A Merry Perambulation – Part 4

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Angie skimming stones on her birthday

Gosh it’s all Hogarth this week. Here is part 4 of my journey across Kent following in Hogarth and Pals footsteps published in online magazine Longshore Drift



Walking with Hogarth

Tate Walks TX cardGus and I set out to walk across the Hoo Peninsula in Episode 5 following the trail of William Hogarth and friend’s peregrination. We slip slide across Upnor beach before I offer to whip Gus with some nettles!

A Merry Perambulation…The Book.

A Merry Perambulation cover

A Merry Perambulation photo MLP

The last part of my travelogue across North Kent following in the footsteps of William Hogarth and pals is published this week on Longshore Drift and I am soon to feature on Sky Arts, Tate Britain Great British Walks series walking part of the route with presenter Gus Casley-Hayford but if you would like a copy of the book there is only one place to get it and that is from Medway Swale Estuary Partnership.

If you would like one, please send a cheque made payable to Medway Council (with MSEP account on the reverse) for £6 (inc p&p) to the following address: 3 Lock Cottages, Lock Lane, Sandling, Maidstone, Kent ME14 3AU.

A Year in the life of an environmental consultant – March 2017, Getting ready for spring.

glowing gang with litter

Volunteers from the Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership glow with pride at their morning’s work.

It’s been an incredibly busy month as we prepare for the start of the survey season. The month began with a survey of channels on Chislet marshes for the River Stour Internal Drainage Board. We spent a day plotting the extent of the invasive species parrot’s feather which has unfortunately found its way into the ditch system. If left untreated the plant will shade out our native flora, clog structures and block sunlight from the water which will de-oxygenate it and lead to a loss in aquatic invertebrates.

parrots feather in wademarsh autumn 2016

invasive parrot’s feather growing on Chislet Marshes


“This is a particularly difficult situation,” said Carol. “The plant has spread rapidly and colonised a large area of the marshes. It is entwined with marginal vegetation along ditches which are a water vole stronghold. The challenge is to find a way of removing the plant while acting sensitively towards other species.”


To deal with this challenge Carol has sought advice from the Environment Agency and Andrea Griffiths, Senior Partnership Officer at Medway Valley Countryside Partnership, who has extensive experience at dealing with invasive species.


“Partnership working is really useful for issues such as this as we can all draw on each other’s experience to achieve a good result.”


The plant was quite possibly unintentionally introduced to the waterways by a member of the public, who may have been tipping excess frog spawn from a garden pond. Unfortunately this has resulted in years of expensive work for others.


On a brighter note we are delighted with the progress of many of the farms we visited this month as part of our advisory work on breeding waders.


Farmers have really taken on board the advice given in the autumn and have performed miracles in making grassland wet in what has been a very dry year. Topping and improved grazing regimes has resulted in much better sward conditions and many farmers have signed up to the funding available from the North Kent Capital Grant Scheme, administered by Kent Wildlife Trust.


Now we are all keeping our fingers crossed for good weather conditions this spring so the hard work can produce tangible results in the form of more wader chicks successfully fledged in North Kent.


volunteers cleaning litter March 2017

volunteers removing litter from the channel.

Lastly we were delighted to work once again with volunteers from the Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership in order to improve a small, urban stream in Canterbury, managed by the River Stour Internal Drainage Board. This rather sad little channel was full of litter, carelessly thrown by passing motorists and had become dark and shady in some sections and overly managed by neighbouring business’s in others.


Over two days the volunteers cleared around forty bags of litter from the channel, cut back overhanging trees and planted 100 colourful wetland plants outside the Mercedes Garage on Sturry Road. Many thanks to Mercedes for providing drinks and sweets. Serco for removing the litter but mostly to the excellent volunteers who it is always a joy to work with.


Not so pretty now.


filmmaker Luke Gardener being inspired.

Why is it that whenever I take someone out to the North Kent Marshes to impress upon them the beauty and importance of the landscape it pours of rain? A few years ago I took my agent, Joanna Swainson and her partner out to show them this place I wanted to write about and the weather was dismal, the farm looked a mess and the meal in the local pub was so salty it was inedible. Despite this unpromising start she saw the potential and took me and my book on.

Today it happens again. I take out the guy who is going to be shooting the promotional video to accompany the publication of my book, ‘On The Marshes’ to the RSPB’s Northward Hill reserve. He has read my descriptions of a world apart, a landscape of value, a place which is special and should be protected and is inspired. Today, however, the reserve, is bleak and flat and grey, the farmyard, a muddy hole, the birds…out there…somewhere. Still, Luke, the filmmaker is keen. He can see it, that this place is different, it has a feeling all of its own that casts a spell even on a dreary early spring day.

We will, come back, when the sun is out, the skies, majestic and the birds singing. I want people to see the marshes as I see it. Not as a place to dump airports and car parks and ‘garden’ cities but as a rare gem which needs to be kept untouched as a place of sanctuary for us all.

One Wild Winter – Visit a rook roost

rook-roost-1Went into sensory overdrive this evening down at the rook roost at RSPB Northward Hill reserve, one of the locations for BBC’s Winterwatch.

After several days when we all seem to withdraw indoors I revelled in the march across the darkening marshes. In the great rasping sleepy hush of the birds, a single silver star and a tawny calling in late winter hopefulness. The loss of the light, a rosy sunset. A winter wildness far from the overheated fug of living rooms.

See the country’s largest rook roost below