Tuesday 22 September 2009

Oh Sussex, Sussex by the Sea

A lovely day in East Sussex today, only marred slightly by what could have been a stonking day in Kent. Time will tell if the Booted Eagle was not in fact a Booted Eagle, but when I tell you that when I got up today I was undecided between Dungeness for a long-staying Wryneck, and Seaford Head for a Barred Warbler.... oh what might have been! I reckon I would have got to Dunge at around 11am, and been on the entrance track looking for the Wryneck when this bird was circling round. And even if I hadn't seen it then, when the pager message came up about it sitting in a field a couple of miles away, I reckon I might just have gone, Wryneck or no Wryneck.

But enough about what might have been. I went to East Sussex, which is a place that holds a lot of affection for me - my Grandparents lived only just down the road from Seaford Head, and many a happy week was spent there during my growing up. As I drove along the A27, I was hit by a wave of familiarity, one that grew stronger the closer I got to Litlington, which is where they lived. I turned the Sat-nav off, as it wasn't taking me that way, and amended the route, providing Pudding with a running commentary of where we were and what was there. We went past the Ellis' farm, past the church, past the tea rooms, past the pub, and finally past their house. Only being two, she's not really into tenses in a big way and got a bit confused as to what generation I was talking about. She was expecting to see her Grandparents, which would have been a big surprise given they are in Scotland, and as we walked down alongside the Cuckmere, she was asking if "Gwam-pa" was round each bend.

He wasn't, but the Barred Warbler was, and showed exceptionally well for at least eight seconds as it flew between some bushes and vanished. Photos? You have to be kidding. The weather was superb, shirt sleeves, and despite the lump on my back, the walk was exceptionally pleasant, even uphill. Heaps of Swallows and Sand Martins, and at least three Clouded Yellows. Hope Gap itself is a small valley with a wedge of dense Hawthorn and Elder dominated cover extending almost to the cliff edge, with a path running through the middle. What a patch! I recently mentioned a young guy I keep bumping into, the one that I now talk to semi-unawkwardly. Matt, for that is his name, is lucky enough to live close by, and diligently works this patch when he is not following me around the country. Indeed he had found the warbler the previous day, so all kudos to him as it was a right bugger. Anyway, he was there when I turned up, in a curious instance of reverse-stalking - and had rather unfortunately just arrived from Dunge where he had been looking at a Wryneck on the ground and not up at the sky. Despite a somewhat depressing pager Mega-alert from Kent, he cheered up when he heard where I had parked. Turns out my 30 minute slog up and down hills and along rivers could have been a five minute stroll down the hill from a conveniently-located barn with ample parking just out of sight at the top of the valley. I didn't tell my shoulders, hope they don't read this...

Back at Litlington, we did a bit of gravestone gardening, and had a peek inside the church, which is ever so much smaller than I remember it. A lady was cleaning it in preparation for a wedding this weekend, so I was able to catch up on a bit of village gossip, and not a great deal has changed really. Litlington was a huge part of my childhood, it was great to go back with one of my own kids, even though she didn't know where we were, or why we were trimming bits of grass from around a funny stone.

1 comment:

  1. Apparently the Booted Eagle is actually a Black Kite. This makes me feel better about the Black Kite I saw on Majorca a few years ago that was actually a Booted Eagle.