Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Romney Marsh and Dungeness, Kent - spring holiday 2009

Saturday 18th April

We left our home in Midhurst 8.30am and travelled for two hours with a brief stop half way. As we drove we watched the countryside gradually change. More villages included white boarded houses and Oast houses started appearing; now nearly all converted into living accommodation sadly. Soon we were in Kent, passing several small orchards in full blossom and many many fields of sheep. Lots of the sheep had lambs. We drove through a pretty village called Burwash which had a tree lined street; Linden pollards. At last we arrived at National Trust Sissinghurst Castle and Garden. The castle is not a castle as in the medieval sense but more a large country house or French chateau. We approached the house along the edge of a grassy meadow with a few Poplar trees down the centre and saw the beautiful architecture rise up before us. The building was of a wonderful earthy red brick with large leaded windows. We walked through the archway which was flanked by flowering Rosemary bushes and into the gardens. Well! Which way to turn?! Everywhere we looked there was something else to see, a different texture, colour or view. We turned left and through a gateway and marvelled at the wonderful flowers in bloom. I took hundreds of photographs as we walked through. The garden was separated into many different rooms with enticing views around every corner. Often we would come out to a junction and not know which was to turn. There were many spring flowers and the Tulips were especially lovely. My favourite part was the Nuttery. This was a large rectangular ‘room’ with two rows of coppiced Hazel trees. Beneath these was a mixture of lime green ferns unrolling and other spring flowers such as Windflowers/Wood Anemones. The arch of the trees perfectly framed a statue of a figure half way down. There was also a long lake, a lovely natural feeling orchard with blossom trees, shrub roses, Snake’s Head Fritillaries and many wild plants; lots of promise for the summer flowering season. There were also some bee hives here and the bees loved the blossom. Near the end of our visit we looked into a room of the house which was open to the public. It was a library; full of dark wood furniture and hundreds of old books!
After Sissinghurst we continued our journey and went to Dungeness RSPB reserve. As we turned into the entrance road we spotted a pair of Kestrels who appear to nesting in the barn. The female had a lizard which the male had caught for her and ate hungrily on one of the fence-posts whilst I took some shots. We walked a little way and stopped at a few of the hides managing to spot 3 Marsh Harriers (2 female 1 male) and many other ducks and water birds. Following this brief but successful and pleasing stop, we found our way to the cottage where we would stay; Owl Barn, Eaton Farm, Donkey Street, Burmarsh.

Romney Marsh and Dungeness, Kent - spring holiday 2009

Sunday 19th April

This morning we drove down to the old lighthouse at Dungeness. A strange place of empty flatness, miles of lichen covered shingle/pebbles, gorse bushes, small hut like houses and a few wooden huts and fishing boats. An icy gale swept across the area. Out to sea several dozen Great Crested Grebes are swimming and a Chiffchaff was heard in the lighthouse garden. After taking some photos of the expanse we moved on to the RSPB reserve visitor centre and followed the nature trail round stopping at many of the hides. Once again as we arrived we saw a Kestrel; the female only this time, fast asleep in the entrance hole to the barn! The Gorse and Bramble bushes around the reserve were full of singing Sedge Warblers and many Whitethroats. We saw our fist Swift of the year and several Reed Buntings. A few Grey Herons were also around. The water held lots of Tufted Duck and Coot, a few Pochard, and a couple more Great Crested Grebes. Once again we saw a pair of Marsh Harriers. The afternoon saw us seeking shelter from Dungeness’s relentless wind and walking a stretch of the Royal Military Canal at West Hythe; a lovely stretch of water edged by lots of wonderful greenery and trees. We heard a Cettis Warbler’s explosive song from the centre of a bush, first halfway along the canal section and again near the car park. A very enjoyable walk - back home for bangers and mash!

Romney Marsh and Dungeness, Kent - spring holiday 2009

Monday 20th April

This morning we walked another lovely stretch of the canal at West Hythe, in the opposite direction to Sundays walk. The water was very pretty and the weather quite warm and sunny. The fish were jumping for flies and the bushes where full of small ‘garden’ birds such as Blackbirds, Wrens and Great Tits, lots of Robins too and a Chiffchaff singing almost over our heads. Some Magpies were very noisy in the tops of the trees. We saw some cute lambs in the bordering fields. Following this we took our lunch to Romney Marsh Visitor Centre on the coast road between Dymchurch and New Romney. This is run by the Kent Wildlife Trust and the centre was very impressive with wonderful interpretation boards. During a short wander around the reserve we saw quite a few little birds including a pair of House Sparrows building a nest in a nest box beside the feeding station. The male brought back a long piece of orange bailing twine! There were lots of butterflies enjoying the sunshine including Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone, and Orange Tip. We also saw a Grass Snake at the edge of the lake; it slipped into the water and swam away with its head held high above the water.
Our bird watching at Dungeness was successful providing us with a brief sighting on a Yellow Wagtail; a lifetime first for me.
In the evening we drove down to Dungeness old lighthouse as the sun was setting and took some wonderful shots. I particularly like the ones I took of the big orange ball of sun behind the huge electricity pylons.

Romney Marsh and Dungeness, Kent - spring holiday 2009

Tuesday 21st April
Today we drove a scenic route around some of the little villages and churches across Romney Marsh. The road winds between ditches and fields; occasionally edged by a row of Poplar trees or a Hawthorn hedge. Many fields are shining bright yellow in the sunshine with masses of flowering Rapeseed whilst other are covered by a green blanket of green grass like leaves; Wheat. Many more are grazed by sheep, now accompanied by tiny lambs which resemble the cute fluffy toy sheep you might give a child. Due to the flatness of the land we often spotted the town or spire of the church long before we got there but the roads were very wiggly and often seemed to go in the wrong direction!
Most of the churches in the villages such as Ivychurch were flanked by beautiful blossom trees. At Ivychurch they were pink and contrasted lovely with the stone of the church walls. At Appledore they were white and were equally lovely. It was in the ditches at Appledore that we heard our first Marsh Frogs. These famous amphibians were brought into Kent in the 1930s for a garden pond and have now spread successfully across the whole marsh. Some people have said the curious loud laughing croak keeps them awake at night!
At lunchtime we went to Rye. About 5 generations back I had family living here and it was a strange feeling to walk along the cobbled streets beside the church and think I could be walking in their footsteps. The view from the top of the hill across some of the dock/boat yard, across yellow Rapeseed fields to a large wind farm.
We drove back via a quaint little church, surrounded by ditches, sheep and marshland. The nearest houses were several fields away and the church had no electricity; powered by candle light.

Romney Marsh and Dungeness, Kent - spring holiday 2009

Wednesday 22nd April

Early in the morning we went down to the beach at Greatstone-on-sea and took some photos of the expanse of sand. We then drove to Hythe to buy some lunch and drove along the Saxon Shore-way. The Saxon Shore-way is so called because it is the higher ridge along the northern edge of Romney Marsh to which the sea would have reached before the levels dropped. The marsh is now crisscrossed with ditched to keep it drained and protected by a sea wall along the coast. On the higher ground above the marsh old Oast houses can be found, all that we have passed now converted into living accommodation. We have not yet seen a single field of hops. However we have passed a few orchards, several of which appeared to be being restored and replanted by the owners. It was nice to be driving through woodland again after the flatness of the marsh. The majority of the marsh trees are Willows but up here it was ancient hornbeam coppice, hazel and oak. The Bluebells are flowering on sunny banks and the supporting cast of Windflowers and Primroses are still going strong.
At sunset we returned once more to the beach at Greatstone-on-sea. It was low tide and the massive expanse of the flat sand was staggering. The sand dunes made nice silhouettes against the sun.

Romney Marsh and Dungeness, Kent - spring holiday 2009

Thursday 23rd April
Today we visited a beautiful Oak wood with a carpet of Bluebells. The woodland floor was a mass of Bluebells. Primroses, Stitchwort and Violets flowered near the entrance and Bluebells and Windflowers further in. The main trees were Oak and Hazel and the woodland was edged by ancient Hornbeam trees, once coppiced to form a kind of hedge. These trees had seeded themselves across the wood creating a dense understory in places. The light through the trees was an amazing lime green. There is something special and unique about an English Bluebell woodland, the light and colour, the bird song, the atmosphere and even the smell; a wonderful mixture of flowers and earth with a hint of spring sap. The tree tops were alive with small birds, all calling and singing. A small dark brown vole and a tiny lizard were also seen amongst the undergrowth.

Romney Marsh and Dungeness, Kent - spring holiday 2009

Friday 24th April

Today we had another sunny day. We spent the morning at Tenterden; a lovely friendly, bright cheerful town. The wide high-street is lined with trees such as Planes and wide grass verges separate the road from the pavements. Several rows of beautiful cottages with long front gardens full of plants and flowers line one side of the street for a little way with cafes, restaurants and shops lining the rest. We went to look at Tenterden railway station, a quaint old steam station with a wonderful garden and old signals and buildings etc. The platform was even furnished with old packing cases and trunks alongside the benches, lanterns and old advertisement signs. It was like stepping back in time and I could almost imagine the people; business men in suits coming home from work, a family with children excited about their holiday, an elderly lady welcoming home a son on leave from the army, a young girl saying a tearful goodbye to her true love leaving for a long trip...

In the afternoon we visited a adorable little village called Woodchurch. In the summer sunshine it was a lovely place; pretty houses clustered round the village green – a fenced front garden a little path to the front door and four windows two each side and two upstairs and chimneys above. The village green was being mowed and the smell of freshly cut grass added to the feel of a traditional English village. The church and two pubs were further along the street as was the tiny butchers shop. At the top of the hill a white smock mill stood proud, the sole survivor of a pair of mills, its twin sadly demolished, neither mill used since 1926.

Romney Marsh and Dungeness, Kent - spring holiday 2009

Saturday 25th April

Today we travelled home via Batemans, home of Rudyard Kipling, now owned by the National Trust. The study smelt wonderfully of old books. The gardens were very pleasant with a walk down to the water mill where Mr Kipling had installed a water powered generator to provide the house with electricity thus making it the only home in the neighbourhood with electric power at that time. Walking around, the feel of creativity was almost tangible; defiantly a writer’s house, even now.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Bognor Beach

Early morning at Bognor beach. The light was a bit dodgy but I got a few photos that I am pleased with. Have been working hard on assignments all week so haven't been able to get out since apart from an ice skating trip with my friends.

Am off on holiday to Kent for a week now so will update again when I get back.

Saturday, 11 April 2009


They say 'One Swallow doesn't make a Summer'. Well how about six? At Fittleworth Bridge this afternoon, despite the damp and drizzly weather, five swallows were zipping around over the fields and along the river. There was another Swallow further up the road at Stopham. It was too dark for photos but here's one I took last year, perhaps we will be seeing sights like this again soon.

Happy Easter

I hope everybody is enjoying the Easter weekend, we had some lovely spring sunshine earlier in the week so decided to go for a walk in the new South Downs National Park. In some ancient hedgerow at Cocking, West Sussex we watched many small songbirds including Yellowhammer, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, and Blackcaps. The sun has encouraged lots of Spring flowers to come out.

Coltsfoot flowers

Ladybird on Blackthorn

Windflower (Wood Anenome)