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Sussex Scrapbook ~ Nature walks throughout the year
Green Man
Saturday 16th May 2009
Amberley - Greatham Bridge - Coldwaltham - Watersfield - Bignor - Houghton - Amberley
13 miles

I'd walked over 75 miles at work this week, so I might've been forgiven for not wanting to go for a walk today. Not by Gill though, as she was straining at the bit to get out into the country and strut her stuff! Of course I relented but I decided not to use the bike, as it needs some attention to the brakes and a new pair of tyres. This is all in hand and the parts arrive this week, but until then, no pillions!
So, by 10:30 we were sitting at Horsham train station being uncoupled from the Bognor section of the train, in readiness for our journey to Amberley. By coincidence, 50 feet directly above us, a pair of Swifts were actively coupling. It's the first time we've observed these, our favourite birds, mating on the wing and it reminded us that these amazing creatures do everything, except raising chicks, in the air; even sleeping. The atmosphere above us can be thought of as an extension of the oceans, made up of lighter elements than that of the sea, but with viscosity and density, currents and eddies. To fly/swim through it, with efficiency and with speed, you need to be streamlined and perfectly designed for your environment, and the Swift is the epitome of aeronautic design. Some of the birds you hear screeching down your street may not have landed since they fledged the nest, as long as three years ago. They've migrated to Africa every year and may now have half a million air-miles under their tiny, feathery belts. Respect to da Swifts!
This walk, of course, was just as perfect as any you can do in this area: stunning, varied, challenging and invigorating. The wild brooks were covered in buttercups and the path through them was surprisingly dry. The woods are all getting very lush and green and all manner of plants, trees and shrubs are starting to flower. Houghton Forest was full of birds and noisy with their song and was a good place to escape the winds that were buffeting the top of the downs.

Highlights of the day were: a Barn Owl flying almost overhead with a small mammal in its talons, a very near fly-past by a Cuckoo, giving us excellent views of its markings, and of course the Swifts. We also saw our first Painted Lady butterfly of the year as well as spotting Willow Warblers, Reed Warblers and even a tadpole in a brook.
If you've been waiting for the better weather to arrive before you go out to do a walk, then get your boots on. There may still be a few showers about, it may be a bit windy, but it's warm enough not to care.
See you out there...

At Amberley we stopped in to say hello at the newly opened tea rooms and got some provisions at the village shop.
Both of these establishments are lifesavers for the seasoned Sussex hiker.

Amberley Wild Brooks.

An amazing optical effect occurred on the Brooks. The sun was behind and above us and a breeze was rippling the surface of the water.
Our shadows were surrounded by a pale aura, with rays of coloured light emanating from the eye-level.

The effect was more pronounced than the camera was able to record, but the phenomena is just about visible in these pictures.

If you've been wondering what all the fluffy white stuff floating about in your street is... it's Sallow.

Snipe Fly (Rhagio scolopacea). Pretty eh? What do you mean no!

On the climb up Bignor Hill, the steep hanger was covered in Ramsons. You can almost smell it just by looking at the picture.

'Nuff said.

Up to meet the Roman road called Stane Street at the top of Bignor Hill,
then down through Houghton Forest on the Monarch's Way.

The first Elder flowers are starting to bloom and they smell great.

Through Houghton, past The George & Dragon.


Back to Amberley for the golden hour (and the pub) via the South Downs Way.