I had cause to go to Eastbourne last week and, my business complete, thought I'd walk across the downs to Beachy Head as I used regularly to do 20 years before. I set off down the path that started where the parade along the beach front stopped. The weather was a little chilly and the sky cloudy but with a bit of sun peeping through now and then. Good walking weather.
|The path to the coast|
After a few hundred yards I noticed I was being followed by several of what I like to think were ravens but which were probably crows. They were quite big though. The initial group were joined by more and more until there were over twenty. Some of them followed behind but others flew ahead and landed on the path just in front of me. Others kept to one side so I was almost surrounded by them. But they weren't menacing in any way. Nothing Hitchcockian about them. In fact, they actually seemed friendly and almost treating me as a guest on their territory. I had a sandwich with me and gave them a few crumbs of that which, of course, encouraged them.
|The birds ahead of me|
|The birds behind me. They were nearer than it seems in the photos.|
It was a strange and I have to say rather nice experience. The birds were almost like a little troop of friendly puppies, cawing away now and then but not excessively. I chatted to them, thanking them for their attention and asking them about their lives. They seemed to listen and I got some caws back. I walked along and they kept pace with me by walking a bit themselves then flying a little and they kept this up all along the downs until we got to the hill which leads up to the top of Beachy Head. Then most of them peeled off and headed away on other business but 3 remained for a while and one stayed with me all the way to the top and even when I turned around to go back to the town which I did along the upper edge of the downs rather than by the coastal path which was the way I'd come.
|Beachy Head lighthouse. A fuzzy photo because the wind on the exposed hill made my hands shake|
I have to confess that I played a little game with myself during this walk with the ravens (oh all right, crows). Inspired by the Albion-like landscape of the downs and the sea which must have been just as it was thousands of years ago, I imagined myself as an ancient druid with his flock of familiars in the form of birds. Ridiculous, I know, but the fact is this little experience did summon up some primeval feelings of being in tune with the natural world before the material dimension started to close in on us and we commenced our journey to full separation of the outer world and inner consciousness.
But deep down I know it was probably all to do with the sandwich in my pocket.