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Sussex Scrapbook ~ Nature walks throughout the year
Green Man
Saturday 10th January 2009
Amberley Station - Rackham Hill - The Burgh - North Stoke - Amberley - Amberley Station
10 miles

There was no way we were going to take the bike out today as it was far too cold and icy, even for us! A far more comfortable option was to take the warm 9:18 train to our start point at Amberley Station. This walk turned out to be a complete surprise in more ways than one.
First surprise: The Arctic conditions which saw the temperature drop to -7 last night had resulted in a freezing fog over the Downs that had covered everything in a thick, decorative layer of rime. As we climbed Amberley Mount and our altitude increased so did the thickness of the rime on every surface about us. On reaching the top of Rackham Hill it was like entering Narnia. Unlike after a snowfall, every plant and tree was still identifiable and individual, every part of them was covered in long needle-like crystals up to 2 inches long - even the underneath surfaces. It was a sight that we couldn't remember seeing before and was incredibly beautiful. There was hardly a soul about, but those of us who were, were totally transfixed by it all.
Second surprise: As we approached The Burgh from the North, we were discussing the chances of seeing a Brown Hare as Gill loves to see them, when sure enough we spotted one a 100 metres away running across the fields ahead of us. When we turned round there was another one running down the footpath straight towards us. He just kept getting closer and closer. Was he short-sighted? Eventually he came out of his daydream, noticed us for the first time, and scampered off again. That really made Gill's day.
Lots of birds about, including all of the usual suspects - Lapwing, Yellowhammer, Long-tailed Tits, Stonechats, Corn Buntings and Skylarks. Also a couple of Ravens and lots of very scared Pheasants, as there seemed to be shooting going on everywhere today.
Surprise number three: As we were descending the section we've named "The Steps of Insanity" we saw a rabbit running from right to left being chased by a stoat that was travelling in very fast bounds and leaps. It got round in front of the rabbit, forced it back into our view again and continued the pursuit. Eventually it realised that the rabbit was going to get away and gave up the chase. It then ran around and posed for us a few times before leaving via a hole in the hedge. Fantastic, and the best view that Gill had ever had. She'd been so jealous of my experiences with these mad little things and this has evened the score up a bit.
After a quick stop at North Stoke church we headed across marshes and along the river towards hot soup at Amberley, after which we walked out along the Arun to Bury and Amberley looking for Barn Owls. No luck today, although we did hear some Tawny Owls calling from the woods above the station. The red sky and the frosty white earth looked amazing as the sun set and the marshes we were walking over were completely frozen over with a thick layer of very clear ice. The whole effect was as if we were on another planet entirely. Talk about escapism!

The footpath from North to South Stoke is still closed due to a faulty bridge

The view from Rackham Hill began with a thick fog bank just below us meeting with low cloud
(the line where the two meet is visible in this picture),
but as the sun rose behind us it started to quickly dissipate the fog, giving tantalising views.

Brown Hare

"The Steps of Insanity"

A very short clip of the stoat

Let's just hope we don't have to wait 18,091 years for this to be sorted out Tim, but we're right behind you!

The sun set as we walked across the frozen marshes and it seemed a very alien, inhospitable place.
Just what we was after!

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