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Sussex Scrapbook ~ Wildlife walks throughout the year
Green Man
Saturday 22nd March 2014
Lurgashall - Black Down - Gospel Green - Northchapel - Lurgashall
11 miles

The weatherman had warned us it was going to be a cold, wet day but we'd decided to risk it anyway. As usually happens it started to rain just as we got the bike out of the garage but the moment we left Crawley the rain stopped and the skies cleared. We find this happens a lot and our town seems to have its own miserable microclimate that we leave behind us every Saturday.

We had a great ride to Lurgashall, the sun was shining, the roads were quiet and there were no hoards of bikes like last week. We find it really dangerous to be on the road when all the fair-weather bikers come out to play. They are generally bald 40 year old men who ride about 2 weeks a year and try to go as fast and as furious as possible, the emergency services and hospitals must be completely overwhelmed. They think that because we're on an old Harley that we must be slow and stupid so must be overtaken as fast as possible. In fact we let them go past so that the idiots are out of our way as soon as possible! They are not skilled riders and are very dangerous to themselves, motorists and most of all to us. We don't see any of them when there's even a hint of rain or when the temperature dips down the slightest bit.

Gill had asked that today's walk be through woods and that's just what she got. Apart from a few open areas such as Blackdown Estate and a few other farms where the views opened out we were under the canopy of beech, hazel, pine, birch and yew all day long. On gorgeous Black Down itself we were surrounded by heather, gorse and Scots Pine and walked down old sunken tracks on sandy loam soil. The views from the highest point in Sussex are beautiful and you can see virtually the whole of our lovely county from up there.

We practiced our pacing technique and at one point I worked out that our next turn was 18mm on the map corresponding to 450m in reality. This in turn meant we had to walk 283.5 paces. We were bang on - even down to the half pace!

A good day for birds, at one point we had 7 Buzzards over our heads plus we also had 2 Red Kites, a Treecreeper, woodpeckers, all manner of woodland and farmland birds and a couple of Kestrel. Daffs were everywhere along with Wood Anemones, Primrose and even a few bluebell were starting to flower.

As we neared Northchapel a huge cumulonimbus storm cloud started to form behind us and it chased us back to Lurgashall, providing a spectacular backdrop to an otherwise bright sunny afternoon. A parhelion showed that there was plenty of ice in the sky and the low temperature at ground level showed me that my hands were going to get very cold on the ride home. As we closed in on the finish of the walk the cumulus clouds around us started to grow into Cumulus Congestus, with some of them starting to spread out into more anvil-shaped monsters too. It seemed we were surrounded by imminent storms. Amazingly we were able to circumvent the big storm on the bike on the way home and stayed in the dry all the way back. My hands were nearly frostbitten by then though but who cares, we had a perfect Spring day in the woods.

Lurgashall churchyard - our 1200 year old start/finish point.

A carved dragon in St Laurence's, Lurgashall.

A church coffer with some very amateur 17th Century carving.

Blackdown Estate.
The poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson lived and died just around the corner on the flank of Black Down itself.
He was rich enough to live anywhere in the world he wanted but chose this corner of Sussex.

Exploring the top of Black Down.

View of Blackdown, painted by Helen Allingham, 1902.

A sunken path coming down off Black Down.

We skirted the edge of Surrey today.

Northchapel church was closed by the time we got there.

It's coming to get us!

Heading back into Lurgashall with bright sunshine ahead and black horror behind.

Take the time to read the countryside code for yourself and please stick to it at all times.