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Sussex Scrapbook ~ Wildlife walks throughout the year
Green Man
Saturday 2nd March 2013
Amberley - North Stoke - South Stoke - Burpham - Wepham Down - The Burgh - Rackham Hill - Amberley
9 miles

The bike is off the road at the moment getting some badly needed maintenance and parts. The carburettor is dismantled, the brakes are in pieces and a variety of other shocking and ghastly things are being done to it. It should be all back together by next weekend (maybe), so today we had to use the train again. That meant our options for a start point were very limited, especially as Gill was in no rush to get going (11 o'clock we left the house. ELEVEN O'CLOCK!) so we decided on an Amberley start. You can't go wrong with Amberley - every direction is great hiking (will you wake up please Gill, for chuffs sake?!).
Today we both (me) decided we would visit the 'Stokes' first, try for some mad March Hares up at the Burgh, see a few Buzzards and Red Kite, eat tea and guzzle cake in a few churchyards and end with a sunset when we got to Rackham, depending on our timing of course. If we could do all that without getting hypothermia then we could class that as a result.

So what did we see out here in the cold, out in the February countryside? What out here could replace the warm sofa in front of the good old gogglebox for a Saturday's entertainment? "Was it worth it Andy", is what you are saying to me is it not? Well sit thee down... on the er... sofa (dam) and let me tell you all a little bit about it...

...The first thing we noticed was how much drier the ground was and how much easier it was to walk on than of late. Very late in fact. Let's face it, Sussex has been awash in mud for months now. We've had it with mud! Down with mud, BOO! It's so bloomin' messy and so... bloomin' hard to slog through and heavy and... and ..BOO! Down with mud. No more mud please!
In fact, the last time we walked to North Stoke we had to wade thigh deep in water for a mile to get there! I thought that was completely brilliant and although Gill did it without hardly a murmur (without hardly a murmur, alright!) , I get the impression she wasn't quite so thrilled about doing it as I was.
All of our recent mudlarking has certainly made our legs stronger and we seemed to pound our way around this beautiful place made up of rolling downs and picturesque villages like crazy hiking machines that are fuelled by tea and cake - fruit cake with marzipan and icing. Perhaps with the odd cherry here and there. Mmmm, cake! Oooh, two sugars...

The clouds went from Stratus to stratocumulus, up to altocumulus floccus to finally crystal clear by Wepham Down. On the Burgh we found our Hares, two males chasing a female around in a half-hearted sort of a way but we didn't see any fisticuffs. They looked magical in the golden light and did their famous trick of 'disappearing' several times. Wow!
Buzzards! I hear you ask. Oh there were Buzzards alright, only 4 at one time but no, not a single Red Kite all day nor Harrier too but Kestrel and Sparrowhawk , Reed and Corn Bunting.
Arundel Castle in the distance with crepuscular rays beaming down from above, the many fields and meadows lit up with winter light and Amberley castle lit up by sodium lamps from up on Amberley Mount were some of the memorable views plus a Grey Partridge running on 6" long legs right across a field faster than we could ever run was one of the best sights.
By Amberley we'd had a blood red sunset with a Barn Owl escort. We'd seen Jupiter's moons, Orion's Nebula and the Seven Sisters too.

"So was it worth it Andy", I hear one or two of you cry. Why yes of course it was, are you crazy or what? If you add shedding a few pounds (despite the cake), increasing our lung capacity, giving us some sights we'll never forget and most importantly not falling foul of exposure, we reckon that more than covers the brief.

Oh yes, I checked. There was sod-all on all day!

I like this mobile thing that Google has. I set it running, put my phone away in my pack and forget about it and when we finish our walk it's tracked us the whole way.
Very clever.

A very pale, virtually white Buzzard.

St Leonard's - South Stoke.

Lots of Lichen in the trees - several species too.

Moss and water but surprisingly little mud.

A Rabbit skull in amongst the remains of several animals in North Stoke churchyard.
Perhaps a fox brings its kills here to eat them in peace and quiet.

Corn Bunting

Manglewurzels. Sugar beet.

This cycling event seemed to have gone the same way as us. Fortunately the bikes were all gone by the time we started out today.

Golden hour at the Burgh.

The sun was setting as we approached Rackham Hill. Not bad timing!

We got escorted from The Burgh at 3.15pm by a Barn Owl moving from post to post just ahead of us. A couple of times it swooped down to try for a prey item but most of the time it was content to look over its shoulder at us and then fly along the footpath another 20 feet and repeat. It stayed around for over 25 minutes as we moved up to Rackham Hill.

Gill's inbuilt sense of timing saved the day. By lying in bed and snoring for just the right length of time (dictated by the day length, so I understand) and by masterfully holding me up by repeatedly mislaying things, forgetting things and having to try on things twice, she cunningly managed to work it so that our hike was timed to perfection. To add to her troubles, when she finally woke up at Amberley I just gave her the map and told her to do the navigation, feigning a diabetic coma every time she asked a question about maps. A fine job she did too. She didn't need me at all. My work here is done!... I'll get me coat.

Take the time to read the countryside code for yourself and please stick to it at all times.