Saturday, 20 January 2007

Wessex Downs

I walked up on Walbury Hill near Inkpen today and saw a buzzard and a red kite sharing the same updraft; the wind was so strong the kite was flying backwards at times. Eight Roe deer made their way across the fields below, grazing at first, but then in full flight as something unseen startled them. Returning down the lanes I stopped the car fifteen feet from a hovering kestrel, close enough to see every feather, and with the car window closed it ignored me. It's wings were working like crazy in the blustering wind, but keeping its head and eyes absolutely still relative to the ground below, and then after several minutes it dropped the few feet to the ground and flew away with a vole in its talons.

Walbury Hill is a fortified iron aged settlement dating back about 2700years with ditch and bank defences. Walking across it is a half mile walk from one set of defences to those on the other side, nearly as far as walking up nearby Hungerford's High Street. It must have been a major population centre all those years ago, but now it's an isolated place with views across much of Berkshire and the wind whistling in across nearby Gallows Down. There was a raven here just before Christmas, but it seems to have moved on.

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