The start of Summer?

Birth can be tricky at the best of times, but atop a bitterly, and I mean bitterly, cold South Downs hill at 6 am, it must have been a shock for this lamb. It was May 1, the start of Spring, which has been very much on hold this year in the UK. This shot shows the lamb’s mother encouraging the lamb to stand up, only moments after the birth next to the Chanctonbury Ring.

Another shock was to come moments later, given the location of the birth and the reason why I was there, shivering in the cold, to witness this moment of Nature. Chanctonbury Ring. The faint remains of an old Iron Age hillfort, command views across the Sussex Weald and then across the southern English coast. A place of legends, myths, tales of The Devil, UFOs and the ghosts of Roman legions. An evocative Sussex landmark, just north of modern-day Worthing and the remains of an even bigger hillfort at Cissbury. The focal point in the early morning on May the 1st of a uniquely English custom – Morris dancing.

An English tradition – Morris dancing on May Day

The men in white, bedecked with flowery hats, bells on their ankles, sticks and handkerchiefs in their hands, descended upon this spot, just a few metres from where the sheep had given birth, to entertain this newborn lamb with songs and bouncy dancing. An eccentric English ritual to welcome the sunrise and the start of warmer weather, the Start of Summer. The sun though, this year, decided to stay firmly behind cloud cover until it had finished.

But still, on one cold morning, two symbols of the coming summer in England, a newborn lamb and Morris dancers! Set against a glorious landscape and a land of myths and folk tales…

New Born lamb

As for the Morris dancing…

The Sun failed to show on this occasion, but it made a better appearance several years before this, when I first walked up to Chanctonbury Hill, early in the morning…

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