A Day on the Downs

About once a year, in the summer, I take a day off just for myself, away from work and family – some time alone to pray, walk and enjoy nature. A solitary retreat, to take stock, connect with God and nature, and enjoy what I love.

For some, church worship or other spiritual practices are the gateway to blessing.
For me, solitude in nature is a gateway to heaven.

For this introvert/contemplative/Christian/nature-lover with a normally busy schedule, it’s a perfect combination. Today was no exception.

Near Jevington

Actually, today I wasn’t alone – I took Gorka. And spent the first part of the day worrying that I was taking him out for too long in the heat!

Gorka

We were out walking for 5 hours on the South Downs, from Wannock, over Butts Brow, through Jevington, to Lullington Heath, and back.

Whitethroat, at Butts Brow

About 9 miles in all. But he was fine.

We took a few respite breaks in the shade, including a stop at the Eight Bells, just for Gorka’s sake of course….

But, mmm, that Harvey’s Best was DE-licious!

Small Tortoiseshell (now unfortunately scarce), at Lullington Heath

When I lived nearer the Downs many years ago, I didn’t take it for granted. But I sure appreciate it a whole lot more now. Its flowery meadows, inhabited by swirls of butterflies and filled with the sweet aroma of wild marjoram and the call of skylarks, are the kind of thing normally only talked about in hushed tones of fond nostalgia these days.

Viper’s Bugloss

Here on the Downs those meadows, as you can see from the above photos, still exist!

Marbled White: one of the delights of the South Downs.
They were abundant here today.

I counted at least 16 species of butterfly in the small area I covered today, not to mention the incredible array of other flora and fauna, including wild orchids and a few interesting moths.

Today was the first day this year that I’ve seen Burnet moths. Their metallic sheen and their tendency to stay for some periods of time on thistles and other flowers made them a prime target for my camera….

Six-spot Burnet

…not that they were always all sitting ducks, and I quite like these in-flight shots, showing off the red hind wings:

Of some excitement to me, though, was seeing another member of the Burnet family for the first time ever: the Forester, of which there were quite a number at Butts Brow:

Forester moth on wild marjoram

This Brown Argus butterfly was also a rare treat:

But perhaps the greatest delight of all was seeing and capturing on camera one of those butterflies seen only on chalk hills: the aptly named Chalkhill Blue, which seems, for me, to perfectly symbolise the rare beauty of the South Downs.

Chalkhill Blue