Friday, 14 May 2010

Shellness - The Sheppey one

Earlier this morning while the weather was unexpectantly warm and sunny, (its briefly showering rain as I write this), I decided to drive down to Shellness Hamlet and record what breeding birds that there were there as part of the reserve's annual breeding census - 5 pairs of Ringed Plover and a Pair of Mipits.

Despite driving a 4x4 I have to say that the unmade track leading down to the Hamlet must be one of the worst bits of track to drive along In Kent. I wouldn't want to drive it if I had false teeth, you'd never keep them in! Until recently I used to walk out to there from the centre of the main reserve but these days with arthritic feet and the boringness of the stretch along the seawall to get there, its easier to occasionally drive there.

Anyway, the tide was full out and so on-shore bird life was very limited and apart from the Ringed Plovers there was little else of note except a few pairs of Oystercatchers, some Dunlin in summer plumage and no Little Terns were seem or heard. Having said that, in the early morning sun and with little wind, it was a lovely spot to be sat at, it can have such serenity.
The Hamlet too was at peace and I checked for any sign of returning House Martins but there were none, last year was the first year that they haven't nested there for very many years. The Hamlet and its buildings has grown to more or less full capacity over the last 10 years or so and its strange to believe that just before the First World it was no more than a few Coastguard Cottages, which were empty, unused and becoming derelict at that. However, with the laying out of the nearby Aero Club grounds and Shorts Bros. areoplane factory at Muswell Manor in 1909, many of the old Cottages became occupied by Members of the Aero Club and the Hamlet gradually developed into what it is now. I recall that in the 1960's when I worked on the seawalls around it, it still had the air of mystery and gossip about it, and was certainly used by reclusive and wealthy people in the summer, who lived abroad in the winter. Unlike today, few members of the public ventured out that far and so imagination simply ran riot about who actually lived there and what they got up to and in recent times this has been added to by the opening of a nudist beach close by, although the two are not connected. Throw in a few sheep and the necessary wearing of wellington boots and the eastern end of Sheppey is not for the faint-hearted!

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