Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Above Amberley

The sun beats down onto soil baked as hard as a late summer's day, yet it is but March.

The river sparkles and along its muddy banks moorhen prints lead to and fro, markers of the industry of nest building. Of the bird itself there is no sign.

Toward Coombe Wood a solitary buzzard circles, riding high thermals, before plunging down into the wood itself. The path contours the hill before skirting the wood. Each footstep explodes with small clouds of dust. It has not rained for weeks. In Coombe Wood a woodpecker drums out a rhythm to a chorusline of finches and tits, and to the left a field of larks compete for volume.

As the path drops into farmland the song of the larks rises to a crescendo; occasionally a bird lis flushed from the rape field, rising higher and higher as his soprano song fades into the distance. Heads of ripening rape tremble as bees land.

Above Bignor Hill a second buzzard circles bisecting the towers of Glatting Beacon, before speeding down into the hangers on the quickening air currents, effortless and graceful.

The return path through Houghton Wood is alive with brimstone and peacock butterflies, dancing in the sun among yet to bud stands of beech coppice. The lack of foilage serves to accentuate the bright yellow of the brimstones as they jig through the branches.

A shaded pool, dark and stinking provides a cooling bath for a panting terrier, hotly pursued by a red-faced owner.

Along the way the first bluebells stretch for the spring sunlight.

The path drops into Houghton, occasionally hugging the busy main road, before a way is found to the riverbank again and the ancient towpath, leading back to Amberley.

The route for this walk can be found at -

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