Straight lines of vines at Upperton Vineyard

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There are some beautifully organised vineyards beside the Midhurst-Petworth road in West Sussex. I’ve been admiring them for some time whenever I’ve driven past, but the light has never been good enough to take photos. Until last week when I drove home in the early evening when the light and the sky was magical! I have to hand it to whoever it was that planted the vines in such straight lines, it really is perfect!

A bit of research and it turns out these are the grapes from the Upperton Vineyard. At Upperton they produce English sparkling wine, and they have 32,000 vines planted across their estate. They produce two wines – a sparkling white called ‘Nebula’ and a sparkling rosé called ‘Erubesco’. And I think I need to give both of these a try!

If you’re interested they have a website at www.uppertonvineyards.co.uk and a shop at the vineyard… it’s got to be worth a try I’d say!

“The Cowdray Colossus” Sweet Chestnut Tree

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Now here’s a real whopper of a tree! I have to thank Andy G for leading us to this amazing Sweet Chestnut tree in Cowdray Park this morning. It was a bit of a trek with the children in tow but definitely worth the walk. 

This tree is known as “The Cowdray Colossus” and according to the British Tree Register it’s the largest Sweet Chestnut in England. At 300 or 400 years old, it has a girth of around 40 feet and is about 90 feet high and 110 feet wide. 

And what a monster! To give you a sense of it’s huge size, here’s a photo of a small boy standing near the base of the tree.

 

129 Swallows on a wire

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Here’s an interesting couple of photos of a group of 129 swallows sitting on some power lines (130 if you include the bird that’s about to land) getting ready for their holiday to Africa.

Did you know that the collective name for a group of swallows is ‘A Flight of Swallows’? Migrating swallows fly about 200 miles per day, flying a distance of around 4,000 miles to sub-Saharan wintering grounds. They’re too small to build up fat reserves before they migrate, so instead they eat on the wing as they head south. 

Wheat field on Cocking Down

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This field on Cocking Down is one of the last to be harvested this year.

Arable crops have been farmed on The South Downs since prehistoric times, but it was only during the Second World War that production increased extensively onto chalk downland. During the 1930s, cheap imports of corn depressed arable farming in the UK, but with the outbreak of war the national demand for home-produced wheat and barley increased dramatically. Farmers were encouraged to plough up the chalk grassland and by 1942 more than 8,000 acres had been converted to arable crops. 

In the late 1980s The South Downs was designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Area (or ESA) in an effort to return much of the area to its natural state and to convert arable areas back to chalk grassland. 

 

 

The Devil’s Jumps, near Treyford on the South Downs

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Here’s a photo of the Devil’s Jumps near Treyford on the South Downs. They’re rated as one of the best ancient monuments in Sussex, dating back to the Bronze Age period which means they’re in incredibly good condition given that they are three to four thousand years old. They’re a line of five Bell Barrows – circular mounds within a circular ditch, with a burial pit beneath the mound. The mounds align with the setting sun on the summer solstice.

According to Wikipedia, the Devil’s Jumps are the focus of local folklore. Apparently, the god Thor used to sit on Treyford Hill. One day the Devil saw the five barrows and started to jump from one to the next in order to amuse himself. This enraged Thor, who threw a stone at the Devil, causing him to flee… Sounds like a good story to me!

The artist’s impression of life 3,000 years ago is from an information sign at the site.

Andy Goldsworthy’s Chalk Stones Trail Walk on the South Downs

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The lovely Mrs V and I had afternoon tea at West Dean on Sunday afternoon. After tea I pulled on my trainers and ran back to Bepton along the Andy Goldsworthy’s Chalk Stone Trail. The trail is 5 miles long and runs between Cocking and West Dean in West Sussex. It’s an art project created in 2002 by the internationally famous British artist, Andy Goldsworthy. The trail is waymarked by a series of 13 chalk stones approximately 6-7ft in diameter, made with chalk taken from a local quarry. Many of the stones are easy to find, some easy to pass by, but all are unexpected. I’m afraid I only found nine of them, which I’ll put down to the rainy weather (see the photos in the gallery attached) which means I’ll have to head back and search again for the missing four!

You can discover more and download a trail guide at the National Trails website.

Looming skies at Cowdray House Castle, Midhurst

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I just had to pull over and grab a photo of Cowdray Castle on my way home last night; the lighting was very special!

Cowdray House (or Cowdray Castle) is a magnificent 16th Century ruin in Midhurst, West Sussex. It was built in Tudor times, and was visited by Henry VIII, Edward VI and Queen Elizabeth. The building was destroyed by fire in 1793. Various efforts have been made to preserve the castle, the most recent being in the late 90s with the help of a Lottery Grant. 

Cowdray is quite a cool place to visit, with various events and weekend activities for all the family from Treasure Hunts to Open Air Theatre. Here’s a link to the Cowdray Castle website…

A Garden Warbler in the hand…

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Well you’ll be delighted to hear that this bird in the hand has been safely returned to the bush! The poor little chap was standing in the middle of the road, balling its lungs out and making a right old song and dance! Not 100% certain what it is, but pretty sure it’s a baby Garden Warbler. An adult Garden Warbler was jumping around in the hedgerow shouting at me, and some of the markings are in common with a Garden Warbler. If anyone can provide a better ID I’d be happy to hear it…