The cold air of mid April sweeps the down but the sun warms the sheltered pockets behind dense thickets of dogwood, hazel, hawthorn, blackthorn, bramble and whitebeam topped by fresh strands of clematis and honeysuckle. The whitebeam is coming into leaf and trees are lit with fat candles under the blue sky.
Flowering plants are few in the green sward that has been cleared of scrub and winter-grazed by sheep; pale yellow crosswort and bright yellow cowslip, purple bush vetch and the bright blues of chalk milkwort and bird’s eye speedwell.
A grizzled skipper flies low and stays low as does a tawny mining bee Andrena fulva. A common carpet moth Epirrhoe alternata is much less obvious and has the most intricate monochrome markings. There are other day-flying species that are kicked up and flicker across the down. In the shelter of the path a green hairstreak butterfly lands briefly but disappears into the scrub.
Blackcaps call from every bush. Long-tailed tits are nest building and another pair further along the down is feeding young. One of the pair has a bent tail from days of incubation. The first nest is high in a dense bramble and proves impossible to find but the second in a smaller bush of similar impenetrability is at eye level next to the path. On inspection the bird is sitting, probably incubating small young, and staring out. The nest is a beautiful droplet of lichens, spiders webs and feathers with a single entrance near the top.