Teynham’s rich brown brick earth was where the first cherry orchards sprang, planted by command of Henry VIII. As I walked under another Spring blue sky accompanied as ever by a razor sharp wind from the northwest, I could find no sign of old manor or other tell-tale history apart from the church on the low hill and since that was where the footpath headed, through fields of lamb-heavy ewes with their attendant drones of rook, jackdaw, starling and gull, so did I.
Teynham orchards from the church.
Teynham church from the orchards.
The rabbits had taken over the ungardened graveyard and below the east window it was sheltered so I stopped a while. The rabbits had well dug soil and, fat on flower treats, sunned in the lee of bramble and weed. Moles too evidently enjoyed their good fortune. Birds were busy and plentiful; blackbirds clucking, a nest already in the dark holly, song thrushes singing, dunnocks busying and blue tits prospecting the old church for a crevice in which to nest.
Song thrush in Teynham churchyard.
Distant dunnock on a gravestone.
Blackbirds and molehills in the graveyard.
Earlier a singing mistle thrush and wheezing greenfinch had brightened the walk and now goldfinches sparkled to and fro. Rooks, starlings, black-headed and common gulls and kestrel flew the higher air and their shadows dashed across the green grassy spaces. I walked downhill through the orchards which were stout limbed and pruned, full of fieldfares, goldfinches and even a welcome posse of house sparrows.
Down to Conyer by a busy but narrow road, finally saved by the sanctuary of a footpath but it became Leylandii-lined, rubbish strewn and dogs barked from small gardens with high fences. Lower down, the pleasant pub and smart, white weatherboard houses, with names rather than numbers, overlooked moored yachts and tidal reach. No industry now just a good trade in weekend ale and salty conversation.
Along the creek towards the Swale, the water was blue and sounds of whistling wigeon and tootling teal flew the cold air. Swans lumbered over dead slow into the wind. At the turn of the path on the Swale, I clambered through thorns and chased half a dozen green woodpeckers from the old, flooded grassland before hearing a loud, startled Cetti’s warbler, just once, from the willow and reed.
Avocets roosting on Fowley Island.
Now the flat but the going was good along the rifle straight flood bank all the way to Oare. The calm waters were empty of birds on the high Spring tide. Fowley Island held distant roosts including a white string of sleeping avocet, oystercatcher and ever ungainly Canada geese. This was wildfowling land so the notice said but no shower of lead and falling ducks to dodge today. Out on the pastures, lazy curlew, black-tailed godwit and wigeon fed and fluttered in loose flocks. Not a harrier or short-eared owl to bother them and brighten the brightest of days.
Into the Kent Wildlife Trust Reserve at Oare passed the Watch House and old ferry slipway with gull-topped posts marking the line across the water to Harty; the coastal footpath became well trod and telescopes flashed in the sun. This barren corner of flat land was for centuries the centre of gunpowder manufacture until the Great War.
The Watch House at the edge of Oare Marshes.
A coot with its weasel red eyes tried to make a getaway along the dyke and, too lazy to fly, I caught up with its slow paddle in the bright, blue water.
Coot on the run.
Konic horses, brought I think from Polish marshes, grazed the flooded grass. Pintail ducked and shoveler and teal swam the blue lagoons. Lapwing flocks sailed up and round with natural ease. No wildfowling here and all the birds knew it.
Konic horses grazing the Oare marshes.
On down to Oare, boats of many colours and sizes lined the creek and old fishermen’s houses, manor and church lined the river terrace edge above. Faversham’s distant unmistakable spire was visible through the many masts of yachts still in their long winter sleep.
Faversham spire and Oare Creek masts.
The village of Oare neatly aligned on river terrace with creek below.
One image of boat and boathouse looked to me the perfect jigsaw puzzle picture with its composition and colour except for the big patch of white, bright sky which would have taken forever to complete.
Old boat on Oare Creek.
On into Faversham by way of Davington. The sun was warm and even the dirty, rubbish filled pond at the bottom of the hill with its well-fed ducks looked a picture. I photographed Faversham’s fine spired church last summer but was too tired to walk over and try again.
Faversham church – the range of architectural styles reflecting the pressing priorities of the age.