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Sussex Scrapbook ~ Nature walks throughout the year
Green Man
Saturday 1st May 2010
Sustainability Centre - Butser Hill - Langrish - East Meon - Sustainability Centre
11 miles

All week long the Met Office had been trying to convince us that it was going to pour down all day on Saturday, which was a shame as we'd already decided it was going to be dry and sunny and were going camping at the Sustainability Centre, five miles over the border in Hampshire. Gill isn't as mad about camping as I am (I once camped every night for over 6 months), but I was hoping that when the tent was up, the fire was burning and she had a large tea in one hand and a toasted marshmallow in the other, she might just start to enjoy it. As it turned out there was no rain whatsoever; the camping went as perfectly as I'd promised her; we had a superb walk in great hiking weather around the Meon Valley and Gill decided that she did actually like camping after all. Don'tcha just love it when a plan comes together?
Our camping and walking trip happily coincided with the Celtic festival of Beltane which marked the start of summer for these ancient peoples. Our camping spot was just north of Butser Ancient Farm, where many folk with Celtic beliefs had congregated for the celebration, which this year also coincided with May Day.
Those Celts sure know how to throw a party, if the noise coming through the valley was anything to go by: the night's festivities even culminated in the burning of a wicker man, although I understand there were no human sacrifices this year due to health & safety issues. (It's political correctness gone mad!)
Sussex birdwatchers are much more scientific of course and haven't relied on Beltane to remind them it's the start of summer: the mass arrival of the Swifts this week back into the towns and villages of the county having already confirmed it!

Wildlife highlight of the day was seeing a Sparrowhawk chasing three starlings. All four birds came belting through a line of trees to our right, the Sparrowhawk folding in its wings to make it through the branches. Hurtling past us, down and across a field to our left, the starlings were trying like mad to shake off their pursuer and were making for the cover of a small farm and copse. The hawk already had one of the squadron targeted though and even though it tried a final, insane barrel-roll to get away, the hawk, with breathtaking speed, mirrored the starlings manoeuvre and grabbed it in its talons whilst flying almost upside down. Without missing a beat the Sparrowhawk shot straight into the copse with its protesting prize.  A truly awe-inspiring spectacle to behold in binoculars.


Home! At least for a day or so.

Butser Hill's spectacular dyke.

Back down off the hill and back into woodland.

Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum multiflorum)

Hampshire seems to have very clear signage on all of its footpaths and bridleways.
Good news for hikers.

The bluebells are now out in force in the woods and look fantastic. Get out there and enjoy them.

Langrish Church. Time for tea, cake, etc.

We even passed through the site of the next day's motocross meeting.

You can see this crazy garden feature on the road between Langrish and East Meon.

A docked lamb's tail with the band still attached.

Back at base we were able to borrow a raised fire pan so that our campfire didn't burn the ground.

Sitting beside the fire with a full belly and a mug of hot chocolate, Gill admitted to being more favourably inclined towards camping.