Another walk from last week. Today is a day of unrelenting rain, so crossing wet fields with dogs and a wheelbarrow is as far as I will go. Last week, in sunshine, I found a space of wide sky and heather. Somewhere to return to one day.
Approaching Burton Common, here is the footbridge beside a ford that crosses a stream flowing down towards the sea. Boz, my friend`s young mongrel, has met a black labrador and a springer spaniel. Someone has a stick. Water erupts as dogs leap, splash and play.
Burton Common. A 95 acre site Site of Special Scientific Interest , managed by English Nature. Described on their website as Dwarf Shrub Heath, its importance lies in its sandy heathland habitat where sand lizard and smooth snake live and breed.
"Mature dry heath on relatively free draining soils."
"The heather Calluna vulgaris is considerably older than in any known New Forest site and the older plants are degenerate, giving way to a luxurious bryophyte and lichen flora in which young heather plants are flourishing."
Lack of grazing by New Forest ponies or cattle means that heather is not consistently cropped as it is on New Forest heath.
The path through woodland. Boz is in the undergrowth somewhere.....
We set off in my friend`s car, with her recently adopted young dog, Boz, in his crate behind us. We wound through narrow , high-hedged lanes that crossed ploughed fields on the flat lands to the east of the Avon Valley. Through hamlets of cottages and houses strung out along the sides of lanes. Thatched, white cob cottages alongside homely Victorian red brick. Sometimes, a newer, less lovely house or bungalow with a too-neat garden. A tractor emerging from a gateway. A red Victorian letter box set into a white wall.
Up on a plateau north of the Christchurch - Lyndhurst road, just to the east of Christchurch and a few miles inland from the sea, Burton Common hides behind wood and farmland. An oasis of peace on an autumn morning. We walked a wooded path until we reached the heath.
Boz, a black and white live-wire of uncertain pedigree, raced and rushed ahead of us, turning and speeding back the way we had come and then whooshing past again like a rocket on legs. What energy! Boz nearly lost his life once, rescued from "Death Row" in a Welsh dog pound, so it was a joy to see him enjoying the moment as only a young dog can.
Over a ford where a stream flows down towards the sea, upwards onto the heath, and left along a flinty path with heather moorland a soft pink-brown beside us. Young Scots pine saplings sprinkled the heath, seeds blown there from a small plantation on the common`s edge. A pair of Dartford Warblers, so rarely seen, perched on a young pine. Close enough to see the shape and colour of each bird. Our eyes were not deceiving us!
Past pine, heather, dwarf gorse, we turned at last into a woodland path. Ancient oaks with gnarled branches overhung the track. Sunlight filtering rays of gold above us. A story told of adders seen along this way. The black and white dash of a happy dog rushing in and out of view and always seeming to vanish at the click of the camera.
Here on my desk, half a sea urchin fossilized in flint. I found it on the path that crossed the heath. All of this land was once under an ancient sea. A layered landscape of sand and gravel, flint and fossil.
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