Although our route on the Chase yesterday was the same on that we usually walk, there were some differences.
The first one was that we were starting from a different car park, on another side of the Chase, and having not visited that parking area before (other than on foot, from the Chase side) we had to pay attention to make sure that we spotted it from the road.
Then there was Jeff, who was joining us on this walk, and who, with perfect timing, pulled into the car park just a few moments after us.
Soon there was much chatting as we set out on our way under fair skies.
We had not gone far when I cut off mid-sentence upon hearing a screeching cry, and it didn’t take me more than a second or two to locate the source: two jays flitting between the nearby trees. We’ve only seen jays over there once before, and it was a treat on this occasion to see them at such close range.
Visibility was good (not fantastic, but not too shoddy), so views were to be had once we had gained the high-point of the route, having climbed up the valley from Stepping Stones (where there was not a single other person, disproving my previous statements that there are always people at the Stepping Stones – in fact the whole of the Chase was abnormally quiet, even for a Monday morning).
The deer must have been hungry after the recent bad weather as the grazing group of fallow deer (some with huge antlers) that we came across barely paid us any heed as we stopped to admire them. Later (after we had enjoyed cups of tea in a cafe we have walked past almost weekly, but which we have never before visited), another herd was spotted a short distance away from us in the forest and again they watched us, but didn’t absent themselves. It’s highly unusual to see any deer in daylight over there, never mind openly grazing in spite of on-lookers.
Everything was uneventful as we chatted our way through our usual car park, through the abandoned quarry, past the abandoned rifle range, through some forestry, then some woodland, to come back out at our starting point.
Taking advantage of one of the picnic tables there, cups of tea were drunk (and the more organised amongst us (i.e. Jeff) had lunch). I picked the right side of the table, as it gave an excellent view of the three bird feeders that some kind person had hung from a nearby tree. I didn’t pay much attention to most of the species visiting those feeders, but my attention was certainly captured by the great spotted woodpecker as it clung onto the wire and saw off all of the smaller birds that tried to land on what had obviously become his property.
I was well and truly kicking myself for having forgotten to take the camera (which also explains the big, photoless block of text above), and it wasn’t until the woodpecker’s second visit that I thought to ask Jeff if I could borrow his camera. Alas the inevitable happened, and as soon as he reached into his pack the woodpecker mutttered ‘Photograph me? Not on your nellie!’ whereupon he flitted off into the woodland, not to be seen again (mainly because that was the point at which we all left).
Being our usual route it was, unsurprisingly, still 8 miles long and still featured 1000 feet of up.