Some observations of Gilbert White, all made on 26th April, the day of the ramble:

1771 : Wheat begins to mead : redstart whistles. Cuckoo sings this year long before ye leaf appear.

1776 : Pheasants crow. Ringdoves coo… Birds are never joyous in a dry spring. Showery seasons are their delight for obvious reasons.

1781 : A pair of nightingales haunt my fields : the cock sings nightly in the Portugal laurel & balm of Gilead fir.

1784 : Sowed a crop of onions. Several sorts of cabbage : pronged the asparagus beds. Radishes grow.

Once again, the last Saturday of April proved to be a glorious day for the Spring Walk; a real beginning of spring itself. We were a large group of walkers : 20 in all, with very welcome “guests” outnumbering homegrown Ockendon Rd. locals. The 9.23am train from Waterloo to Alton in Hampshire was perfectly on time.

After a brief burst of urban road walking and a life-threatening mass crossing of the A31, an easy tramp across open country gave place to the delicious woods (the “hangers”) and gorgeous valleys that surround Selborne, our target village. Trees just bursting into the freshest green foliage, a succession of alluring views, plus some sludgy paths that took the shine off nice white plimsolls and the dog: delicious!

The frisson of being turned away from one garden pub at ten to kitchen closing time was soon replaced by a heroic if elongated lunch service in the garden of the Queen’s Hotel. A creative parting of the ways after lunch : some walked back to Alton via Jane Austen’s House, some took a taxi, and some spent the two hours before the next bus exploring the Rev G. White’s wonderfully restored garden. Secluded, spacious and watched by his extraordinary eye for the detail no-one had noticed and written down before him, this is the place where the science of the naturalist began. It has lost none of its magic.

Rumours of only a tiny bus for Saturday service proved unfounded, and the bus driver was willing to accept Freedom Passes from the aged, inspiring in some Ramblers the temptations of venturing further afield for no money, maybe to John O’Groats or Land’s End. Back in Islington, the Angel was roped off because of a bomb scare; back to normal. Next walk on the last Saturday of September : the 27th. (After that, it’s the second Saturday in 2009.) Do come!

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