Saturday 31st January 2015
Snow! Not a lot but a covering none the less.
I set off north towards Midhurst and soon had the combination of an up a hill push combined with a down the hill rush. The day's cycling would be shared between the two experiences. The snow was soon melting and the main roads were clear due to gritting. The smaller country lanes were at first slushy but even that was soon gone because the rain was washing it all away. Just to make things a little more unpleasant, there was also an occasional north wind in the face. I say occasional because th hills and trees sheltered me most of the time.
Snowdrops in a village, redwings on a forest floor; these stopped me yet otherwise it was a struggle. It amazes me how the bike feels so much heavier in rain. Maybe the lads (the 4 cuddly toys on the bike) absorb the rain and the panniers also.
I reached the first target and actually went half a mile past it. Barfold Copse RSPB reserve is a tiny wood in a small stream valley tucked off the road and difficult to find. I had seen the hotel as I pushed the bike up yet another steep hill and forgot that this had the entrance bridleway that leads to the reserve.
Retracing my tracks on realising my mistake, I careered down a very bumpy path and left the bike against a tree as I walked up and around to the secret reserve.
In the morning, whilst waiting for breakfast I had been on google searching for details of this reserve and had found a RSPB forum posting asking the RSPB for details of it. I answered the gentleman's question and then found both a PDF detailing the special nature of the copse and an OS map of it,
On reaching the gate I saw a sparrowhawk circling over the trees which had caused maybe 100 redwing to take flight. This was the most redwing I had seen together for the whole month.
Inside the reserve was a dedication plaque. Otherwise there was no sign that this was RSPB.
I went down the path but saw no birds at all. Interesting how liverworts had formed a carpet on the floor in places though. I then decided to cut the corner in returning to the bike and climbed over a fence straight into a deep pile of horse manure! Lovely.
Back on the road I reached Haslemere and, after buying some milk and strawberry milkshake, I took the wrong road. Instead of heading to Hindhead I found that I was on the Guildford road. The map showed how this could be turned to my advantage as a series of small lanes would take me to Thurlsey and on to the next RSPB reserve at Farnham.
Lucky for one motorist that I had made this mistake as he was lost and was looking for the youth hostel that I had tried to book into. His brother was having his birthday celebrations at the hostel and hopefully my directions using google maps on my mobile helped him get there.
On crossing the A3 I came upon a place where over twenty years ago I had found a brand new car hidden away in some bracken. I had been walking around Thursley Common birding and dragonfly watching. Well it is one of the best places for both in Britain at the right time of year, not in January though. Anyway, I phoned the police and reported the stolen car and was disappointed when I returned there some months later and saw the same car in the same place, smashed and pillaged.
Farnham Heath and a number of dog walkers but no birders due to there being no birds. Two crows in an hour's walk. The chats with some of the dog walkers were fun though as over the hill north of the reserve was the famous Bourne Woods.
“Strength and Honour!”
“On my signal, unleash hell!”
Bourne Woods has been used for a number of films. My favourite one filmed there is Gladiator with Russell Crowe, The opening battle scene was shot there and standing on the rise where the Roman army was amassed against the Germanic hoard I could imagine it all. I shot a quick video diary but didn't re-enact it all. Lack of participants.
Other films shot there include Captain America, Robin Hood, again with Russell Crowe and Warhorse.
Now the man I had been talking to, Nick, on the way out of the woods turned out to have an interesting birder as a friend and client, Steve Webb. I just laughed out when Nick asked me if I knew him. Which birder/twitcher hasn't heard of the famous Steve Webb?
Steve Webb has possibly the highest list of birds seen in Britain, as listed on Bubo. By the way my own 2015 year list is detailed on Bubo as well.
Amazing to meet Garry Bagnall last week and a friend of Steve Webb this week. Which famous birder will be next?