Monday, 17 October 2011

The Surrey Alps


This is Colley Hill, on the North Downs. We are facing eastwards and that's Reigate nestling down like the sleepy little leafy town that it is. The scarp and bowl look far more dramatic in real life than it does in a photograph - the perspective and vertiginous slopes have the life squeezed out of them.

The North Downs is a different beast to the South Downs. The latter appear wilder, more remote and grander. Both are of similar height, although because the adjacent land is already pretty high, the North Downs does not give the impression of being as lofty as that southern bit of chalk. Having plenty of cloaking woodland also adds a softness to the north.

Back to Colley Hill. I have spent a lot of time here over the years. It is a place of family walks and picnics and also one that I do venture onto for plants (Meadow Clary!), butterflies (good numbers of Silver-spotted Skippers) and birds... well, when I say birds I really mean in expectation of them. To me it looks like a good birdy place. Marvellous vantage point. Plenty of scrub. Must be on a good fly line. But I have failed here. I cannot even muster up a list of half-decent migrants to wow you with. No Shrikes, no raptors, let alone Common Redstarts or Ring Ouzels. Some lucky beggar had a Common Crane drift over in the spring, but apart from that I cannot recall anything better than a Red Kite being seen here (and let's face it, that's hardly unexpected these days, is it?).

On Saturday I sat in the same place for three hours and saw bugger all. But in reality, of course, I saw an awful lot. Just look at the view! It is one place that I don't mind birding and coming home with an empty notebook. Colley Hill is my balm.

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