Tuesday 14 April 2020

Green Urban Birding: The Bluebell Loop 14th April 2020

After the complete slothageness of yesterday when I did nothing but lurk indoors and write, I decided to head back out for a walk this morning not quite realising how far I would get.  

It was a grey day but the biting wind from yesterday had dropped so with but one extra layer on I headed down into Strood (where people were already queuing outside Morrisons and M&S) and then under the railway line at Canal Road back alongside the Medway.  

'Come on sunshine!'

A solo gentleman was having his own private martial arts battle on the prom but it was otherwise empty and the only conversations I had were with a couple of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls that seemed to think I should be feeding them. Redshanks ‘doodled’ and a pair of noisy Oystercatchers ‘kleeped’ their way up river and over  the bridges. 

Herring Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull

The Black Widow Russian Cold War Submarine is looking a little worse for wear at its moorings and I presume from all the little windows in the conning tower that it is actually lived on by someone!

The Black Widow

Black Headed Gull

Rochester Castle
Pied Wagtail

My route took me away from the Pied and Grey Wagtails running around yet another patch of land destined for ‘riverside properties’ and up a steep footpath to All Saints Church at Frindsbury.  Like every churchyard I have seen it is overly tided with no long grass or wild areas around the churchyard despite its age.

Up to All Saints Church

The view up the Medway was superb with the Cathedral and Castle in Rochester and the whole stretch visible to the M2 Bridge where I walked on my birthday. To the south west I could see the gleaming copper roof of St Francis’ Church just up from my house and then strove to pick out my upslope garden which I am pretty sure I have now done! It gives you an idea of just how green Strood and the surrounding conurbation is.

Rochester Cathedral

Rochester Castle

Up the Medway

Black Widow

St Francis Church is on the far right. It was really tricky to work this out but it is 1.25 miles away!

I found a Song Thrush snail anvil but no bird and Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were singing and Stock Doves ‘whooing’. Just beyond the church wall was the much more unkempt but not unloved part of the cemetery which included Commonwealth war graves. These two, one from each World War seemed to stand out. I took a picture and doffed my hat and moved on with a quick look at a female Anthophora plumipes as I went.

A path between some bushes suggested that you were being given permission to walk there by the landowners so after a quick look at my map I ventured down the back of the houses and out into a patch of scrubby grassland above another small chalk pit that, although silent at the moment, will once again be filled with the industrious building of more tiny houses with no gardens or view.


There were more Blackcaps and Chiffchaff and at last my first two Whitethroats were heard scratching away while three male Greenfinches were wheezing away and asking each other ‘whhhyyyyy?’.  I suspect that there will be orchids to find up here in a few weeks but insect wise it was very quiet as the temperature was struggling to get up under leaden skies.

I looped down past a huge red tiled barn conversion and some Oast Houses that I have often seen from the main road and then across said road to Tower Hill path alongside the stinky sewage works where six Swallows and two House Martins hawked and Cetti’s and Willow Warbler sang over the light traffic noise.  

My daily Woodpigeon


Leafy lane alongside the main road - the Tower Hill path

I do like a good sewage works...
A heavily armoured fence appeared on my right and I found myself alongside a MoD site with a pool where they train have amphibious landing and bridging exercises.  The assault dinghies were a helpful pointer but this big copper plaque was more helpful as I carefully had a look at the Mute Swan nest, Pochard and Tufted Ducks on the Gundulph Pool.

Gundulph Pool

The track took me into Lower Upnor and then to the Castle before going along the prom where I walked on Thursday.  The light was much better (but poorer for nice images) and I could see the two crossings onto the Isle of Sheppey quite clearly nine and a half miles away.

The edge of Upnor Castle

Chatham Maritime sheds

female Shelduck

The Sheppey Bridges 9.5miles away

At the point where I hit the beach before I swung up hill and into Beacon Hill Wood SSSI where Nuthatches were very vocal before veering back down again through the beautiful Upchat Wood SSSI although the very serious fencing is designed to make sure you only view the swathes of vivid Bluebells from a respectable distance.

Fresh young Elm leaves in the hedges


Herb Robert


Black Bryony

WWII pill box amongst the trees on a ridge

Med Gulls and Buzzards called above but like so many woods around here it felt far quieter than it should have been.  My path popped out onto Upchat Road and immediately gave me an option of a footpath around a wheat field margin pointing me straight at Wainscott and home. A Kestrel and some Black-headed Gulls were over the field and I may have found some wild asparagus growing in the hedge line as I walked around...


Med Gull

Looking towards Wainscott

I followed this into Wainscott but as I have been trying to stay off real pedestrian areas I once again diverted onto the Cliffe road and then onto Dillywood Lane putting up my first lock-down walk Red-legged Partridges in the process. It is amazing how things have grown since I came out this way on the 8th

Looking north to DP World London Gate in Essex 6.5m away with an MSC vessel unloading

Not sure what the crop is

The Alexanders are about a foot higher and the bare field where I snapped the Woodpigeon now had a green fuzz across its surface.  There were more apple trees flowering in the mature orchard now and two ginger naped Rabbits cautiously watched me from one side and two shaggy maned horses did likewise from the other.

Looking back at Upchat Wood on the distant rise

... with a nice Calliphora


From here I said hello to the Skylarks I found the other day and watched four Med Gulls drift over and made a final push for home via Rede Common where a little sunshine at last greeted me after a most rewarding exploratory adventure.

A relaxing afternoon with lunch in the garden and a basking Slow-worm came out to say hi.


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