Twelve people met at the Eight Bells car park, Carisbrooke, where Bill Shepard told us that the house adjoining the car park had once been a bakery, known as Staple House, and showed us an invoice from 1823, when a gallon of dough made a 9lb loaf.
We set off down the High Street, turning right into the waterworks, to find the path around the pond – once the Mill Pond for the old Priory Mill – was closed due to much litter being left. Passing the ford into Spring Lane, Bill showed us a Golden Rain Tree, (Koelreuteria paniculata)rare for the Island, sheltered by conifers, which could account for its good size.
Crossing Castle Hill we entered Clerken Lane, known locally as ‘the shrubbery’, once a path used by clerics or clerks, to walk from the Priory to Sheat Manor at Chillerton to take daily prayers. There was still plenty of autumn colour. A large growth high on a beech tree caused some speculation, but no-one was sure what it was. Years ago, with our children, we had watched a hedgehog one autumn wandering around the leaf litter, but sadly our grandchildren have never seen a hedgehog.
After admiring the Castle donkeys in their paddock, we walked around the moat to the car park, a buzzard appearing briefly overhead. The moats are normally a good place to see glow-worms in the summer, but this year John & I saw only one lone female.
Reaching Millers Lane, where we saw Comfrey (Symphytum cauacasicum) in bloom on the bank, Bill took us on a short diversion to the site of Paper Mill, where water running through the weir can still be heard.
We strolled along Millers Lane, surprising a large bumblebee on Mahonia flowers, and noting mistletoe on some of the trees edging the old Kents Mill pond, where rowing boats were once in use. Across another ford, admiring the strong scent of winter- flowering honeysuckle in a garden hedge, up Castle Street, right into the High Street and back to the Eight Bells for mince pies and two quizzes, with ten people staying on for an enjoyable lunch.