An early morning visit to the reserve today allowed me to experience everything that is good about May, easily my favourite month of the year - the gateway month to summer.
Just the drive along the Harty Road made it all worthwhile. The first section, closely bordered by tall hedges of white-flowered hawthorn, and then suddenly bursting out onto the crest of Capel Hill, with sheep grazed fields either side of the descending road and below you corn fields of dark green, alongside the vivid yellow of rape. I just love the intensity of the rape in flower and even on a dull day it still seems to reflect a brightness upwards, as though the sky had turned upside down.
Pulling up at the reserve's barn I was amazed to see three varieties of butterfly in the space of a few minutes. Firstly a pristine Small Copper alighted on the track, then two Orange Tips flew rapidly across one of the grazing fields and lastly, in some of the taller grass, the first Small Heath of the year was fluttering around. When butterflies start appearing like that and the weather is so warm early in the morning, you just know that summer has arived. At last as well, the grass is starting to grow quite quickly on the marsh and the grazing is starting to take on that lush look, much enjoyed I would imagine by a small herd of lovely Devon cattle that are lightly grazing it.
Sitting on top of one of the old salt workings mounds, soaking up the sun, watching the cattle and being serenaded by Skylarks and the buzzing of bees, its hard not get romantic about just about everything on days like that.
I had the opportunity the other day to look around a small piece of farmland on the edge of Minster that hasn't really changed much in the last century or so. Its only a collection of small meadows that run across to the highest point of Minster cliffs but the fields and their hedges and trees have a lot of old-time character that has been lost over a lot of Sheppey. Fortunately they have just been bought by a neighbouring farmer who farms very sympathetically towards nature and whose family in my opinion, own one of the prettiest farms on Sheppey, Tadwell Farm at Elm Lane. I hope to make more visits to the new purchase because there was certainly plenty of wildlife to see when I was there the other day.