A Safari on the Sussex Serengeti (Part 3)

 

We woke to another beautiful day in the wildlands, another shower in the open air, bird song loud around us. The wind was fresher today, gentle rustlings blowing through the trees. We set out to explore.

Grazing in the shade of veteran oak trees, a herd of dusky Exmoor ponies, blending into the deep shadow under the oaks spreading branches. fitting perfectly into this rewilded landscape, looking every inch at home.DSC_0132

Below an old oak tree, tucked into a cleft in the bark, an owl pellet, something to treasure, to dig through and explore at a later date. On the path ahead of us, parts of a tiny blue shell, chick hatched, shell discarded. We wandered with no destination in mind, ambling as our feet took us.

Relaxing by the hammer pond, a purring reached our ears, a turtle dove hidden out of sight in the thick foliage. Great crested grebes nested on the water, the male sticking close to the female on her floating nest.We had several magical moments, eyes locked with deer that crossed our path. DSC_0158On our dusk safari the previous evening, a stoat’s home in a fallen tree was pointed out. We stopped nearby, a stoat, my husband shouted, but it was gone, too quick for me to see, a fantastic spot for him! DSC_0167

Along a dusty path a warty creature sat, a beautiful toad, eyes glittering bright orange, blue shimmering eye liner adding a disco flare to his drab camouflage skin. We moved him off the dry pathway and into damp vegetation alongside and watched him crawl off into the scrub, both of us delighted, it’s been too long since we saw a toad!

Exploring the wildlands was fantastic but the best of our day was yet to come. We relaxed, enjoying the peace and quiet of this special place. I wallowed in a hot bath in the sunshine, at peace inside the bathenon, dappled light through the leaves sparkling on the water, birds wheeling overhead, a magical way to spend a sunny afternoon.​

As the day grew old, the campsite cleared, many of the people in the glamping site leaving in the late afternoon, leaving us all but alone on site. Bare feet tickled by the fresh green grass, we drank prosecco, reminisced on all we had seen and watched the sun set from the swing seat. Rabbits grazed on the sweet grass in front of our feet.

It was the most perfectly beautiful sight. Six young rabbits exploring their surroundings, their mother hopping around grazing nearby. They were clearly recently weaned, using their little heads to butt her sides to try and encourage her to suckle them, shrugged off every time, they nibbled at the grass, chased each other, relaxed under the benches. Slightly further from us in the meadow a larger group of rabbits grazed, squabbling and binking, chasing, looking like they were thoroughly enjoying life.

We were entranced by the scene, a green woodpecker glided down from the trees, then hopped among the low vegetation, excavating for insects with its long tongue. Above the flower meadow a kestrel hovered, pulsating stationary in the air, gliding, then stopping again, a master at its art.

As the sunset over the meadows and yurts, we wandered slowly to the pond, a walkway across the ideal spot to watch bats hunting and the stars come out. Bright moonlight lit our paths across the meadow, our way back to our tentside fire and deep, dreamless sleep.

Monday morning and we were sad to leave the site. Car packed, we set off for one final walk around the wildlands before we left. In a field next to the driveway, we had been told a little owl liked to perch on the fenceposts, but up to now we had not been lucky enough to catch a glimpse. Now, our luck was in! Staring back at us from atop the fence was a small fluffy, piercing eyed bird, the little owl. Neither of us had ever seen one before in the wild. Our hearts leapt, delighted at this diminutive creature checking us out, his yellow eyes meeting our binoculars. Time stood still, until, eventually, the owl took off, into the trees in the hedgerow behind him and out of sight.

Between trees on a woodland ride three fallow deer gazed at us from the centre of a field, as we gazed at them, eyes locked, bright russet red behind them caught our eyes, a beautiful fox. The deer, so focused on us, seemed to not notice him as he trotted behind them across the field, richly toned thick fur glowing in the sunshine, a healthy looking beast.

Already glowing from what we had seen, our happiness and wild memories were completed when we stopped again by the stoat’s tree and were both able to watch them appear and trot across the path before disappearing in the long grass by the pond.

What a truly wonderful wild weekend, we’ll hold the memories in our hearts for a long time, the question of when we can return often on our minds.

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