Sunday, 14 September 2008

Kent in the Sun

What a fabulous weekend. As I write this blog, at 9pm on Sunday I've only been home an hour or so from a weekend in the Garden of England. And it was sunny!!!!! Hoorah. At last summer has arrived, or at least I've had a warm and wonderful weekend in Kent. So pour yourself a whisky, sit in a comfy chair and read on...... and as before, click to enlarge any images.

Saturday morning saw me at home and it was glorious. No wind nor rain, and out over the back garden House Martins were twittering aloft having their breakfast, or if you look at the above photo, as a plane took off from Bristol Airport it seemed to be in competition with the little fellas. Maybe they're both flying south!!

But 4 hours later following the joys of the M25 and a Costa Rip-off coffee at Clacket Lane Services, I found myself at Chartham Hatch, a village just outside of Canterbury. Home since 1971 to my Uncle, Dr Ken, birthday boy and a very young 80. My parents were also staying at chez relations so it was good to have a family catch up, it being 5 years since we all met up in Norfolk. Later in the evening the rest of the Border Reiver Mafia feasted on gourmet grub in a gastro pub somewhere in the middle of Kentish countryside. Don't ask me where it was, I was driving

But before that a little bit of a walk on Saturday afternoon. Following a nice cup of tea and a sit in the garden watching the numerous goldfinches on the feeder, my mother and I went for a walk through the orchards which surround Chartham Hatch.

Running past in front of my Uncles house is the North Downs Way, a long distance footpath along the North Downs between Surrey and Kent. And I have to say, although the South East is very busy, there are some stunning views still to be had. Walking through the orchards was just wonderful, and so popular is walking in this area roadsigns have been put up to warn motorists in the village.

Far reaching views over the Downs, Oast Houses and the apple harvest in the warm sunshine, it was just what it says on the tin, the Garden of England. Even if most people one met only spoke Polish. And look at those apples, plumpness to the point of busting. Mile after mile of apples as far as the eye can see, ready for the picking to make cider or whatever. So many orchards are planted around here the landscape is more like a wine growing region and the apples more like vines on favourable southern slopes. Who needs the Mediterranean !!

All in all a welcome stroll after the drive across, and I was refreshed. And lets not forget this is early autumn, so blackberries are now ripening and as autumn is often the colour of orange, a highland cow, one of the many who live in the field next door to my weekend digs. I wonder if they drink the cider?

Passing over the glorious Birthday meal, I can still taste my chicken, my domestic quarters for the night had a bookshelf, or more importantly, a book I used to have as a boy and have since lost. Fritter's book of British Birds brought birdwatching out of the past and into the populist culture of the 1960's.

It was fabulous to read it again (I must buy a replacement copy for myself - anyone got one to sell?), not least as being a transition book from the worthy amateur birder to the modern age, use was made of some of the colloquial words for birds. Below I've listed some of those I particularly liked from this 1962 edition. I think we should go back to these names, they're just fabulous.

Common Whitethroat = Nettle Creeper

Great Tit = Ox-Eye Tit

Swift = Devil-Bird, Devil Screamer, Deviling

Pied or White Wagtail = Water Wagtail, Dishwasher

Song Thrush = Throstle, Mavis

Fieldfare = Felt, Felfer

Common Snipe = Bleater, Heather Bleater

Common Sandpiper = Summer Snipe, Willy Wicket

Dunlin = Ox-Bird, Ploversage, Sea-Snipe

Dipper = Water Blackbird, Water Crow, Water Pyet

Woodpigeon = Ring-Dove, Cushat, Cushie Doo

Green Woodpecker = Yaffle, Rain-Bird

Meadow Pipit = Titlark

Goldfinch = Draw-water, King Harry

Blue Tit = Tom Tit, Pick-cheese

Goldcrest = Golden-Crested Wren, Kinglet

Black-Headed Gull = Peewit Gull

Smew = White Nun (Male)

Curlew = Whaup (N England)

Avocet = Awl-Bird, Yelper, Clinker

Oystercatcher = Sea-Pie

Whimbrel = May-Bird, Titterel, Seven Whistler

Storm Petrel = Mother Carey's Chicken

Lapwing = Green Plover, Peewit, Black Plover, Pyewipe

Starling = Stare

After a good read, a sound sleep, woken momentarily by a screech of a Tawny Owl, and breakfast brunchette, en-route home we all decamped to Batemans, home of Rudyard Kipling in East Sussex. What a glorious place, not least for the wildlife. Lesser Spotter and Green Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Long Tail Tit were but a few of the birds I spied while being a National Trust visitor, but also.........

........ Butterflies,

clockwise from top left, Small Copper, Red Admiral, Brimstone and Comma.

And common Azure dragonflies, who darted about a bit too swiftly and this wonderfully "red" Sympetrum striolatum. Not to mention the "wild" cyclamen.

It's just amazing how much wildlife can be seen on an autumnal weekend celebrating an 80th Birthday. Driving through the Weald of Kent and Sussex, I've made a mental note to return and have a proper holiday back there very soon - it's wonderful.


  1. What a great weekend you've obviously had - I really enjoyed it too :)

    My mother lives in West Sussex and I love Sussex as a county - hope you do return to discover it greater length!

    I agree with you about Batemans; and it's a house you can imagine living in.

  2. I saw a copy of that book in a charity shop a few years ago.

    can you imagine a world where you just had Fitter & Richardson and the Peterson with some illustrations in B&W !!

  3. I didn't have a whiskey in hand but enjoyed your trip, lol. So many apples on so many trees. They look so good. Pictures are wonderful. I really like the comma, looks like a leaf.

  4. Lovely, I feel like I have been home! I was born in Mid Sussex and know Kent reasonably well.
    Those bird names remind me of my Grandmother who always used these names for the birds and the common names for wild and garden plants too. What a pity we have lost them

  5. Thanks for the comments, and thank you for the notes re sussex... Britain never ceases to suprise me!!