Tuesday 12 April 2022

Time for a change & Kentish Nature Walk #26 The Ranscombe Loop -12th April 2022

Being outside, be it beneath the sky, wandering a forest path, a quiet windswept beach or urban parkland is a quintessential part of what makes me, well, me. Despite working for a conservation charity for nearly 20 years, my role had morphed from being out there with the natural world and sharing the joys it holds to a largely indoor job albeit with a view which I recently described as like working in an IMAX theatre and being the compere of a wildlife spectacle but having to explain to the guests that the ‘show’ was on mute.

I returned from Costa Rica on the 30th March and on the 1st April I handed in my notice for my role of Visitor Experience Officer at RSPB Rainham Marshes. I have been here as staff for 19 years and the time is now right for me to move on and get back to what I am best at; sharing my knowledge and enthusiasm for wildlife outdoors.

It took being Furloughed for a whole year for me to realise that I had the opportunity to regain something of what I had misplaced.  It was not lost, I had just forgotten how to access it.  I spent a year walking from my front door on the outskirts of Rochester in Kent and put over 2000 miles on my boots and in doing so I reconnected with what I had so close to home all along but had neglected to explore. 

I had the time to study, to look and enquire and ponder as well as sharing (sensibly) with those out walking just like me.  I was able to re-centre myself by reconnecting with the wild and possibly somewhat selfishly making some time for me.  Being outside is not about knowing what everything is, it is simply about the being. Hearing the birdsong, feeling the brush of the wind through the leaves, sensing the power in the trees, watching clouds scudding across a winter landscape, the texture of the path beneath your feet, the patter of summer rain on your head, the smell of the forest loam or a flower meadow with grazing cattle – the list is near endless.

‘ Mental well-being’ is an oft used phrase today but I am in no doubt that being able to step away from the hustle of modern life, of the noise, traffic and general discomfort it causes and find your own quiet space where you can reflect and recharge can do nothing but good in generating a better and healthier state of mind.

I now have the chance once again to reacquire my love for the wild but I think that it will be easier this time.

And so with just the Easter Weekend to navigate at Rainham, I decided after some early morning work (I am still continuing with my one day a week RSPB Farmland Advisor role…) that I should start as I mean to go on and get back outside.

The boots were back on, the flask packed and camera ready and off I went up the road onto one of my Ranscombe Loops.

I checked on my local Peregrines and all is looking good and then worked my way up towards the M2 where a Firecrest was singing from the Sycamore copse alongside the junction. 


female Peregrine

The verges were covered with Primroses, Dandelions, Ground Ivy and Forget-me-Nots and there were Buff-tailed and Common Carder Bees, Andrena flavipes, Anthophora plumipes and Dark-bordered Bee-flies in attendance.  My first Brimstones drifted by as I crossed the road and there were quite a few Hoverflies around the pathside including Episyrphus balteatus, Platycheirus albimanus and scutatus and Meliscaeva auricollis and there were many more Beeflies.

Anthophora plumipes - female

Ground Ivy


Dark-bordered Beefly

Anthophora plumipes - male

Andrena flavipes

Wild Strawberry

Platycheirus albimanus

Fannia hung mid path with legs dangling as I walked down through Longhoes.  I found no Wall Browns but there were several Peacocks and Commas and a pair of Nuthatches were very vocal.  I saw little as I headed up into The Valley although Buzzard and Sparrowhawk were overhead and I could hear Med Gulls and a Raven somewhere.


Brimstone & Green veined White

Wayfaring Tree



Wood Spurge


A similar insect suite was encountered as I dropped back down and my first biggish Pisaura mirabilis was lying in wait on a Dandelion.  There were many more Bees on the wing including countless tiny ones and several more Andrena flavipes and a couple of nice bright Andrena haemorrhoa.  Brimstones and Green Veined Whites zipped around but rarely settled and some more quality Hoverfly action added a female Eupeodes corollae and a female Eupeodes latifasciatus on the same flower along with Syrphus ribesii in increasing numbers.

The Valley

Pisaura mirabilis

Episyrphus balteatus

Eupeodes corollae - female

 Eupeodes latifasciatus - female

Eristalis tenax

Bombus terrestris

Bombus pascuorum

Bombus pascuorum

I followed the path up into Mill Wood and then along the ridge to Brockholes. Sweet and I think Dog Violets were in bloom along with clumps of Primroses and Wood Anemones.  The first Bugle was opening up and Bluebells were in flower at the far end.


Wood Anemone

Sweet Violet

Sweet Violet





Bluebell - a clump just a few feet away but in different light

Lesser Celandine

Dog's Mercury


Wood Anemone

There were Coal Tits and Song Thrushes singing and two more pairs of Nuthatch.  I always look for Adders on this stretch but as usual had no joy.  Epistrophe eligans added itself to the daily hoverfly list with a very hairy shiny individual.

Grey Squirrel


Amazing what the catches the eye

Epistrophe eligans

I was pleased to see that the scrub that had been encroaching into Brockholes has been completely stripped back from this chalk grassland.  It will be interesting to see what appears this season with more light and air to play with. The Skylarks certainly seemed to be happier.  Med Gulls were now a constant part of the soundscape around me and three pairs of Common Buzzard got up and mapped out personal territorial boundaries with tumbles and dives.


Med Gull

Med Gull & Black-headed Gull

Common Buzzard

The gap into the next field has always been good for finding flies sunbathing on the Ash trunks and today was no exception with a fine Ferdinandea cuprea (another Hoverfly) and a bristly Gymnocheta viridis – one of my spring favourites. I was however surprised to find three very fresh (and hairy!) Rhingia campestris lounging around.

Rhingia campestris

Rhingia campestris

Ferdinandea cuprea

Gymnocheta viridis

I always check gate posts and fences especially when warmth is at a premium and was delighted to discover that a little bit of bird poo was in fact a Fungus Weevil but it looked different to the one I saw last year at The Larches and a bit of digging suggests Platystomos albinus.  I am not sure how unusual it is but it was certainly a new Ranscombe invert for me.

Platystomos albinus

I followed the track up alongside the fields (where the main meadow has been harrowed) checking for Wheatears and Ouzels. The track had a few more Brimstones and Peacocks and some tiny Nomada bees that just would not stop before I cut back into the woods with their Celandines, Primroses and Anemones.  A Marsh Tit was singing stridently but never came close and so I went back to ground watching and checking Hoverflies and ignoring the microbees once again.  I found two more Ferdinandea cuprea and two Eristalis species for my efforts.
Platycheirus scutatus

Ferdinandea cuprea

Platycheirus albimanus

I popped out into the fields above the golf course and then followed the main track back into Cobham Woods. Mistle and Song Thrushes greeted me and Nuthatches, Treecreeper and both Woodpeckers were heard but the closest I got to the Greens was finding some ‘fag ash’ droppings.

Green Woodpecker poo

Syrphus ribesii

Not sure but think it was an Andrena haemmorhoa

Seven Spot Ladybird

Given the opaque wings I am wondering if this is a female Bombus vestslis?

Red Dead Nettle


Herb Robert

I climbed up to the Darnley Mausoleum and then followed the main path back towards the railway saying hello to my favourite trees on the way. Once over the bridge I swung down along side CTRL to look for Early Purple Orchids.  They were quite difficult to find and I only found about 12 spikes in various shades and states of emergence but they were my first this year and made me smile.

Early Purple Orchid

The Gorse on the Green Bridge had had enough time to warm up and I walked through a rich coconut scented haze before disappearing back into the coppice to look for more orchids on one last mini loop.  I only found four spikes amongst a white sea of Wood Anemones and then cut back up to the railway bridge once more. The Primroses here were more in the open and in the strong sunlight glowed somewhere between sulphur and lime with patches of Bugle and Speedwell dotted amongst them. A male Orange Tip became my first of the year as I finally emerged back out at the top of Bligh Way for the downhill slog to home.


Ladies Smock

Early Purple Orchid



Bit rusty on my Speedwells...

I arrived back with aching feet and a healthy glow and decided to head straight up the garden for a little bit of tinkering.  The forest floor project that I commenced last February is everything I could have hoped with a splatter of spring flora amongst my Ferns and Euphorbias and pondlets teeming with Ramshorn Snails and the odd Common Frog .  

The Marsh Marigold is looking at its finest and the Green Alkanet was busy with the first Osmia bicornis of the season, a couple of furry Andrenas and several Anthophora plumipes.  Myathropa florea were scooting around and even came and landed on me and Speckled Woods danced spirals at eye level.

Marsh Marigold

Myathropa florea

Moschatel just starting to flower

Speckled Wood

I sat and pondered my upcoming future with coffee in hand and I am actually starting to believe that I can make this work.  I long to get back to sharing my knowledge in the field be it here or across the waves and I saw my walk today as an almost defiant effort to show myself that I will succeed and that even a simple local walk could bring joy and wonderment to any who chose to follow me.

Watch this space…

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