With such gentle southern breezes up from Spain and a cobalt February sky we joined hundreds of others in getting out into the nearby Kent countryside today. Once again we chose the Shoreham Fackenden Down route, but this time in reverse: up the steps in the ancient Dunstall woods, across the muddy eponymous farm and down into the steep Austin Lodge valley then the climb to Romney Street. By the time we reached superb Magpie Bottom low clouds had drifted in and a strange quiet had descended, rendering that solitary place strangely eerie. Great! Our only notable bird sightings were both in the fallow fields at Romney Street: a female kestrel hunting exactly where we’d seen the short eared owl a few weeks ago and a huge buzzard lazily enjoying the mild weather. We’d expected to see more. Among the pictures, note the trees growing out of the obvious bomb crater.
Thanks to those who donated to the site today.
Thunderstorm approaching – seen after leaving point 7. April 2012. This storm ended a long warm spell from March to April and ushered in the rain that went on for all of May and much of June that year (spoiling the queen’s regatta among other things)
I’ve finally got around to adding the Otford circular walk. At six miles it’s the longest on this site so far and the most hilly, but it’s worth it. But it’s a crying shame that the halfway-point pub, The Fox and Hounds, has shut down. It had a really good, large beer garden and giant fairytale shoe for kids to play in with a slide on top. I guess it was a bit isolated to survive the rural pub blight – especially in the winter months – not being in a village. Also newly shut is the Austin Lodge golf course, which clearly was suffering from the downturn in golf. There are also quite a number of courses in the area and competition must be tough. Presumably the valley it was in will now go back to farmland, but for now it’s got a rather wistful, wild look to it. The walk, like the others on this site, is within the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The walk is best in April-October – after that it gets too muddy at some points. The first time I did it, in 2005, I got home just in time to see Steve Harmison bowl Michael Clarke in the amazing 2nd Test of that momentous ashes series. A big moment (for some of us anyway), and a great ending to a great day.