The Westerham-Chartwell loop … a popular walk in good weather but not a soul today. The temperature was -2.5C. At Mariners Hill on the Greensand Ridge it began to snow heavily; the spruce and pine woods near French Street took on a Scandinavian air, and the douglas firs above Chartwell added a touch of Oregon. I’ll add this longish walk shortly. Some pictures:
There’s going to be another blast of cold air this weekend but otherwise we’re in that period of great change now as the first blossoms – usually blackthorn – starts to appear, and you begin to encounter wood anenome, celandine, violets and primrose on the ground. Wild garlic will soon be everywhere and, after, bluebells from mid-April. It’s an interesting time to be walking – still a bit muddy, yes, but with the consolation of lots of wildlife to look out for, flowers, trees coming into leaf, often drama in the skies with showers and rapidly moving fronts. Swallows will start arriving I’d guess in about two weeks, with house martins and swifts. Another arrival from Africa, the chiff chaff, will be heard with its hypnotic song particularly evident in Scords wood on the Ide Hill walk. But first, according to today’s forecast, there could be more snow for the weekend. Anyway, some early spring pix for you from the walks:
OK, I still feel chilled to my bones, but this afternoon’s stroll at Knole was a beaut in the retreating snow. Misty yellow light, bursts of weak sun, patches of pale blue sky, and a sense of winter and spring sharing the day. Some interesting birds around looking for food: nuthatch, wrens, redwings, great tits, robins, song thrush all seen quite close. Hope they found enough. Here are some pix
Little gets the south-east England as excited as the prospect of a bit of snow. It is fairly unusual, particularly in the London suburbs, so the ‘Beast from the East’ has real novelty value. The hills of the North Downs regularly get a lot more snow than the local London boroughs, however, so if you fancy a good old crunching snow walk, with scenes reminiscent of a winter’s day in Finland, hot foot it out to the walks on this website – even if your part of the metropolis has drawn a blank. Below are pictures from previous years, but I reckon this period will see much deeper snow – until a thaw sets in at the weekend.
Right now the heavy snow showers seem to be slanting across the area north-east to south-west in a line. They are making landfall between the Isle of Sheppey and Margate and dumping the white stuff on Canterbury, Ashford, Maidstone and Sevenoaks. Places further north and west, like Bromley and Lewisham are not seeing anything like as much. Late on Thursday a different weather system will swing up from the south and may deposit several inches of wetter snow across the western parts of Kent particularly, including London.
Not being able to get out and photograph it all is a bit frustrating for me but the best hills for sledging are on the Shoreham circular and Romney St walks. One Tree Hill and Ightam Mote have thick snow but getting a car out there might be a problem. Knole Park should be easy to reach though and would be great.
Emmetts Garden (on the Ide Hill walk) is showing off its rare tree species at the moment, with orbs hanging off branches and baskets draped with national flags. Inside each basket is the name of the tree and its origin. Surprisingly good fun going from one to the other trying to work out what it is. I’d never heard of a castor oil tree (China) before but the Japanese cedar was my favourite.
Meanwhile, mud is a sticking point on the walks, as you’d expect in February. One Tree Hill and around is awful, Hever too. But Ide Hill is not too bad – even the bit where you meet the Toys Hill red route is passable. Elsewhere, Lullingstone/Eynsford is generally OK, Shoreham circular too. Downe and Knole Park are bankers for lack of mud in huge quantities, but Petts Wood has plenty of squelchy areas. All are fine with decent boots – it’s just that you should be mentally prepared for a bit of slippin’ and slidin’, and going to the pub afterwards means taking boots off or bringing spare shoes.
The mud is horrific but worth slopping through for the wonderful scenes on the One Tree Hill/Ightam Mote walk – a steep wooded escarpment with beech trees growing out of it at extraordinary angles, huge Weald views over to the Ashdown Forest and the beautifully situated Mote house itself, in its secret little cleft in the hill line. With dramatic skies, clear air, flurries of snow, the ridge routes around One Tree Hill and Wilmot Hill left us in awe yesterday.
Some of this winter’s coldest weather has breezed in from the north east. It’s brought snow flurries, few of which have penetrated as far west as London but have deposited a few centimetres on the Greensand Ridge south of Sevenoaks, and along the North Downs towards Maidstone.
I was rather taken by the scene yesterday morning at 9am while cycling from my home in Lower Sydenham to the railway station. As I crossed Perry Hill in bright sunshine, flakes of snow suddenly intensified into a bit of a mini-blizzard, seemingly out of a blue sky. I looked around and saw it was being blown in from a dark cloud to the north. Just at that moment I heard the ‘cawing’ of a crow and saw to my astonishment a peregrine falcon clutching a small bird in its talons wheel away to the south, beating its wings rapidly, as two irate crows followed in lukewarm pursuit. An unusual thing to see in Sydenham, while it snowed – from a blue sky.
Anyway, proof that snow still happens south of London is provided by Ightam Mote’s Twitter feed. (Walk to Ightam Mote from One Tree Hill.)