Like many people in the country, I returned to work this week. After weeks of lazy starts, days gently gardening and undertaking lockdown projects it has come as a bit of a shock.
The 4.30am alarm calls never get any easier to bare and it’s small wonder that my work trousers no longer fit when I normally spend the spring undertaking 6 hour long route marches across farmland while most people are commuting to offices.
This week I have outwitted herds of cows who surrounded me and threatened to lick my hire truck to death, spoken sweet nothings to ponies, wrestled with farm gates and shook up my insides while driving across rutted and lumpy land.
Still, it is great to be back, hearing the calls of the waders, chewing the fat with the farmers (by telephone) and watching as new life gets underway.
Enjoying the solitude while surveying on the marshes.
At the beginning of March few of us could foresee how rapidly life would change for us all.
Indeed for much of the month my work carried on as normal. Visiting sites, talking about land management and anticipating a great spring of wader surveys with the land looking wetter than ever.
At times this month I have thanked my lucky stars at having a job where social isolation is the norm. In fact I have often felt that in order to do much of my job you have to be someone very good at dealing with your own company as I spend long days on my own on the marshes with only the sheep to talk to.
As the month progressed and the impact of the virus on everyone’s life became apparent I still felt that, in my working world at least, I was immune. Right up until the lock down I was spending days wandering fields with skylarks singing overhead and the waves crashing on the shore of the Thames.
Out there, in the fields, life felt normal and panic buying and worries over the health of loved ones seemed many miles away. I have been extremely grateful for every moment out on site this month.
I have also been very grateful to keep working. Throughout March I have been working with Natural England on a fabulous project undertaking assessments on designated sites across North Kent. Most of the sites have RAMSAR, SPA and SSSI status and my role was to visit sites and update the assessment.
This involved looking at the general condition of the land for wintering and breeding wildfowl and waders, undertaking a search for water vole signs and testing water quality for nitrates and phosphates.
Most of the sites were well known to me through my work on the North Kent Marshes Breeding Wader project but I also had the opportunity to visit one or two totally new sites which was a real treat and gave me an insight into how many areas would be suitable for breeding waders given the right advice and management.
Luckily all the site visits were completed before the lockdown and the last two weeks have been spent indoors busily typing up the results.
Normally being stuck indoors on a laptop as spring progresses outside would drive me mad but, with travel restricted, even this has given me the opportunity to walk the marshes, if only in my mind. At times the sad news of rising death tolls has been forgotten as in my head I spotted snipe in the rushes or warily eyed the cattle in the next field.
With the opportunity for undertaking my normal survey work currently looking remote I will remember those moments this spring and look forward to a time when I can get back out into the fields again
A couple of weeks ago I joined the Medway Swale Estuary Partnership on a trip up the Medway River looking for litter hotspots and revisiting some of the places that inspired me to write my book On the Marshes.
My beloved Micra has had a reprieve. Just when I felt sure I would have to scrap it and had found a wonderful company that organises this for you and gives the profit to charity, then it has been saved by the only person in Kent who loves their Micra’s more than me.
One of my blessed marshland farmer’s has bought it for his collection and it will now serve out it’s retirement living in his hay barn and being driven across the farm. This seems a fitting place for the car that I slept in when completing my journey for my book On the Marshes. In recent years the car has had more celebrity status than me so I am glad I have found it a good home.
The hair’s gone crazy but the scenery’s atmospheric at Dan’s Dock on the Isle of Sheppey.
On the Marshes Walk,
August 10th 2019,
10.00am – 12.00pm,
Elmley Nature Reserve
As part of the Sheppey Shorelines Festival I am taking a morning stroll around this lesser known part of the Elmley Nature Reserve. Join me as I relive my daddy-long-leg horror on Elmley Hill and tell you a little about the history and wildlife of this lesser known corner of Sheppey.
The walk is free but the Elmley Conservation Trust request a £5 parking charge.
Booking Essential – email email@example.com to book a place.
Join me for a stroll at dusk across the RSPB reserve at Northward Hill in Kent where I reminisce in the cherry orchard and hope to catch a glimpse of the spectacular rook roost.
New Year’s resolutions have started early and I have created my first Nature Notes vlog. Follow me on a tour of St Mary’s Church, Lower Higham. It was here I began and ended my book On the Marshes. I plan to do many more of these tours in the next few months so keep your eyes peeled.
Mark Avery and I swapped books at the recent Kent Ornithological Society conference where we were both speaking and has kindly put a review by Ian Carter on his blog. Mark’s book, Inglorious, is next on my reading list and no doubt I will return the favour.
Read the view here
Join me and writer Peggy Riley for a glass of prosecco and a chat at Harbour Books in Whitstable this Thursday.
So excited to see my book in paperback. It looks great. Now better crack on with the new book!!!