The Thames Estuary at Cliffe

The now familiar walk across the flat grazing marshes from Higham Church passes a herd of ewes with a busy ram that pursues his next conquest with single-minded determination. A flock of goldfinches sit in the boundary hawthorns and small charms fly into the acres of seeded thistles in the adjacent field. In the distance,…

Blackwater tides

On a bright day the high tide has flooded the saltmarshes, the wind is quiet and the waterbirds wait for the water to drop; a black-headed gull finds the tip of a rock and claims it, waits and then finally drops on to the exposed causeway to Northey Island. Turnstones arrive and work the seaweed-covered…

By Tom Loft’s Wood

The walk from Great Buckland runs across a wide valley called the Bowling Alley up through vineyards and chalk grasslands with a view of the ancient woodlands that make up part of Rochester Forest, past a mob of rooks and jackdaws that sit in the top of Tom Loft’s Wood and descend to forage in…

The middle ground

The last evening and the water meadows of the River Tude are lit by bright shafts of sunlight against the backdrop of a gathering storm. The poplars lean to the east in the freshening wind; too slender to be bowed. The great storm clouds drift slowly closer but instead of enveloping us, steer to the…

The last hurrah

The song from the woods is gone; nuthatches and woodpeckers still occasionally sound off but the small woodland birds now rove in chattering flocks. Migrating and local turtle doves are feeding in the sunflower fields but scatter on approach, unsurprising as they are a favourite quarry hereabouts. A young buzzard mews persistently and will remain…

Abri d’art

The art of the gardens at Boisjarzeau in August are the dying borders of Allium, Rudbeckia, Gaura and Agapanthus and a host of others with forgotten names; tall sunflowers in orange and yellow, exuberant vegetable beds, laden fruit trees and raspberry canes, three blue beehives and four fat chickens in a run. The autumn golds…

The earth

Morning light mellows, cold mist flattens the hilltops. Fields of sunflowers the colours of the earth; a farmhouse built of white stone with rufous clay tiles and sea green shutters that are shut. Late evening light picks out a silver tractor harrowing a fallow field. The day closes on a closing day and the land…

The last empress

Yesterday, at the small stream below Boisjarzeau, the last empress sat in the morning sunshine with tattered wings outspread before feeding on a cluster of overripe blackberries; her great age could not mask her elegance; she soon flew and was quickly lost high in the trees. The final act in a long and rich summer,…

Agrimony, fleabane, purple loosestrife and water mint

The South Charente bakes then drowns in August. The hay meadows have been cut and collected and the Parthenais cattle have small calves. The flowers are restricted to wet ditches and damp corners except for the road and railsides. Many butterflies seek the water mint and the loosestrife; the coppers are often on the fleabane….