A Walk On The Wild Side

Reading time 4 minutes

Is there any day quite as awkward as a substitute Bank Holiday?

Although these rare days ought to feel like a gift, there’s something peculiarly pointless and hollow about them: the event they’re standing in for has come and gone, leaving a disconcerting void between the pleasure of the occasion and the pain of returning to work or school. One is never quite sure whether to embrace the extra day joyfully or ignore it and crack on with everyday life.

Unable to make up my mind, I started today by potting up tulip bulbs that hadn’t been nibbled by Mr Ratty or succumbed to grey mould. I promptly ran out of compost – shoddy planning – and went indoors to tidy my office, strewn with samples, boxes and paperwork that appealed to me less than getting stuck into Christmas. Three floors below, The Beau slaved away over a stack of ironing that might have dwarfed the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Not wishing us to squander our ‘free’ day by filling it with domestic chores, I suggested that we head down the coast to Pegwell Bay to see if we could spot any overwintering birds. Like many horizontal landscapes, Pegwell Bay can be bleak and unassuming, a patchwork of intertidal marshes, brackish ponds, scrubland and mudflats. There’s also the remains of the old cross channel hoverport that ceased operating in 1982. Today we were lucky, the sun low and golden, transforming lichen-covered elders and apple trees from scraggy urchins into gilded aristocrats. Across the River Stour, two dozen seals basked on the silvery bank facing us.

The Beau knows his birds and eagerly pointed out shoveler ducks, little grebes, teal, redshanks, curlew, cormorants, grey herons and an enormous flock of lapwings that took flight, tilting and turning in the clear air. Despite its proximity to Ramsgate and Manston Airport, Pegwell Bay is a haven for migratory wildfowl.

There was very little to see in the way of plant life, just a few rose hips hanging on for dear life and the emerald-green foliage of alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) getting ready to surge upwards when spring arrives. A little patch of hedgerow cranesbill (Geranium pyrenaicum) caught my eye, still spangled with dew as the sun slipped quietly below the horizon.

Highland cattle have been drafted in to keep the grass down – quite what they make of a scrubby plain in East Kent I do not know, but they seemed intent on their task.

Returning home, we did at least feel we’d made something of our day, although work and the inevitable challenges of 2023 are beginning to loom large. As if by magic, my motivation will return in the morning, but for now the only things coming into clear view are a glass of red, a pair of slippers and a good book. TFG.

Categories: Photography, Walks

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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13 comments On "A Walk On The Wild Side"

  1. Birds are strange and mesmerizing creatures. Some migratory patterns, or parts of them, are followed generation after generation. It’s amazing that they do what they do day in, day out year after year, adapting where possible as climate and geography change on them. Inspiring.

    1. I agree. The Beau is a bottomless well of bird knowledge and I can get away with asking idiotic questions about their behaviour. What makes me happiest is that they’ll tolerate such close proximity to us humans, although I fear for their future with the amount of development going on in the neighbourhood. Dan

  2. Lovely photos Dan, and what an amazing video of the Lapwings; I had no idea they performed such beautiful murmurations.
    I rather like the bleakness of Dungeness so I think I would enjoy a visit to Pegwell Bay; I ‘ve not been there before.
    I totally get that “substitute bank holiday” feeling. In between chores today I failed to tackle my untidy greenhouse – yet again – and in a weird way I’m almost (but not quite!) looking forward to being back at work tomorrow. Roll on Spring!
    Happy New Year to you and the Beau x

    1. And to you Eve!

      Much as I love what I do, I still find the return to work quite a struggle. However, it must be done.

      Pegwell and Sandwich Bay are definitely worth a visit. They’re slightly less otherworldly than Dungeness but still unique and interesting x

  3. Those lapwings are fabulous. I think watching birds is so calming, even watching the garden birds makes me relax. Your tulips should be ok, I’m not so sure about the Tete a tete I found and planted yesterday, but they stand more chance of flowering than in the cardboard box!!
    Happy New Year Dan, hope there are good things ahead for you and the Beau.

  4. Another beautiful piece Dan, Its been a few years since I visited. In amongst the brambles of the bank there are exposures of the Thanet formation which contain fossil sharks teeth. To be honest even when clear you would be lucky to find one (much easier at Beltinge) but on occasion when geologists clean up the section it maybe worth a look if you happen by.

    1. Hi Peter! Happy New Year! We had an unfruitful escapade last year at Reculver, looking for sharks teeth. I have never gazed at so many pebbles so intently 😆 We will try Beltinge next time!

      Our next excursion will be to the Sandwich side of the Stour – we’ve not done that for a long time and I think it might be rather interesting. The seals certainly think so!

      Wishing you good health and happiness in 2023. Dan

  5. Happy New Year to both of you! Our New Year’s Day walk was at Rye Harbour, across the nature reserve to the sea and then along the beach where we saw many sea creatures sticking out of their shells to fossick around in the wet sand until the tide came in. I love those bleak-yet-fascinating coastal areas with their remains of old projects that no doubt seemed like a good idea at the time; of course our most frequent remains are of coastal defences. Not that Rye Harbour felt very bleak since half of South London and its dogs appeared to be there (the drawback of living in an interesting part of the country).

    Are the Highland Cattle docile? Were there fences? Many farmers around here are raising bullocks, and although they are reportedly friendly, having one run playfully toward you is pretty alarming and I wish they wouldn’t let them graze on public footpaths!

    1. Hi Jane! Happy New Year to you too!!

      Yes, the cattle are fenced in. They were intent on munching the grass and despite waiting I couldn’t get a single one to look up.

      We went for a walk on New Year’s Day here and I swear we passed a thousand dogs. I wasn’t counting and I might be exaggerating, but I have never encountered anything quite like it! What I will say, is that I am now very good at identifying different breeds. My current favourite is a Basenji, although Afghan Hounds will always please me. I couldn’t have one but I like to look at them!!

      We keep meaning to get down to Rye for a walk, and Dungeness. Perhaps when the trains are back to normal we might make it. Dan x

  6. Thank you thank you dear fg – that was a jewel to bring sparkle to the new year especially your words about the peg well bay scape and that you troubled to share the gift of meadow cranesbill dressed still in dew , balanced perfectly against your comforting trio at the end . In all , a very much appreciated gift .

    1. You are very welcome Jenny. I am trying to channel some of the energy I diverted into Instagram back into the blog with some shorter blog posts. I almost didn’t include the image of the cranesbill as it was tonally so different, but I am pleased I did now. Wishing you all the very best for 2023 🕊️

  7. What a lovely walk. Watching birds is a wonderful pastime: we get so much pleasure from the ones that visit our garden. Your last photo with those golden yellow cliffs is a treasure. Happy 2023 to you and The Beau.

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