Last night was incredibly windy and I was pleased to find
this morning that the garden was intact and that the apples had finished
blossoming and the raspberries barely started!
After a few early jobs I set out for the top of my road
where I discovered yesterday that the Post Office was open unlike every other
one I have been to and so with parcels over one shoulder and camera over the
other I headed up the hill. It is quite
funny that until you start walking around where you live you have no real
concept of the gradients involved and it is well over a mile from one end to
the other with a steady climb the whole way but it is never without wildlife.
House Sparrows are still doing great in this whole area and I could hear the
begging of young in nests all the way while a pair of Mistle Thrushes was being
tailgated by their fully grown young.
From the PO I went through the M2 underpass and instead of going
over the Eurostar I turned right and followed a track alongside the noisy main
road. Unfortunately this is obviously
where all the local scrotes who terrorise our road on scramble bikes and mini
quads come to play but it was far too early to have any of that sort of
trouble. I added a few Blackcap territories but it was the male House Sparrow
well away from the houses that caught my attention as he actively foraged high
in the Willows for insects.
The same Willows were now going to seed and a layer of fluff
carpeted the ground where it was joined by Dandelion and Coltfoot seeds
blowing in the chilly breeze.
|Dove's Foot Crane's-bill|
|Dove's Foot Crane's-bill|
The track turned towards the railway and obviously used to
be an ideal place to dump old car tyres with hundreds strewn in the ditches and
woodland. It was not a new thing though and many were being reclaimed by nature
and I suspect that those filled with water were home to a myriad of insect
I did not cross the railway into the Cobham Estate but
turned back toward Knight’s Place Stables passing a huge Daisy covered paddock
that I wish I had visited in April when it simply must have had Wheatears and
This took me back to the A2
slip road and cycle path which I followed until I could cross back over the A2
once again towards Shorne from where I got access into Brewers Wood and the
start of the Darnley Trail.
|Such glamorous walking spots|
It was very
noisy with traffic and I headed further into the wood on a circular path
through coppice Chestnut and then into a patch containing wondrously ancient
mature specimens along with towering Oaks and Ash. You are definitely off the
Chalk at this point with sandy gravels showing where the trees have uprooted
and the undulating wood is full of presumably man dug depressions.
|A 30m tall Holly with open flowers|
Yellow Pimpernel, Barren Strawberry and Bugle carpeted the
edges of the wide people friendly laid path and a few Brimstones and Peacocks
flitted around but it was actually quite cool despite the blue sky.
|Barren Strawberry and Bugle|
It was very quiet bird wise with a few Blackcaps and
Chiffchaffs although a Nightingale did briefly sing as I approached the main
road. I crossed over and into Randall Wood part of Shorne CP where
I was surprised to find a whole team of volunteers beavering away at tidying the
car park which I thought a little odd given current lockdown conditions but they
waved as I wandered through on my loop through the southern half of the site.
There are large areas of Birch that undoubtedly held scores of cascading Willow
Warblers in the past but not any more and I remember seeing Hawfinches and
Lesser Spots here in the mid-1990s. There were only one or two dog walkers
around and no real disturbance but it was eerily quiet although I did find a
family of Grey Wagtails around one of the forest ponds and a few Song Thrushes
There were some mighty fine trees though with Chestnuts with
swirled bark looking like sand ripples left on a wet beach and one very old
coppice that had no fewer than 14 trunks of about four foot girth coming from the
|One coppice stool...|
|A very large Ichneumen wasp|
I added Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Great Spot to the walk
list before the Darnley Trail took me out of the woods at Thong Lane and then
back over the A2 yet again from where I refound the signs and the back entrance
to Ashenbank Woods. I stayed on the main path rather than going into the wood
proper as I hoped it would come out at Jeskyns.
What it did provide me with was the best display of Ramsons
I have seen in a long while and only the second spread I have seen on my
walks. I could smell it before I found
it and the air was heady with that garlic smell. Some of the bank was in the sunshine and I
remembered to look for Portevinia maculata the garlic loving Hoverfly and much
to my delight I actually found several males lazily moving between blooms.
The path did indeed lead into the open spaces of Jeskyns
where I hoped to find Yellowhammer but I think that I did not push far enough
west and just covered the eastern end of the site but it was still productive
with three pair of Linnets, two singing Meadow Pipits, four Skylarks and quite
a few scratchy Whitethroats.
|Cow with Starlings...|
|A tunnel at last!|
From here the path I took cut towards Owletts NT property or
back into Ashenbank proper so I stuck with the Cobham route as this would take
me onto the main path back to the Darnley Mausoleum and home.
|The view south|
|towards the North Downs Way woods|
I crossed the empty cricket pitch where a pair of Swallows skimmed
the grass and was almost to the car park opposite when I saw three tiny Fox
cubs gambolling in the grass near a covered caravan.
I waited for them to scamper out of view and then approached
the gate and attempted to become another post.
They soon came back out and were clearly having a relaxing time lounging
in the grass and play fighting. Mum then
appeared and it actually took her a little while to notice me. I think it was the click of my camera (still
not worked out how to turn that off) but I got a quick stare and she then slunk
off leaving the kids with me for another two minutes until they took heed and
I continued through the village and then straight on at the
War Memorial which took me past several horse paddocks and what I think is
Hedgerow Crane’s-Bill growing in the verge along with Bush Vetch.
After a chat with a couple out walking who are Rainham
regulars, I cut straight across to the main drag that would take me back into
the woods adding my first Small Copper of the year in the process.
|Small Copper |
The Highland Cattle were all in the first section as I
entered the wood but were very placid and just carried on munching their way
through the Brambles and let me pass.
This section of cattle managed wood with all it's old trees with holes and
broken limbs would be full of Redstarts in the New Forest and I strained my
ears for that lovely song.
Alas it was not to be but I did find three singing Garden
Warblers around the Mausoleum which are certainly fairly new arrivals.
One final traverse of the A2 via the tunnel and back on the
downhill road to home where the council had mown all the lovely greensward and
left it bereft of Dandelions and Daisies but they had not actually removed the
drifts of cut grass but this had enticed down all the local Starlings and 66 of
them were pack hunting for leatherjackets ahead of me and gleaming like oily
water in the sunshine.
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