Wild Flowers, Cow Common, Ewelme
Scarlet Pimpernel, Anagallis arvensis
Hairless annual plant to 10cm with straggling stems. Leaves opposite, up to 2cm long, oval to lanceolate, pointed and stalkless. Flowers in the leaf axils, solitary on slender stalks. 5 petals, usually scarlet. Sepals 4 – 5 mm long.Corolla 5 – 7mm long, usually red, sometimes blue and rarely pink.
Flowering Season: June to October
Habitat: Cultivated land, waste ground
Very hairy 5-9 lobed leaves. Flowers have 5 oval, purple-red petals 7 -10 mm with darker veins and notched. 10 stamens
Flowering season: June to August
Habitat: Meadows and roadsides, rough ground
White flowers on slender stalks. Petals notched and longer than the green sepals. Narrow leaves.
Flowering Season: Apr – Jun
Habitat: Hedges, banks and wood margins
Flower heads 5-7 mm across of mostly yellow flowers, each 3-4 mm long. Stem branched, straggling or creeping.
Flowering Season: Summer
Habitat: Dry grassland, roadsides and bare ground
Creeping and ascending hairy stems up to 20cm tall. Leaves are opposite, toothed and hairy. Flowers are bright blue with a white eye. The stigma points down and the stamens to the side. The flowers are pollinated by hover-flies.
Flowering Season: May – August
Habitat: Open Woodland, grassland, meadows, scrub
Chiltern Chase 10K Route
The Chiltern Chase comprises 5.4km,10km and15.4km multi-terrain runs, in and around the beautiful South Oxford village of Ewelme. Being situated in the Chiltern Hills the courses take in the Chiltern Way, bridleways and off-road sections with numerous red kites flying overhead.
Start of the 10K
There were 299 runners competing in the 10K race this year and the start involves a hill. I kept a steady pace at the back of the pack.
As I set off up that first hill I knew it wasn’t going to be my fastest 10K time ever. It was hot and my legs were aching from a fair bit of running the previous week. My aim was to get round in a reasonable time for me, but to enjoy the countryside at the same time.
Someone had mentioned that a tactic to keep going when the run gets tough is to mentally count down from 100 and then repeat. The aim is to take your mind off being out of breath and to stop thinking about how much your legs ache. I tried this tactic and it kept me going. However I found it took away some of the enjoyment out of focusing on the view. I therefore devised my own tactic. I am passionate about flowers and I love spotting wildflowers. I made the run into a memory game. I actively looked about trying to spot a new wildflower. I then added the name of the flower to a list in my mind and kept repeating until I saw a new one. Then this new wildflower was added to my list and so it went on. So instead of repeating 100, 99, 98, 97 etc in time to my stride I was repeating Scarlet Pimpernel, Cranesbill, Stitchwort, Trefoil, Speedwell etc etc. It was quite fun, making me look closely at the hedgerows and field margins and kept me going up and down the hills.
Almost hairless branched plant to 1.5m tall. Leaves 2 to 3 pinnate, dark green, with divided lobes. Flowers arranged in a double umbel.Petals to 2mm.
Flowering Season: May to August
Habitat: Roadsides, meadows, woodland margins
Hairy plant grows up to 70cm tall. Feathery leaves and toothed leaflets. Droops in bud, becomes upright in flower. Sepals fall away during flowering.. Four red petals, about 4cm long, often with black spots towards the base. Numerous stamens. The fruit are hairless round capsules with 8-18 ridges with many openings beneath.
Flowering Season: May to July
Habitat: Arable fields, waste ground, edges of footpaths
Erect slightly hairy plant, 20 – 70 cm tall. Lower leaves are spoon shaped, notched or pinnately lobed. Stem leaves are long, entire or pinnate. Daisy like flowers, 2.5-6 cm across. Ray-florets white, disc-florets yellow.
Flowering Season: May – Sept
Habitat: Grassland, roadsides, Meadows
Stems tall and erect. Lobed leaves. Golden yellow flowers.
Flowering Season: May to June
Habitat: Meadows, scrub, farmland, footpaths, wasteland
Shrub or small tree. Creamy white flowers are umbel like, flat topped
Flowering Season: Summer
Habitat: Woodland, scrub
Strong arching stems to 3m. Leaves with 2-3 pairs of toothed leaflets. Flowers are 4-5 cm, pink or white.
Flowering Season:June to September
Habitat: Hedges, scrub and woodland margins
These photos were taken by Barry Cornelius and at this stage I look quite cheerful on my quest to find Wildflowers on my run. I even got my feet off the ground at one point!
Spreading plant to 10 – 50 cm tall, with hairy stems and leaves. Stalked leaves opposite with 3-5 lobes. Lobes deeply separated. Petals pink 8 – 14 mm, unnotched. Anthers orange or purple.
Flowering Season: May – Dec
Habitat: Woods, scrub, clearings, walls, shingle and rocks near sea
Leaves are oval or lanceolate. Flowers white, 25 – 30mm. The 5 white petals are lobed. Where this species grows close to Red-Campion hybridised pink flowers are found.
Flowering Season: May to October
Habitat: Waste ground, , rough field margins, hedgerows
Sprawling or creeping perennial. Leaflets ovate to lanceolote. Flowers yellow about 15 mm long. Pods long, dark brown, spreading out like a bird’s foot.
Flowering Season: May to October
Habitat: Dry Grassland, pastures, edges of footpaths and heathland
Erect, very bristly plant. Bright blue, flowers.
Flowering Season: June to September
Habitat: Sandy and light soils, grassland,dunes and wasteground.
Also known as Herb Bennet. A rather straggly plant to 60 cm tall. Hairy stems and pinnate leaves. Open, erect flowers turn into slightly prickly fruitheads.
Flowering Season: Jun – Aug
Habitat: Scrub, hedges
Creeping woody shrub with evergreen untoothed leaves. Blue/violet flowers.
Flowering Season: Apr- Jun
Habitat: Deciduous woods, scrub, calcareous soils
My Wildflower spotting kept me going. Icknield Bank Plantation was pretty, but also pretty hilly through the woodland. Just round the corner of an incline I spotted Barry Cornelius with his camera at the moment when I was about to be overtaken by a speedy 15K runner. I gave it my best shot and sped up for the camera as I knew I’d look like I was competing in the 15K! That’s a lesson learnt in the past. Keep your eyes out for a man with a camera and perfect your smile and posture for the photographic evidence.
Photo credit Barry Cornelius
I was now over half way and the sun was shining brightly. The water stops were a welcome relief and it was nice to be cheered on by the friendly volunteers. The second half included fields of rape and pretty cottages.
Tall annual to 2m. Pale yellow flowers.
Flowering Season: May – July
Habitat: Field margins
Leaves ovate, heart shaped at the base. Common nettle shape, but not stinging. Flowers white, 20-25 mm.
Flowering Season: Apr – Dec
Habitat: Grassy, disturbed and semi-shaded habitats
Downy perennial. Leaves pinnate, with 6 -12 pairs of narrow-oblong leaflets. Bluish/violet Flowers in long raceme to 10 cm.
Flowering Season: Jun – Aug
Habitat:Grassy and bushy places
I must admit it was hard work crossing the open fields in the sun nearer the finish. Particularly as the faster 15k runners were passing me thick and fast. However they were very encouraging calling out `Well done Abingdon!’ I stuck to my course and let the faster runners go round me to overtake. I’ve learnt that it doesn’t work trying to get out of the way. I fall over and the other runner gets confused and delayed.
As I came back into Ewelme village the marshalls and villagers cheered me on. Then I rounded the corner to the finish and was met with a roar of applause as my name was called out towards the finish line. I gave it my best sprint finish and was ecstatic to make it over the line.
Photo credit Andrew Casey
Just behind me was the chairman of Didcot Runners hand in hand with two of the Abingdon Athletics Club Ladies. Lovely to see the sense of positivity and camaraderie as they crossed the line together.
I found the running difficult on a hot June day. However my wildflower spotting got me through and I must admit it was a lovely jaunt out into the countryside. I will be back next year!
I’d also highly recommend the tea and cakes provided by the Local school and the Hog- roast. The Chiltern Chase really does have a sense of community and a village fete atmosphere. Lovely!