Far behind: 5.

I saw several sparrows splashing in a puddle on Valentine’s Day. It may have been too damp for a dust bath, but not too cold for a puddle bath.

Before long we’ll be watching for frog spawn in the garden pond, putting a good amount out of the reach of frost and rearing some tadpoles away from the predatory blackbirds who know an easy meal when they see one.

Valentine’s and the birds

They say today is the birds’ wedding day so during the days before I always look out for the first gull to resume his or her black head. Since I now visit both North and South coasts in the course of a week you might expect that I would spot this sign of spring near the beach, but it was on the playing field near home that I saw my first black headed gull of the year yesterday!

Far behind : 4

The pussy willow brought indoors as part of Mrs T’s Valentine’s tribute has begun bursting enthusiastically. As I was pruning this afternoon, I found many buds showing green but also disturbed a tan coloured moth which flew a couple of yards to cover. The snails I found seemed still crusted into their shells, so it must be ground-burrowing slugs that are dining already.

Winter’s not over yet


In and out of the White Cliffs of Dover – no wonder the Victorians used to talk of railway mania, it’s a crazy place to build a line, but they did want to reach the ports. A century and a half later we can enjoy the views across the Channel in warmth and comfort.

One man who would have enjoyed this day was Mr Turner, the artist JWM Turner, who captured the thrill of the Victorian railway in Rain, Steam and Speed, as well as the sea and sky as their changing moods react to each other.

As often after showers, France looked much closer than twenty miles away. In those few minutes that I was in the train, the sun was shining over Ambleteuse, lighting up the surrounding hills, all snow-covered. The storm that had anointed them was rampaging West, a black presence right down to the waves, leading a pack of dark beings intent on disconcerting sailors and landlubbers alike.

Yet the sun shone over the distant snow fields, and here and there lit up a stretch of sea, a white ferry coming in from Calais, the end of Admiralty Pier.

The next storm-wolf was roaring hailstones over Dover as we arrived. No ride to the beach for my picnic lunch today!



Far Behind ? – continued


Spring felt a long way off when I was waiting on Aylesham station with the cold wind sweeping across the field. But down at ground level, among the discarded beer cans and sweet wrappers, peeping from under heart-shaped leaves, a few violets, out of range of fingers or lens.

Nearer home, crossing the old Franciscan orchard, the hazel catkins were reflecting back the gold of the setting sun. On Abbot’s Hill the woodpecker was out of sight but well within earshot, drumming hard enough to give himself a headache but perhaps he’ll charm a hen. Valentine’s Day is said to be the birds’ wedding day. He’s getting into practice!

Winter Joys

Great spotted woodpecker: usually out of sight amidst the leaves so green;

Sanderlings, chasing the breaking ripples on the shore, pouncing on tasty morsels. See the RSPB site: http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/name/s/sanderling/index.aspx .

I cherish the time I introduced these little creatures to a class of tough 10 and 11 year olds, who filled up with joyful laughter at their performance, dashing in and out of the water on Broadstairs beach. Thank you, Andrew,for setting us all off!

Far behind?


More hints of Spring.

The coastal path was full of dog walkers till almost halfway between the two towns. Cyclist, slow down! Turnstones out looking spruce, waiting on the breakwaters for the tide to turn. Are these ones too far down the pecking order to haunt the harbour for easy pickings from the boats and fishmongers?

A quarrelsome synod of Jackdaws at sunset at St Martin’s church. I stopped counting at fifty.

A snowdrop and violet in bloom beside our front door; Mrs O’s Daffodils nose up above the ground, active buds on her elder and flowering currant.

And the flood was there again across the road at Bekesbourne. Rain and hail showers lashing cyclists this morning. At least one survived!