Monday 12 December 2022

Kentish Nature Walks #61 - The Snowy Ranscombe Loop - 12th December 2022

A freezing shroud of fog obliterated any view from home yesterday and at just after 6pm it started to rain too which quickly became sleet but it was not until a couple of hours later that a casual glance out the window revealed that it was now snowing heavily.  In just two hours it laid down four inches of cover with huge flakes hitting already frozen ground and sticking easily.  There was no wind at all and it managed to settle on to the telephone wires and along even the thinnest branch.

My plans for today were stymied as I did not fancy heading over to the Essex side (some of which was similarly hit) and so I was determined to get out for a walk around Ranscombe at the very least.  It was not an early start but I made my way into the reserve from the Cuxton Road car park end and automatically found myself in a proper winter wonderland.  

Longhoes looking down the Medway

The fog was still present too and was obscuring the view down and across the Medway and it felt like more snow might well be on the cards.  Small flocks of Redwings moved overhead as I entered Meralls Shaw.  The odd dog walker had gone before me but it was still largely undisturbed.  With still no wind, every available surface that could possibly have accumulated a stack of fluffy white snow crystals had done so and I had to be careful not to dislodge any from the overhanging boughs that were weighed down across the path.

Butcher's Broom

The only splashes of colour - and don't look too closely

Other than the sound of the M2 droning in the background (and you soon phase that out) the woods were silent except for the odd call of a Blue or Great Tit quietly foraging amongst the Oak and Hazel leaves left on the trees.  The occasional peep and the rustling of leaves was all that gave them away. 

Great Tit

Hornbeams looked almost Larch-like

I crossed the field towards Head Barn Wood and found a flock of Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrests, Treecreeper and other Tits feeding through the Hornbeams but they did not linger. Blackbirds were in the exposed patches up against the bigger tree trunks and two male Wrens engaged in some boundary singing before going back to losing themselves in the leaf litter.  How all these small birds survive is almost beyond me. 

There were many Fallow Deer slots and Fox prints criss-crossing the tracks but I saw neither.  I looped up alongside the field by Clay Pond Wood and by now the fog was pressing in from all sides and once at the Birch Wood field I could barely see across it.  There were far more visible Skylarks than on my walk last week and I counted at least forty shuffling around in the snow with the Reed Buntings and few Linnets for company before I dropped back down to Sam’s bench where the view had changed somewhat.  

Fallow Deer 


Probably a Blackbird



Saggy Teasels

Actual Ranscombe Farm is at the end there...

A very fluffed up Robin came to see me while I had a cup of coffee but alas I had nothing to give him so I cleared a large area of trackside so that he could investigate the surprisingly unfrozen ground beneath.

No Rooks and Jackdaws this time

View from Sam's bench (Meadow Clary spot)

Checking under Sloe leaves more like a Chiffchaff

A couple of Nuthatches were poking around under the boughs of a large Oak and a Green Woodpecker came up almost at my feet and noisily yaffled off.  The temperature must have been slightly climbing as snow began to fall from the trees in periodic micro snowfalls accompanied by the ‘pfooof’ of the branch as it moved back to its natural position.  I stood and watched it all around me at the top of Kitchen Field before dropping down and then up to Brockles that was almost invisible even when I got there.

This clump of Butcher's Broom had some berries glowing against the green

I followed the top path back through Mill Wood and then came back into the Valley where a flock of 80 Goldfinch and about 20 each of Linnet and Chaffinch were feeding on the seedheads poking above the snow.  I could hear Meadow Pipits and a male Kestrel was keeping an eye on them too.

Kitchen Field


Across the Valley

Passing the various humans with smaller humans sledging in almost any field they could get into, I climbed back up to Longhoes as a flock of 36 Lapwing drifted over the trees having obviously been disturbed from the Medway below.  I last saw them here during the snow at the start of 2021.



The river was occasionally discernible and the eastern bank and hillsides beyond came and went as the fog drifted through.  I was beginning to get cold and so called it a day and headed for home (not that it is any warmer in my house) pleased to have made the effort. 

Today was never going to be about the wildlife spectacle but proper snow feels so rare in the south-east nowadays that the opportunity to get out and wander around in my boots with my trusty Blackthorn walking stick that Dad made me and camera in hand was too glorious to miss.  

For most of the time there was just me, my thoughts and the satisfying sound of my boots pressing through virgin snow with a noise that I have not quite worked out how to describe yet…

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