Saturday, 11 March 2017

Leaves of Ranmore

A warm day in the Southeast today, with lots of hazy sun and only the lightest of breezes. It felt very much like the first day of spring, so naturally I headed for the Surrey hills as fast as Southern Rail would carry me (which was not terribly fast, but I got there).
 With my usual excessive early-season optimism, I was hoping to find butterflies, and there were certainly plenty of Brimstones flying as I started my walk. But in the event that was it, apart from a couple of Tortoiseshells (I think) passing overhead, engaged in  a high-speed aerial dogfight. Happily I'd  already seen a Tortoiseshell earlier in the day, flying in dazed circles before finally settling on the slab-paved former front garden of a house just down the road. My annual reminder of just how astonishingly beautiful these familiar fliers are.
  My walk took me to Ranmore Common, with its landmark church - the extraordinary octagonal tower can be seen for miles around. It's an assertive church, rather harsh and over-crisp - maybe it needs another century or two to bed in. The work of George Gilbert Scott, it's not pretty, but has a lot of nice detail, especially the leafy capitals - a great one for foliation was G.G., and exuberant stuff it is. The picture above is of the entrance porch - and sadly that door was locked (though the interior, as I remember it, is more, er, striking than beautiful). And below is the other side of the porch (I know - try to contain your excitement).
  Anyway, it was a glorious feeling to be back walking in my favourite haunts at the start of the year, with all the summer and its butterflies to come. And along the way I saw a pair of Marsh/Willow Tits, a bird I haven't seen in these parts in donkey's years.

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