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.
|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.
|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
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|
|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
|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.
|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
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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