It being the 50th birthday of that Stalwart of the Community Rich Forest, a number of us hied ourselves over to Watlington for the weekend. Rich is Events Organiser for the Association of Lightweight Campers as well as being a member of YACF, so it was a mixture of cyclists and campers, there being a considerable overlap between the two activities, who met at the White Mark Farm campsite in Watlington.
As part of my preparation for my Pembrokeshire walk, which is rapidly approaching, I decided to walk with a large, heavy rucksack from Saunderton station. This was exactly the sort of practice I needed as I was walking “against the grain”, as it were: up and down the escarpments rather than following contours. Although ascending is hard work with a heavy pack, it suddenly hits you as to why people ride bikes. When you are walking, descending is just as much tortuous hard work as is climbing: the footpath took me alongside the cricket pitch at Bledlow Ridge and immediately thereafter the descent is nigh-on precipitous. Steps had been cut into the soil with planks of wood holding them together so I found it rather easier to come down backwards and was very dependent on my walking poles. Compare that to coming down a hill on a bike.
Watlington really is Red Kite Central. There was a time when the red kite could only be seen in Wales, and there were very few pairs there, but some were introduced to the Chilterns and they have thrived. Indeed, they have become so bold that one of our number lost his burger in an air raid and required some minor first aid on his thumb. From my vantage point at the top of the camp site I can see the Scots pine where a pair is nesting, but there are many more than just the one pair. We also had a visitation from a buzzard this morning. There are plenty of other species, mostly evidenced by the ever-present peep-peep-peep-peep of a flock of long-tailed tits, and a song thrush, which seems to be the leading light in the dawn chorus.
Meanwhile, most of our number have gone for a ride. One of the younger members of our party asked me “Are you coming for a bike ride, mate?” I replied “No, I didn’t bring a bike.” His response of “Oh dear…” summed up the situation perfectly.