We visited Oare Marshes on the North Kent coast this week.
It was a beautiful day and after a week of thunderstorms and strong winds it was so good to be out walking in the sunshine with just a gentle breeze to ruffle the water.
North Kent was once rich in grazing marsh but this habitat has declined dramatically because of drainage and more intensive farming and Oare Marshes has now been designated an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) in order to protect and conserve what is left of this internationally important wetland.
The reserve is managed by grazing and by controlling water levels to maintain and increase the rich diversity of plant and animal species. Birds we were able to identify included snipe and little egret and it was incredibly exciting to see the very rare bearded tit (thanks to the man with the binoculars) who nest in the reedmace which grows in the water-filled dykes. Other highlights of our morning included the ruddy darter dragonfly and very young cygnets being watched over by their parents.
Out on the open water sailing boats were running ahead of the breeze and we saw the distinctive red sail of a Thames Barge.
All too soon it was time to leave. We were on our way to Canterbury to collect our daughter from her first year at university but we stopped in Faversham, a gem of a market town which lies about a mile inland from Oare, just long enough to buy Kentish potatoes and strawberries and admire some of the many listed buildings.
Our daughter had sat a three-hour exam that morning but was ready and waiting for us with all her worldly goods packed up and ready to load into the car. It seemed only yesterday we had waved goodbye to her at the beginning of her first year. Where have the last eight months gone?
The journey home took less than an hour and after a cup of tea I loaded the washing machine and went down to the allotment to give a few cans of water to the newly transplanted French beans, Borlotti beans and courgettes and to pick salad, asparagus and the first strawberries. I walked down to the meadow to check on the butterflies while eating a few sun-warmed strawberries (very important to quality control the produce before it reaches the kitchen).
It is lovely to have K home (and as an extra surprise our boy came home for one night too). Let summer begin!