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Saturday 12th January 2008
Amberley - Kithurst - Wepham Down - The Burgh - Burpham - Amberley
12.5 miles

A very favourable pattern in the weather has been happening this month. Every night before we go out there has been terrific rainstorms and really strong winds, but when we wake up in the morning its blown itself out to leave a perfect spring day.
We caught the 09:30 train to Amberley and bought some grub from the village shop before climbing up to join the South Downs Way on Amberley Mount. The views from here and from Rackham Hill of Amberley and Pulborough Brooks covered in patchy water sparkling in the winter sun was breathtaking, and photos (especially mine) can never do it justice. From here we walked east as far as Kithurst car park and then took the south-westerly path to Wepham Down.
On Wepham Down came the highlight of the day, a ringtail Hen Harrier. We had really hoped to see one as they've been reported here recently on the SOS website. We watched it slowly flutter its way east-west towards the Burgh, where other birdwatchers, that we met later on, also got to see it.
The Burgh itself is a small raised area nestled in amongst the rolling downs, and as well as having great panoramic views, its also a real haven for wildlife. Every hedge, bush and shrub is full of birds and the surrounding fields are all heaving with finches and buntings. This is what draws in the predators and today Peregrine, Merlin, Hen Harrier, Kestrel and Short Eared Owl were all seen, although sadly not all by us. The area is also used to raise pheasants for the shoot, which was going on near Burpham as we passed through.
We'd been hoping to see some Short-Eared Owls today, and sure enough, soon after we left the Burgh, four of them were seen. Doh! Now we'll just have to go back and look again. The Burgh is a conservation area and mile after mile of hedgerow has been newly planted to encourage wildlife. The reserve is also surrounded by huge red signs asking dog walkers to keep their animals on a lead. However, every dog walker that we saw chose to ignore this advice and just let their dogs run about anywhere. They obviously know something that we don't.

The going today was soft, with splashy, gooey and sticky sections. I fell over flat on my back once and we both nearly went over another dozen times each. But that's half the the fun of bog snorkling and it all washes off afterwards!

Ok, if that doesn't mean its spring already, we don't know what does!

The view of Amberley Brooks from Rackham Hill

The Burgh area, much loved by wildlife and dogs

The new hedgerows must be 10 miles long at least. They will look great in ten years or so.

Here's some that was planted earlier

A view of the Arun going down past Arundel castle, from near Burpham