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Saturday 10th May 2008
Pulborough - Parham - Amberley - Pulborough
16 miles
11 hours

This was the hottest day of the year so far with temperatures reaching 27 oC. Most of the wet mud has now dried up and walking conditions are much easier. Birdsong was far more evident this week and all of the trees and plants seem to have suddenly burst into growth and flower. The fields and meadows are covered in Buttercups, Cowslips and Bugle and we found some more Early Purple orchids too.
One of our target species of the day was the Hobby. This agile bird of prey catches large insects like dragonflies in its talons and eats them while on the wing. Soon after arriving at the Hanger we were given a close up view of one hunting. We could see all of its markings really well, including its characteristic red 'trousers'. Another species we were hoping to see was the Cuckoo. Unfortunately, although we could hear them all day long, sometimes very close indeed, they managed to stay out of our view. That was also true of the nightingales, which are now in great voice. In compensation for not seeing any cuckoos, we saw a weasel scamper across the farm track ahead of us at Amberley Mount.
By the time we got to Amberley village we were in serious need of medicinal ice cream and a water bottle refill. We were saved in those respects by Amberley village stores, a rarity in these parts and the saviour of many a tired and hungry hiker. They will even make you a cup of tea!
Today Amberley was the centre point of a 60 km (37 mile) sponsored charity hike for women. It really was too hot today for these relatively inexperienced hikers to cope with such a long arduous walk. However, with real determination, it was just about possible. We wished them luck, but many of them didn't look like they were going to make it. Some didn't even have hats, so we can only hope they didn't get sunstroke!
By making use of all available shade, drinking plenty of water, and not walking between midday and 1 pm, we managed to feel pretty good at the end of our measly 16 miles.
The sun began to sink when we reached Coldwaltham and we were able to watch a barn owl hunting on the brooks. In all we saw 50 species of bird today (including 2 lapwing chicks with a very defensive mother), as well as a hornet, millions of dancing mayflies and a brown hare. Everything today seemed to be pollinating, mating, nesting and breeding and wasn't being put off at all by the extreme heat.

Buttercups beside the Arun

A Reed Warbler, warbling in the reeds!

Looking from Rackham Hill, over the orchids and cowslips, towards Parham estate

The (mercifully shady) footpath near Hardham Priory

The River Rother near Stopham

The ancient bridge at Stopham.
The White Hart pub here is an idyllic place for a drink on a summers evening