Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Back to Reality

Well, after spending a bit of time in the past, it's now time to fast forward fifty years and rejoin current life for a time. Last Sunday, Di and I attended a midday event at the Elmley barn whereby a very large number of friends and colleagues of the late Steve Gordon had gathered to celebrate and remember Steve's life. Steve, who was far too young when he died last December from the effects of a brain tumour, had lived on Elmley for around thirty years and had been for many years the much respected and loved farm/reserve manager there.
The photos below don't do justice to the large number of people that attended on Sunday and the car park there was overflowing, although one of his friends got round that problem by arriving in his own biplane and landing it alongside the barn, that was pretty cool.

It was an extremely pleasant couple of hours and it was astonishing to realise just how many people that Steve had befriended and been loved by, from all corners of Britain and Europe, and he has been greatly missed over the last few months. Personally, it was great to meet so many people that I had known for years but not seen for a number of them and to talk about both Steve and where we are at in our own lives these days. I first met Steve in the early 1980's when he joined a badminton club in Sheerness that I played at and we played there for a few years. I also met him occasionally at Elmley in those days, when I was out there on my weekly rabbit and eel catching forays. Those were the days when the staff at Elmley were a colourful bunch of guys who farmed hard and drank hard, mostly on large quantities of home-made beer of dubious quality! In a lot of ways they carried on a lot of the old-fashioned and historical ways of Elmley and in doing so it meant that transition to a fully fledged nature reserve only happened gradually and smoothly.
In recent years, as Steve became responsible for the Swale NNR as well as Elmley, then we saw each other and co-operated a lot more and it was then that his remakable qualities really came to the fore.
Huge thanks must go to Philip Merricks and his family for making both this the event and the Elmley NNR possible.

Moving on to The Swale NNR, and May, like April this year, has been a pretty cool and dry affair with really warm and sunny days very few and far between. But at last, the grass has begun growing well now and both the small cattle herds and wildlife are enjoying the benefits.

The down side are that water levels are still dropping too fast as can be seen by the pale tide-line at the base of the Delph reed beds..............

...........and the fact that several of the shallow rills created across the grazing marsh to provide wet and muddy areas and insect life for plover chicks, have now dried up.

But it's not all doom and gloom, latest Lapwing breeding counts are showing a reasonable number of hatched chicks after a cold and dry start and there is the potential to better last year's number of fledged chicks. There are also more duck and geese young being seen, the Avocets have done well and are now dispersing their chicks away from the main breeding site and Yellow Wagtail pairs are currently up. A bit more regular warmth and no winds are now what is needed.

The track through the farmland spinney onto the reserve is now looking well overgrown on each side, making it attractive at the moment to both Whitethroats and the odd pair of Sedge Warblers and a Blackcap.

And amid all that vegetation is one large clump of Comfrey, giving much sustenance to both bees and other insects. May as always, is one of the best months to be out and about in the countryside.

And one last thing. Across the road from me is a short terrace of old houses with traditional chimneys and their pots, home for many, many years to breeding Jackdaws. I'm always fascinated when watching the birds drop down the chimney pots to their nests inside as to how they always pop back out just as easily. The pots are 2-3 feet deep, with smooth sides and of a width that doesn't allow the birds wings to fully open out - so how do they do it - it's a mystery to me.


  1. Nice post, Derek. You still managed to work in some (recent) history!

    1. Thanks Wilma, history is always more interesting than the future.