February

The cherry plum is in full blossom and at its best; the first shots of Spring have been fired and the dull winter colours of the hedgerows and narrow lanes are lit by the otherwise inconspicuous, small trees. So far, February has been warm and mild unlike last year when ice and snow covered the…

Salt Fleet Flats Reserve

The compensation provided by the construction of a huge container handling facility on the northern edge of the Thames Estuary included a new inlet of inter-tidal mudflats just across the river on the edge of Cooling Marshes. Salt Fleet Flats Reserve as it is called was created by building a new sea wall inland of…

Shellness again…

The tide is forecast high again at 1:30pm and at 10:00am the waters are well up with just a fringe of mud and bays half-filled. The wind is from the north and the blockhouse provides shelter and a view of the shore. The oystercatchers are already neatly regimented on the ness and Brent geese slowly…

Mucking and Cooling

The mudflats at Mucking that run north from Coalhouse Fort support a great flock of avocet as well as smaller numbers of shelduck, curlew, knot, dunlin, redshank and grey plover. The birds are safe from disturbance as the mud is separated from the coastal path by a stodgy stretch of saltmarsh. A peregrine roosts on…

Faces of February

A month of extremes; a mild start followed by a week of freezing air from the north east and snow-frozen ground that disappears as quickly as it arrives and is quickly forgotten as the land is brought alive by spring-like temperatures and the first butterflies are on the wing. In the freeze, the small birds…

Mid winter sun

January is dark and dismal; on rare days the sun shines and the coastline is transformed by a palette of powder blue, dark purples and gravel browns. At Shellness, the sea is calm and the views distant, but the tide is out on the full and the geese, waders and gulls dispersed and quiet.

Wrabness

Wrabness is a small village with a long history and, on a bright day, wide views north across the Stour Estuary to Suffolk. Today, a cold shroud deadens the coast. In the churchyard, a small bell house squats square amongst the headstones; it was constructed as temporary measure after the bell tower toppled off the…

The River Eden

Christmas Day The walk from Penshurst to Hever runs just to the south of the village of Chiddingstone but the afternoon light quickly fades and we turn a mile before we reach the end. The ground is waterlogged and the trees bare; the moon rises early in the cold sky. The redwings and fieldfares feed…

Chalk grasslands cleared and ready for Spring

6th March Fackenden Down is spring cleaned; a herd of red Dexter cattle has been in over winter. This native breed from south west Ireland is often used to manage chalk grasslands, especially to clear invading tor grass. Being small with short legs that give a comical appearance, they tend not to poach the turf….

January in the Clavering Hundred

In the very west of Essex, on the arable fields above the small village of Manuden with its distinctive church spire that appears half buried in the hills, the dawn is quiet, clouded and cold; new red-roofed houses huddle together in the valley. Undaunted, a song thrush sings its distinctive double tap from the edge…

Medway mud

The view from the old quay on Otterham Creek looks north toward the Hoo Peninsula and the heavy industry that edges the east end. The creek empties at low tide leaving a single spine of water between wide mudflats deeply incised by snaking tributaries; teal fly in to forage at the water’s edge and redshank…

Winter woodland

Christmas Eve morning is layered with fog with a heavy dew dripping off the dead leaves. A solitary woodcock lifts from a muddy fallow. The wind is gone and the woodlands at Elsenham are alive with small birds: goldcrests chase through the low branches of a hazel laden with catkins, great tits call like bicycle…