Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Rain and Lanes

Above is the reserve this morning, rain to the south and blue skies to the north, a day when you find out if you can still sprint short distances, or in my case, hobble faster.
 The bit of rain that we've had in recent days has had no effect whatsoever on the reserve's current drought and no areas have re-filled as a result. Unfortunately it would take rain in the amounts being currently experienced by those in the North to make a significant difference, but that of course would bring problems of another type. If nothing else however, it has at least wettened the surface of the grazing meadows and hopefully it will encourage the grass to re-grow and green up before the first frosts set in.
Birds still remain in short supply, although I did have a singing Cettis Warbler in willows by the reserve barn as I wandered back, the first for around a year and the first Brent Geese of the winter have begun arriving in The Swale.

 Moving away from the reserve and into Minster, the photos above and below relate to one of two Community Woodlands that were planted around 10-15 years ago.

 They illustrate one of the benefits that can be gleaned from the massive housing developments that are swallowing huge tracts of virgin farmland on the Island at the moment. One development is the mini town that is being built opposite the Sheppey Rugby Club along the Lower Road, the other is at Chequers, on the high ground just past the Island's Water Tower. When both of these developments were proposed and put forward for planning permission, Swale Borough Council at the time fortunately had in their ranks a councillor responsible for Environmental issues who insisted that permission be granted only if some environmental benefit was felt by the community. As a result, the Council insisted that a quite large acreage at both sites had to be set aside and planted up as woodland, this was agreed, thousands of saplings were planted and the result is now two maturing woodlands containing mixed varieties of shrubs and trees. The undergrowth in these woods is allowed to grow long, with just set paths kept mown for public access and mammals, birds and butterflies are colonising the area with great success.

Because the woodland area above borders onto the lane below, it got me thinking about what few, old fashioned lanes that we still have on Sheppey, I could only think of two, or three at a stretch. The one below is Plough Lane, which runs from Eastchurch through to the Chequers Road at Minster, going past the Warden Road, Connetts and Garretts Farms on the way.

 This next one is Elm Lane, part of which that used to be called Stickfast Lane many years ago. Given that it used to be a mud cart track that sometimes flooded, perhaps that's the reason for the secondary name. This is a lovely old lane that runs between the now closed British Queen pub on the Chequers Road and Scocles Road, the one lane on Sheppey that probably looks little different to how it always did so. The section below also follows the bed of the old Sheppey Light Railway line, and was crossed at the corner half way along the lane by it.

The third remaining lane from my youth, is Oak Lane. This began on the opposite side of the main road from the British Queen and the end of Elm Lane and ran very narrowly and prettily north eastwards to end up at the steep cliffs above the sea. At it's seaward end there used to be a tiny pub, not much bigger than a domestic garage, called the Royal Oak, which sadly many years ago disappeared down the ever eroding cliffs. I spent many happy years as a youngster on these cliff tops watching the Sand Martins at their breeding colony in the sandy soil of the cliff face but that colony, like the Royal Oak, are long gone. Oak Lane still retains its old-fashioned narrowness and some hedges but over development each side has seen much of its charm disappear.

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