The South-east of England is very different to the South-west. People really do use personal trainers for a bit of fisticuffs in the park beside the river. I thought that only happened on the telly.
On an exceptionally warm and sunny day in early May Becky and I paddled the Tonbridge ‘circuit’ of the River Medway in Kent, setting off from the slipway at the edge of the swimming pool car park, and then paddled downstream as far as East Lock. I was going to go further and catch the train back to Tonbridge but it was such a pleasant day I didn’t fancy being cooped up with a load of sweaty people so we paddled back. More time under the lovely sun.
The wildlife was all about the birds, and birdsong. Additions to the Dawn Chorus list from my previous post were Whitethroat, Linnet, Turtle Dove (heard crooning but not seen), and the legendary song of the Nightingale (which we also didn’t see). I know it was some distance away and the notes were muffled by the density of the bush in which it lurked, but I personally think the Nightingale is hard-pushed as the nation’s number one songster by the Blackbird.
The tops of the bushes were surrounded by a blurr of those strange black flies with dangling legs that you always get at this time of year….St.Mark’s Flies. One was being squared up for a snack by this Whitethroat which was wanting to regain a bit of weight after burning off a load of blubber during its recent migration from Africa.
From a photographic perspective it was a bit of a pity that the river was still brown from the recent heavy rain, although the extraordinary yellowness of a field of rape did something to brighten things up.
The river is very kayak-friendly with all the locks having a ‘canoe pass’ which is a little water chute that prevents the need for a portage. Unfortunately for us all but one were closed due to high water levels, so we had to portage (which is always a bit of a drag).
By far the most entertaining bird encounter was a busy family of Grey Wagtails, with both parents struggling to satisfy the demands of their three recently fledged offspring that were loafing about amongst the waterside vegetation.
The mother brought in beakfuls of mayflies at an impressive rate and just about kept pace with the appetite of two youngsters, whereas the father seemed very inactive and struggled to feed the remaining fledgling. In fact he looked very fluffed-up and sick and I wouldn’t fancy his chances. Maybe this is not surprising given some of the plastic pollution in the river (although despite this picture the river was generally very clean).
The south-east of England is certainly a busy place….even the sky is congested:
But if you have a kayak and can find a little bit of water, you can escape the rush and enjoy your own little world of wildlife and wilderness.