After the verdant delights of Penshurst I headed to the coast on Monday – I knew there’d be terrible traffic but the chance to enjoy Camber Sands on a genuinely hot day was too good to pass up. I took my bike and before hitting the sands cycled 7 miles to Dungeness RSPB reserve and back, via Lydd. The area truly is unique… I think it qualifies as a desert, though not one of sand; after you leave Lydd heading east, shingle and strange scrubby flora take over – nothing to do with the nuclear power station I’m sure. Dunge is a mecca for birders, though it was very quiet when I was there, despite fresh reports of a merlin, marsh harriers, exotic sounding warblers and yellow wagtails all being active and visible. The area is very elemental… little softens the border between land and sky and I wondered what it must be like in winter with an easterly wind. Lydd looks a good village in some ways but quite cut off feeling. Not sure how the ambitious plans for Lydd airport will pan out… seems absurd to expand an airport here, when Manston up at Margate with its huge runway, failed to become a sustainable proposition. Great area though, a wonderful day out. Enjoy the pictures.
Sadly for us south-east London golfers the 18-hole Beckenham course – once the UK’s busiest – has gone; happily for us south-east London walkers the space now opened up is superb! There are expansive grass areas, a mildly hilly terrain, footpaths through woods adorned with bluebells just now, plus excellent birdwatching and a no-nonsense cafe in the striking, though decaying, 18th-century mansion (where there are also yoga classes and an artist’s studio). If you can’t make it out to the countryside or to Chislehurst/Petts Wood, the park is a great place to get some exercise locally: it’s possible to do a three-mile walk within and around it.
Beckenham Place Park mansion
You can enter it from opposite Ravensbourne Station or from several points on Beckenham Hill Rd and from Westgate Rd. If you get off the train at Beckenham Junction or New Beckenham, just walk up to Foxgrove Rd and take the lane off to the left with rather grandiose houses on it called Beckenham Place Park. It’s also a short walk from Beckenham Hill station on the Thameslink (like Ravensbourne).
There are no plans to build on the park yet thankfully – but maximum vigilance is urged on that score. The only development at present will be flood defences (the Ravensbourne, Quaggy, Pool and Honor Oak rivers have been known to flood houses in the past), so bore holes and the creation of a water meadow kind of thing are on the cards. There has also been a lot of tree planting (native species).
The Friends of Beckenham Place Park website provides more details on events, development plans and amenities in the park. It’s possible to do a good urban walk linking Beckenham Place with the excellent Kelsey Park and South Norwood Country Park without too much pavement stomping. Oh, and there are kingfishers regularly seen on the Ravensbourne river.
One of Earth Wind and Fire’s finest, but also a great month if the weather is half decent, as it has been. I haven’t been out walking much, due to work and various things, and when I have it’s been mostly very local. At Downe, on Sunday, our late afternoon stroll was rewarded by wonderful light and colour and a great view of a tawny owl (big one, too), gliding between beeches near the end of the walk. Below are some pictures from recent walks. Clear September days have a special quality.
Steve Gale’s North Downs and Beyond blog is a great place to learn more about the wild flowers, bird life and other fauna of the downs. He’s got a relaxed writing style and a depth of knowledge that can only come from getting out there and observing, measuring, chronicling. Give it a read.
Most walkers will often ask themselves ‘I wonder what that bird is?’ at some point along their favoured trudge, before moving on none the wiser.
On my most recent walk (Shoreham to Eynsford, December 3, 2015) I was lucky to spot a little egret (instantly recognisable) at Shoreham, and later a troop of long-tailed tits followed me along the hedgerows beside the Darent.
Soon after this I came to a young tree with plenty of seed heads draping from its thin branches. There appeared to be no birds in it but I could hear the whirs, whoops and clicks of finches. As I neared, a never-ending stream of birds left the tree – incredibly there must have been at least 75 in there, goldfinches or siskins. Being silhouetted I couldn’t tell exactly what they were.
Now, my mate Dave would have been able to tell me – and in a pleasant non-anoraky style too. He’d also have known what kind of tree it was, what type of birds make that call, and deduced what species they were from what they were eating (if he was on form). If Dave had been there we’d have spotted and heard so much more, but I was on my tod, so apart from the usual jackdaws, robins, parakeets, various gulls, mallards and blue tits, I saw nothing else. But there are a host of exciting birds on these walks – from various owls to tiny goldcrests – and it’s worth knowing what they are, even if you never see them!
So with this in mind I invited Dave to write a page for this website, and here it is.