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For someone quartered safely in Wiltshire, it is almost a shameful thing to say, but I find most burial mounds – barrows (long, round or otherwise) – pretty unimpressive when you see them up close.  I could almost live without them, save that they contribute something essential to the majesterial landscape that is Salisbury Plain.  And Normanton Down, which lies immediately south of Stonehenge, across the über-arterial A303, has more than its fair share, including the eponymous Bush Barrow which you can recognise immediately because there's a helpful bush growing nearby.  Go to Devizes museum to see the treasure found under the Bush.

Thus Normanton Down is a special place and we walked it at the weekend. There were still lots of flowers, most spectacularly sainfoin and common toadflax, as well as soaring red kite and skittering pheasants.  We walked south along the ancient Harroway, a 300 mile track from the channel ports to Devon.  Just before Salisbury Cathedral spire came into view (no wonder Russian tourists go out of their way to see it), we saw the Great Bustards – eight of them quietly feeding in an empty wheat field.  Eight.  And I'd given up hope of ever seeing even one following their re-introduction in 2004.  They looked to be doing fine.

I know it’s essentially like train spotting, but it was a glorious (as well as a list crossing-off) moment.  And the apples we took from a lone tree a mile or so on were far better than anything supermarkets are now selling. What a day.

Posted in: News and Updates


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