Brent geese form a tight flock in the pasture field next to the sea wall and small flocks fly in from the estuary. All are alert with heads up and much chuntering, then they are up in the air, perhaps because of a dog walker, only to circle in the strong northerly and return. These small, elegant geese prefer the richer pastures in which to graze and especially those close to the sanctuary of the water.
The narrow causeway to Northey Island is exposed at low tide. The island is no more than a green hump with a couple of tree-lined fields and farmhouse surrounded by mud and saltmarsh, wading birds and beached boats. Black-tailed godwits, dunlins and redshanks walk the silver mud and a flock of knot is tightly packed in the centre. Loose flocks of shelducks also paddle the sticky mud. The entire assemblage lifts up and circles the estuary in tight flocks before returning in long swooping loops to the mud; there is likely to be a hunting peregrine somewhere in the wide sky.
Brent geese bob along on the central channel where the water is running in with the tide; brilliant white avocets pepper the water’s edge. Looking inland from the sea wall, golden plover sit in a long dense flock, camouflaged in a golden brown, ploughed field; they are waiting for night to fall when they will disperse to forage alongside lapwings for earthworms in pastures.
The saltmarsh stretches east towards Osea Island; this is a wild landscape and one better explored from a boat than the endless, sea wall. The land opposite Northey Island is famous for being the site of the Battle of Maldon. The bloody encounter, a failure by the Anglo-Saxons to stop a wave of invading Vikings in 991, is recorded in a heroic poem.