|After an abortive attempt to meet up with an e-mail pal in Canterbury in the middle of a horrendous rainstorm, we followed the east coast north, heading for our next lodgings north of London. We decided to stop off for a quick tour of the Hoo Peninsula, a wedge of land sticking into the English Channel between the Thames estuary and the Medway estuary. There are a number of excellent birding locations on the peninsula, which is known for its autumn waders and wintering waterfowl. Darn! And here we are at the end of May! However, we spent the brief time we had available around the Cliffe Pools (main photo above) with a dangerous trip into the edges of the Northward Hill RSPB Reserve. for a map of the whole peninsula, and for a detailed trail map of the Cliffe Pools area.|
|All the resident
birds were present at the Cliffe Pools: Black-headed Gulls, Common Terns,
Oystercatchers, Greylag and Canada Geese, Robins, Chaffinches, with a few
Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves for variety. After we got lost on the peninsula,
while trying to find Northward Hill RSPB, we spotted our first pair of
Greenfinch in the churchyard of a marvellous old Norman Church.
A hand written sign on the door indicated that the church was started in
1100 "and something" and we could "get the key from the vicar". That
seemed rather intrusive, so we didn't....
Trying to find the road to the Northward Hill RSPB ( for a detailed map of the area) had us touring nearly every street of High Helstow. There was a definite preference to put the signs immediately across from, or even in one case, after, the correct turn. Even at residential speeds, we were usually past the turn as soon as we spotted the sign.
||We finally found the car park and started off on the main path into the forest. The path went steeply straight downhill through an old cathedral grove of oaks and beeches. The bird song was deafening. Immediately ahead we were startled by a good-sized bird that flew out of a hole in a large branch, about 20 feet up in the air. We could hear the babies, but Momma wouldn't come back and gift us with an easy identification. It was very difficult to keep our footing on the trail, since the incessant rain had soaked everything. And quickly twisting and turning to track a rapidly disappearing pair of wings didn't help. In the shadow of the forest, we never did get a close enough look at anything to identify it. I know there were at least two or three life birds hiding in the gloom, laughing their little feathered heads off at the silly people slipping and sliding around!|
|Underfoot was last autumn's mostly rotted
leaves, only loosely attached to the underlying slick clay/mud. After I
fell twice and Duncan wrenched his back tying to keep his balance, we called
it a day and clambered back up the trail to our car. No one mentioned in
the books the need for crampons and an ice pick after any period of time
of wet weather!
Little did we know what a driving adventure awaited us! To make a very long story short, we missed the exit for the M25 ring road, and found ourselves headed right into the centre of London - a treat we had faithfully promised each other we would NOT have. It's nothing short of a miracle that we emerged on the other side unscathed, and to my great surprise, still married!