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Saturday November 10th 2007
Pulborough - Parham - Amberley - Greatham - Pulborough

Our bike is still off the road and so we are still at the mercy of the inadequate Southern railway network to get us about. Since the branch lines were dismantled in the 1960's the county has been left with huge gaps in its rail coverage. The railway crosses the Downs every 20 miles or so at Winchester, Petersfield, Amberley, Lewes and Eastbourne. It also runs parallel to the Downs between Lewes and Eastbourne with 2 small stations, Glynde and Berwick between. Access to the rest of Sussex by train is even more difficult with huge areas between the North/South routes being unconnected. The old branch lines are now completely gone and have either been left to revert to nature or have been converted to footpaths, two things that we are indeed in favour of. However, trains are good for the environment as they cut down on road congestion and emissions and the areas along the rail tracks make valuable conduits for wildlife where they can exist without interference.
So again today, due to a lack of funds and no private means of conveyance, we got the train to Pulborough and did a circular walk of 14 miles.  Although the weather was again quite warm today we were left with the feeling that Christmas was only just around the corner. We found that lots of the trees in Parham Estate were already full of fruiting mistletoe and much of the holly is covered in glistening red berries.  Robins, Fieldfares and Redwings accompanied us to remind us that it really was supposed to be cold and frosty.
Fantastic views from on the hills today due to the low sun and golden light that really picked out all of the undulations and features of the Downs. The sun set while were up on Amberley Mount with a very dark pink colour which did not brighten Gill's view on crossing Amberley Wildbrooks in the pitch dark. We refer to this place as Grimpen Mire or the angerous Marsh (due to a slightly disfigured warning sign). It can of course be an angerous place, full of deep mud that can swallow you up, so she was probably right to stamp (splash) her feet and refuse to go any further when we were already half-way through.  I am made of slightly more intrepid stuff though and by careful persuasion I managed to convince her to continue. It was very dark and very muddy but we got through without incident. On the other side of the marsh is Quell Farm and just as we thought we were safe we heard a terrifying
shriek coming from an old barn.  Fortunately we both recognised the sound and crept very quietly into the entrance of the barn. The shrieks got louder and louder until the Barn Owl itself tore past us and started flying around the courtyard, hovering over our heads like a huge bat. It was very spectacular and Gill instantly forgot all about being frightened of the dark!

Mistletoe (Viscum album) growing in a lime tree. This plant is not a pest but is in fact a keystone species.

The Spindle Tree. Exotic looking, yet a British native

The sun setting over Bury Hill as we descend into Amberley.