Monday, 15 November 2010
After raining all day yesterday it promptly froze overnight making even getting a frozen car door open difficult. This was also the case when I arrived at the reserve, I had to spray de-icer into the entry gate lock before I could get the key to turn.
The sun hadn't yet appeared from behind some low cloud and the scene above greeted me as I stepped through the 5-bar gate and onto the marsh. (Double click the photo to enlarge it and it looks almost lunar like)
Further round the reserve, just as the sun started to appear, it began to light up the tiny Harty Church, across a frozen field of rape. It sits all on its own alongside a farmhouse and barn and has great views down onto The Swale below.
Enlarge the photo below and you see part of the Greylag Geese flock that are pretty much resident on the reserve, peak counts total around 400 birds. Generally they leave the reserve pre-dawn and go out to the neighbouring farmland for an hour or two before returning in several noisy and spectacular skeins, to spend most of the day roosting in this same spot. Just behind them you can see a couple of small bushes on top of the seawall, behind which the wildfowlers wait and hope to shoot a few. In the summer when several pairs have bred, they form large creches of goslings that sometimes have just a couple of adults looking after them.
Later as I walked back across the reserve it is plain to see that the sun had done a good job of thawing the frost and this photo shows one of several old Salt Workings mounds that there are on the otherwise flat marsh. I have never been able to find out exactly what function that these mounds had in the process of producing the salt. Obviously a few centuries ago, before the seawall was built, these grazing fields would of been little more than saltings that were regularly covered by high tides.
I imagine that once salt water was trapped after one of these tides then it was simply a matter of letting it evaporate in order to leave behind its salt content as you see in various salt pans when abroad. Possibly these mounds are the spoil from creating these flooded pans, although there is no evidence these days around the mounds of any such depressions nearby. On maps of Sheppey there are numerous of these "salt workings" marked across the marshes and in more recent times they have also served as livestock saviours on the odd occasion that the sea has breached the seawall and flooded the marshes.