September

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.

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Ide Hill’s Cock Inn open again. Hooray!

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It’s bad news for Romney Street’s Fox and Hounds (see below) which seems a long way from reopening, but good news for walkers finishing up in or passing through Ide Hill – the Cock Inn has been superbly revamped and is now open after a short period of uncertainty. Here’s the slightly convoluted story of its refurb which sounds like a bit of a planning mix up. Anyway, the end result is good; the place looks excellent and its original character is alive and well. Pictures above from the Ide Hill circular walk.

Ide Hill Walk

Buzzards, aeroplanes and wild flowers

Buzzards, aeroplanes and wild flowers

The bluebells are well and truly finished now we’re into June, but the meadows in this little pocket of near-idyll from Westerham to Eynsford are alive with wild flowers. The field adjacent to Down House is particularly spectacular as are the open grass sweeps of Lullingstone. I’m no expert on variety identification but there’s more to see than just daisies and buttercups – there’s pyramidal orchids, abundant cow parsley, cowslips, chalk milkwort, speedwell…

Pyramidal orchid

Pyramidal orchid. Photo: Durlston Country Park, Dorset, flickr Creative Commons

Cycling near Cudham recently I disturbed a large buzzard. Close up, the scale of this bird of prey is decidedly impressive, but what suddenly occurred to me is that, when growing up, it was unheard of to see buzzards so close to London. They were definitely considered birds of the upland wilds, not the suburban fringe. There’s clearly been a sharp rise in their population in recent years in these parts … I wonder if there’s a breeding programme nearby, or perhaps it’s that their persecution by landowners has stopped. Soon after this I saw two buzzards soaring over the valley between Downe and Cudham, closely followed by a red kite gliding at height from north to south. Again, sightings that would have been almost unthinkable up until 10 years ago.

At Downe Bank, on another cycle on a recent coldish evening, I saw my first ever badger in the wild, hurrying across Cudham Road ahead of me as I laboriously ascended that steep hill.

Red Arrows

Red Arrows pictured near Biggin Hill by Adam McCulloch

On June 13 walkers in the area will be treated to the sights and sounds of Spitfires, Hurricanes and the Red Arrows, all flying at the Biggin Hill Festival of Flight. The air show marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, and while a more modest affair than the airfield’s major International Air Fairs (until 2010), the event should prove a fitting tribute to those who fought against the Nazis from Biggin Hill. And walkers and cyclists in the area that day will get some unusual and exciting views of the planes as they manoeuvre for passes over the airfield.