Friday, 4 December 2009

The bear went over the mountain...

Well, round the hilly-bay, actually. But the objective and the result were the same. Yesterday, as the sun was trying to shine, and it wasn't actually raining, we decided to finally get out and head to Eastbourne, where we had been recommended a decent walking track. Eastbourne itself is a town that is pretty much strung out along the bay, with a few interesting looking shops that we passed on the bus (Eastbourne's slogan is "It's worth the visit" which doesn't exactly inspire confidence...)

We got off the bus at the "Omnibus station" - the sign on the side of the old concrete building promised a refurbishment, and the project plan below stated that it had got to the scoping stage. I did wonder how long it would be before any work was actually done!

We headed along the shoreline to the path; whilst it was a track-road, there was a gate across it, and a sign saying that only authorised vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists were allowed. We were also reminded at frequent intervals that all dogs had to be kept on leads - this was because the land was being grazed by sheep, a number of whom were on or around the path:

The walk was absolutely gorgeous. We met a couple of walkers, a few cyclists and were passed by a few cars, but otherwise, it was just us and the birdsong, and the occasional InterIslander ferry on its way either to South Island or in to Wellington:

We were so lucky with the number of birds that we saw;
The Tui

who adored the flowers of the plant it was sitting on - it was getting the nectar out when we came along. When it heard us, it dived into the bush next to it, and tried very hard to convince us that it was actually R2-D2. But we stayed still and quiet long enough that it thought we had gone away and came out to restart its feast.

The Yellowhead

This one was a little less obliging with the photograph - if you look along the pointing branch of the dead tree towards the foxgloves, you might be able to see it hiding. There were loads of these finch-like birds in all of the gorse bushes and low hanging trees, but most of them flew away when they heard us coming.

The Variable Oystercatcher

also known to us as the "Squeaky Toy Bird" as it sounded just like a dog's chewy toy. There were a number of these along the shoreline, and all of them made the squeaky noise, but only while we were in the vicinity. As soon as we had got about twenty paces away, they stopped.

There were also innumerable chaffinches, blackbirds, at least one lark (heard not seen), a partridge-like bird that was very camera shy (size of a partridge, black head, grey and black feathers down the body, and it also flew, rather than being just ground dwelling), and one very noisy bird who was perched high above us on a bush sticking out of the cliff. There was no way I was going to get a picture of it, but it had a very dark red chest. I will learn the bird names - it will just take me a while!

There was also a lot of lovely scenery to look at and admire:

We felt certain that this could be a Captain James T Kirk vs Rubber Alien Monster Death-Match Arena...

The cliffs were high above us, covered in bush, gorse and foxgloves.

Whilst it was cloudy overhead, looking back towards Eastbourne and the Hutt Valley around the bay, there was glorious sunshine (typical!)

This was a waterfall that trickled down the rock face, and through a tunnel under the path.

When it came out the other side, the stream down to the sea was covered in these water-plants.

Some of the cliffs had definite looming tendencies...

and the mix of the grey clouds overhead and the sunlight on the water made it look like liquid metal.

We did get to see the lighthouses that are along the path, but didn't have time to actually get any closer to them than this; if we'd missed the bus that we did catch, they were then only hourly, which made it harder to get back.

We did get some blue sky and sunshine on the way back!

Today, we took part in our first political act - we joined in the Climate March (protesting against it, rather than for it) that went from the Civic Square to the Beehive (the Parliament buildings). It was all rather fun - a couple of climate change sceptics (one of whom was protesting for a World-wide dictatorship - I wonder who he had in mind as dictator?) were being very carefully ignored by everyone else. Possibly about 500 people, which wasn't bad for the first sunny Saturday in a month! There were a number of politicians there (mainly from the Green Party, as you would expect), plus a Nobel Peace prize winner (whose name I cannot now recall...) all giving speeches of varying degrees of interest. It was good to take part, but I am quite sceptical as to how much good it is likely to do (and the cynical part of me did wonder how many people had arrived by car, and why so many people there felt that they had to hand out paper leaflets!). But it was a nice stroll in the sunshine at the very least :-)

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