Well, we are nearly at the end of January! Time is zipping past and the weather has refused to be either very wintery or very springlike!! This has left nature moving forward at it’s own unstoppable pace: the birdsong has already increased hugely with song thrushes, great tits and nuthatches in good voice; our local Great spotted Woodpeckers have also been celebrating the odd bout of sunshine with their “drumming” on dead trees to begin forming breeding territories. Foxes are clearly still mating as I keep hearing screaming vixens, and badgers are ready to have their young any time now – often indicated by them clearing out some old winter bedding which I haven’t as yet noticed around my local setts.
My Special Event hike this month was an exploration of some local heathland in the late afternoon – the views were pretty amazing and there were signs of spring that promise to yield a harvest later on; the plentiful Bilberry plants have certainly greened up hugely over the past fortnight! After our hike, we descended back down to Haslemere and went on to the annual Wassailing ceremony carried out at Swan Barn by my brilliant National Trust chums! Wassailing is a centuries old tradition that has been used to celebrate orchards and rid them of evil spirits which might hamper the following season’s crop. As with anything involving farming or crop growing, the celebrations tended to vary according to which county you were in – there are many records available which help explain the process but, of course, many were passed down the generations in the form of song, story or fable as so many village dwellers were illiterate!! Whatever, the truth of the matter, we had a great evening and I do hope this can become an annual expedition for Jonnie Taylor Walks!
The next special event hike will be on Saturday 19th of March and will provide a unique opportunity to get in very close to ewes giving birth to lambs in a barn environment! I worked as a night shepherd on this farm for many years so will be able to hopefully answer all your questions and turn the evening into a fascinating experience! We will again hike across beautiful countryside from the station to the farm and then take a shorter quiet road back (quite possibly via a pub!!!). I will update everyone on the finer details in due course, but if you would like to book your place on the walk please let me know asap – on account of our visit I do have to restrict numbers a bit for this one!! The price will again be just £20 per person!