Three Lions and three deer

Trip Start Jan 05, 2012
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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Chichester was still a little moist when I left the Travelodge at about 08:00, leaving Julie to have a bit of a lie-in. This was a Sunday and we still didn't have a new bird species for the week but we had an idea to head down to the coast where Mediterranean Gull should have been fairly easy to find. I thought I might find the week 'tick' sooner though because I heard the calls of what I was fairly sure were Ring-necked Parakeets coming from nearby East Street but when I went to look for them I couldn't find any and the calls ceased.

I went across the road to have a quick look at the cathedral but there were no Peregrines in sight – probably still a bit too miserable for them – so I followed the sign-posts to have a look at the Guildhall which was a short walk from the main streets of the city. It was easy to find.

Standing in Priory Park and directly adjacent to the cricket pitch (the boundary runs up to the wall) the building was not a Guildhall until the 16th century but was part of a larger Franciscan friary that was completed in the 1280s and is a rare example of Franciscan architecture from that period in such a good state of preservation.

I walked around it to get some photos from different angles and then climbed up onto what's left of the city walls to make my way back to the centre. The walls are not as impressive as those that we saw recently in Chester but as the city’s name implies, this was also a Roman settlement. However the parts that can be seen today date from 18th and 19th century restorations.

The walls took me back to East Street and with the weather improving and another hour before our paid for car parking expired I walked back towards the cathedral before going to wake Julie up.

With the weather improving I thought I’d have another look for the Peregrines and went around the back of the cathedral where there was evidence of a at or more likely a fox having had some fun 'exploring’ the litter bins overnight. We’d seen a fox running across the road as we’d arrived back in Chichester after our curry the night before.

Still no falcons but the door to the cloisters was open so I went inside for a quick look and a few photos. I walked through to the other side and emerged near the bell tower were a coach load of early rising French speaking tourists was making what was presumably their first stop of the day.

As I passed the tower I heard the call of a falcon overhead and glanced up to see a Peregrine returning from somewhere, just as Julie tapped me on the shoulder, having gotten fed up of trying to reach me by 'phone. Mobile 'phones are quite useful, if the person being called bothers to answer them. We watched the falcons for a while (two juveniles and an adult, we thought) and noted that the presume adult was stripping what we took to be a pigeon of its feathers presumably before presenting it to its offspring for breakfast. The bells were sounding frequently and each time they sounded the calls of the raptors also increased in volume, though you’d think they’d be used to it, living where they do.

Julie and I did another circuit of the church for more photos (I had been using the long lens which is not ideal for close-quarters images and then crossed the road to Wetherspoons for some breakfast, after which we finished packing and checked out.

Looking at the map it was more or less south to Chichester Harbour, Pagham Harbour and Selsey Bill where there might be some birding possibilities and apart from a bit of a breeze conditions looked good. A roadside sign indicated the Pagham Harbour RSPB Reserve entrance so we pulled in to the car park.

Pagham Harbour is quite well known in birdwatching circles. We went into the visitor centre to say hello and pick up a map and saw that a Glossy Ibis had been reported for several days from the area around the Breech Pool which looked like a 30 minute walk away. We set off.

This is a pleasant walk mainly on footpaths and bridleways and as is often the case with RSPB reserves you don’t need to be a bird watcher to enjoy it. The scenery is also very pleasant. The route follows the road for a short distance through the village of Sidlesham and if the tide is high, as it was today, you might need to stick to the roads a bit longer because the path on the edge of the harbour is sometimes submerged. One tip for anyone thinking of doing this walk, shortly after passing Halsey Farm a gap in the hedge tempts you to cross over to the seaward side. This is not the way to get to the pool and beyond unless you fancy climbing through/over a barbed wire fence. Just keep straight on where a stile will take you up onto the bank from where the way ahead should be obvious.

A Little Egret had caught our eye (there are lots here) and as we were standing and watching it the Glossy Ibis flew past and settled in the tidal waters opposite and began to feed. We could very easily have missed this bird had we not been looking in exactly the right direction at precisely the right time but as it was we had our new bird for the week and for both of us a new species for the United Kingdom. A call that we heard in the reed beds near Breech Pool might well have been Cetti’s Warbler but the bird only called once and wasn’t convincing and even though we dropped down the bank to get out of the breeze so we could hear better we didn’t locate it. Of more immediate interest was a mammal that was moving in vegetation on the far side of the pool and on examination through the binoculars this was seen to be a Muntjac deer with two fawns. It was far enough away from us to be mainly unconcerned by our presence.

To return to the car we re-traced our route. There are alternatives across the fields but they didn’t look to save much time or distance and probably presented more map-reading problems. Just before we reached the turn off from the bay to the centre we found a single Little Tern fishing just offshore in the tidal zone, thus saving us another trip to Gronant in North Wales after our recent unsuccessful attempt to find this species there.

Well our (my) 30 minutes each way estimate was way out probably because we add ages onto any itinerary because of the time we spend just stopping and staring but we went into the visitor centre before departing to tell the warden about the location of the Ibis, the Little Term and the deer (she was unaware of their presence, especially the babies and therefore quite interested to see the rather poor photos we’d got. And then we were off, to Portsmouth, festival and food.

On the minor road back to the A27 we were delayed quite a lot by some people leading three shire horses along the edge of the road to a village event for the Diamond Jubilee. The road is narrow and windy and there are few places to pass safely so there was already a build up of traffic when we got to them. By the time we reached Hunston village the cars in front of us had managed to get by and rather annoyingly the people leading the horses had chosen not to pull them over at a couple of convenient places to let the by now rather long queue of traffic past so we were at the front. There were double white lines in the middle of the road as well as bends so we were almost literally plodding along. To my astonishment, the car behind me pulled out into the middle of the road. The driver must have had a rush of commonsense because he quickly pulled back in again – there really was no adequate visibility ahead – but then he did it again. Julie had the camera ready this time because overtaking here would have been reckless in the extreme and could have resulted in a nasty multiple accident. Again he decided against taking the risk but vented his frustration by sounding his horn. This made two of the horses visibly nervous and then someone further down the queue decided to join in. This left me little choice but to pass the horses, even though I couldn’t see what might be coming the other way, because had drivers continued to use their horns I’m sure that the horses might have started to behave erratically, endangering themselves and other.

We got past safely and at least three more cars followed, including the clown who had started the horn-blowing thing who then took the next right in the village – but it could have been a different story had someone been coming the other way.

The drive into Portsmouth at about the same time as yesterday was not as easy and we joined a stationary queue of traffic whilst we were still a couple of miles from the Historic Waterfront and everyone seemed to be going our way. We debated parking in the Cascades parking area and walking but the signs for parking nearer to the action were still showing spaces available so we continued. When we got to the car park that we had used the day before there was a sign up saying "Car Park Full" and a line of cars in the side street leading up to the entrance. As we sat in the right turn lane pondering whether to wait or not, three of the vehicles did u-turns having got fed up so we thought that we ought to go back to Cascades where we had seen spaces.

It was perhaps a 15 minutes walk back after parking (could have been shorter but we thought that we might be able to get to the waterfront from the shops quickly and failed and of course when we got back to the car park that we had tried first there wasn’t a sign that there had been twenty or more drivers waiting, patiently or otherwise. Oh well.

Jo and family were already on site and we noticed that there were definitely more people about compared to the Saturday. A few changes had been made to crowd control features including segregating inbound and outbound routes that didn’t seem to be working all that well.

Today’s line up on the main stage included several tribute bands and when we arrived The Silver Beatles were part way through their set, playing to a pretty big crowd. I can remember the real Beatles from the first time around and I can’t say that I’ve felt much affinity with their music since the early 1970s but the sun was shining and everyone was having a good time so we were soon singing along – and of course nearly everyone knows nearly all the words. The band actually do a pretty good impersonation, dressed in late 1960s psychedelic Beatles gear and sounding like John and Paul when they speak and sing and everyone was pleased when they did ‘Hey Jude’.

There were more tribute acts to follow. The Small Fakers are as you might imagine a Small Faces tribute band. I’m not sure why one is needed, although there are probably others. The original band had a few hits, most of which most people have forgotten ("All or Nothing" and Itchycoo Park” are perhaps exceptions) but they’re not really in the same league as, say, Queen or Abba who have quite a few impersonators. An hour long set was plenty even though they were decent instrumentalists and could sing. They had to resort to playing ‘a bit of Humble Pie’ to fill up the time.

The Bog Rolling Stones were something else, though. To mark the occasion and the setting they appeared on the stage in white ‘sailor’ costumes that were as camp as you like. Apart from silly wigs and facial expressions there was not much effort put into looking like the real Rolling Stones, either as they are now or in there heyday, but they certainly sounded the part and they even did “Ruby Tuesday” after I’d said to Julie I bet they don’t do either of the Stones songs that I like (the other is “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. Unlike the Small Faces, the Stones have sufficient output to fill several hours with famous songs and the crowd was duly entertained throughout, despite the sailor suits.

Overall the organisation of the festival had been excellent with plenty of places to buy food and drink meaning that queues were seldom long but for some reason the powers that be decided during the Sunday p.m. to change the system at the main bar from ‘free for all’ which is standard in British pubs to an in at one end an out at the other system. This might have worked if it had been done properly but unfortunately there was just one security guard on the ‘exit’ re-directing people to the other end. The other end was near chaos because it was crowded with zombies. These might or might not have been the ones from the Newbury Service Station but they displayed most of the same characteristics including the slack-jawed lack of special awareness, absence of concentration and general uselessness. From where I was standing (or in truth hopping from side to side in an effort to get past two stumbling ninnies who didn’t know if they were coming or going) I could see at least three bar staff standing around waiting for customers whilst those near the way in were rushed off their feet. I elbowed my way through – politely, of course and got to one of them. As he retrieved Julie’s cider I asked him if he thought the new system was better. “It’s rubbish!” he said. “I’ve served far less people than earlier in the day.”. I mentioned it to the security guard on the way out and pointed to the idle bar staff that he must surely have noticed but it was probably more than his job was worth to do anything about it.

I don’t know if the Lightning Seeds have a tribute band but none was needed tonight because the band themselves were playing and we had secured a spot only a dozen or so metres from the stage. I used to like them when they were frequently in the charts and could remember four or five songs quite well. To people who were less interested in the band they are probably best known for the song “Three Lions” which was a collaboration with football fanatics and comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner for Euro ’96, which reached number 1 in the UK in that year and again in 1998 for the World Cup and is certainly the best football song ever written. Julie said she hoped they’d perform the song but I wasn’t sure if it was one they did live.

If I had a list of, say, the twenty bands/singers that I would have liked to have seen live, then there’s a good chance that the Lightning Seeds would have been in it. So would Heaven 17 who stole the show at last year’s Godiva Festival, so by now I would have two spaces in the list that never was. Other positions would probably be filled by The Clash, The Jam, The Ramones and Jeff Buckley, of whom only The Jam are a remote possibility.

Anyway, for me, their set was the highlight of the festival. From time to time Ian Broudie's vocals were a bit less than spot on but the strength of the songs and a bit of help from the crowd helped. And they finished of with "Three Lions" which had the whole crowd singing and jumping around - even me and I don't like football. Excellent stuff.

The walk back to the car was quite painful because we'd been on our feet for more than 6 hours after a longish walk in the morning but we made it and we checked in to the Southampton travelodge sometime after 11p.m. where we watched the highlights from the days celebrations in London.

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