Well, this never ending winter goes on, this March will almost certainly go down as one of the coldest on record and if the Met Office forecast is accurate, the whole of April could go the same way. I'm still visiting the reserve most mornings but as someone who doesn't enjoy the cold too well, it's not an enjoyable time at the moment, it's simply an endurance test each time. Walking across those exposed marshes at the moment is like being inside a cold store with the blowers on, that bitter cold E wind is unrelenting in it's ability to freeze any piece of exposed flesh. I guess I have the dogs to be thankful for just now because their daily desire for a good walk does at least get me out and about, otherwise I'd probably spend the whole day stuck indoors,wasting my life away. Certainly any decent bird watching has suffered, it's an effort at times to stop in the cold and put the binoculars up. One thing that is obvious though, is the fact that this last week, wildfowl numbers have continued to drop on the reserve by probably 50%, perhaps they've gone south looking for warmer weather! Oh for one of those warm, sunny, May mornings, sitting on the sea wall with spiders spinning webs in the grass alongside me, butterflies flitting by, the constant calls of Redshanks and Lapwings on the marsh in front. Oh for anything but a never ending winter!
It was interesting last night to read the latest posting from a mid-Kent blogger. He announced that his idyllic local patch of woods, hedgerows and small fields is likely to be part destroyed by both the building of a new school and the clearance of a tree nursery. His patch records compiled over the last ten years look likely to be consigned to history. It is another small example of what so many of us in this country are now experiencing, a new development on our doorstep and no matter how big and widespread they are, there is still the clamour for the profits that even more will represent.
Here on Sheppey, developers are currently three quarters of the way through building a new housing estate of many thousands of houses, which when completed will be the size of a small town and it is all taking place on what was virgin farmland on the southern slopes of Minster. Even more worrying is that just across the road from that another similar sized amount of current farmland is also alleged to be owned by developers, and so it goes on.
No matter how wide open the view from our window might be, we should never be so smug as to think, it will never happen here, because there is every possibility that it will. This current government, and I'm one who was foolish enough to vote for them, seems to have a paranoia about seeing undeveloped countryside and just hours after last week's budget a senior Tory minister had a meeting with the heads of most of the construction companies. At that meeting he apparently promised that this current government are now going all out to reduce the red tape that allows local councils to block or delay new housing/shop developments in the countryside. Tomorrow the new National Planning Policy Framework comes into effect and with it a new "presumption in favour of sustainable development". The green light is being well and truly lit for a headlong and unrestricted rush to concrete over much of the countryside and if we think it's bad at the moment, it's due to get a darn sight worse!
As for me, well, outing my own degree of smugness I like to thank heaven for the marshes of Sheppey, at least they're not likely to be built on in my lifetime, no, but there's no reason why a line of giant wind turbines couldn't be erected there! Already sitting on the sea front watching the ships go by has changed there to watching the turbines go round and turbines are regularly rumoured for Harty marshes. If I thank heavens for anything now it's the fact that I'm 65, I've lived on Sheppey through it's best years and I won't live long enough now to see the 12x8 miles housing estate that it's set to become.