Late September on the Marsh         

By Colin Burchett

 

MORNING:

 

Very early in the morning there is a deep red globe in the sky over the sea, it’s the sun rising although it looks more like the planet Mars.  A mist obliterates the cliffs along the coast and just visible are small waves with the white caps gently rolling into land.

 

The power station and the lighthouses are missing – the mist has separated them from the small houses surrounding the area making a completely different panorama to the one we are used to.

 

The breeze from the north is bending the dried grasses on the beach at an angle of 45 degrees.

There is a single seagull flapping its wings as it soars low over the brow of the beach – no, it’s not on its own after all, there is a string of them like a continuous conveyor belt and all heading towards Dungeness perhaps hoping the fishing boats have landed and there will be some fish available.

 

There goes the service engine on the RH & D railway – rattles by the rear of the houses and helps to wake those who are not already appreciating the start of a new day.

 

The rising sun is now glinting on the surface of the lakes and some of the birds are waking, stretching their wings, then burying their heads into the mud looking for breakfast.

 

Already the tractor is out in the field preparing for another ploughing session.

 

Many of the sheep are still lying down in the stubble where they have been left to graze.

 

The early bus, with only a few passengers, makes its way towards Lydd.  Many cars are turning off to the Power station – must be change of shift.

 

It is still quiet though, and makes you feel there is no need to hurry – just enjoy the scenery and know that its good to be alive.

 

This must be our Indian summer.



AFTERNOON:

 

A late September afternoon, the sun still shining but low in the sky.

 

Most of the harvest has been taken in and the farmers have done a lot of their “gardening”.  The fields are ploughed, broken down and harrowed and neatly laid almost to dust waiting to be seeded.  Everywhere you look is flat with only a few trees dotted around in the fields.  A church peers up above a small group of trees, a stack of bales of hay in the corner of a field looking almost like a large house.  There is a field full of plovers, another with gulls and another with wood pigeons.  A flock of starlings occupies another field.  Each breed strangely isolated from another.  All are dusting themselves and searching for food in the very fine soil.  Only small areas are still covered in stubble and green shoots are breaking through where the ground has not yet been disturbed.  Here and there are small fields with the one or two cows or a cow and calf quietly feeding.  The sheep are starting to grow their winter coats and they are mostly lying down chewing.  A variety of horses and donkeys are mixed together with domestic geese and goats as company.  A couple of rabbits hop about staying close to the hedge as this is now the only cover.

 

Two pheasants, one male and one female poke their heads through the hedge by the side of the road unaware that in a month their lives could be in danger.

 

The hawthorns, wild roses and other bushes are laden with red berries – is this a sign of a bad winter to come?  Blackberries are ripe on the brambles on the side of the road, the grass on the verges now almost hay unless it has been cut and with the recent rain turned to green again.  The docks and cow parsley are full of seeds and very brown.  These seeds will soon drop and will regenerate for next year.

 

The trees surrounding the fields and along the ditches and streams are turning to vivid reds and browns and many leaves have already dropped.  Autumn is certainly around the corner and everywhere is very serene and beautiful.  The leaves of the silver birch are showing their underside and offer a complete contrast in colour.  There is only the slightest breeze just moving the branches so the trees are not being forced to completely shed their summer clothes yet.

 

The sky is mainly blue with a wisp or so of clouds and several vapour trails of high flying jet liners taking and returning people to and from holidays across the continent. A lone small aircraft lifts off from Lydd airport and heads towards London.  Why go away when there is such beauty around us?

 

Getting nearer to the coast there is a sea mist but across the nature reserve, on the quarry lakes, there are still many varied water birds – a few geese that have not yet left our shores, swans, ducks, several different sea birds such as cormorants, terns and larger gulls.  There is only the slightest of ripples as there is no wind.

 

Sadly there are also many unfortunately inquisitive hedgehogs and even a fox and badger who have not managed to cross the roads.

 

On the sea, not too far from the beach there are a few small fishing boats attempting to earn a living and away across on the horizon, before being obliterated by the mist, there is a yacht in full regalia – there must be more wind out to sea than close to shore.  The cliffs of Folkestone are only just visible where being touched by streaks of sun.

 

As the evening draws in the sun sets in the west and leaves the sky with heavy crimson coloured clouds.  Shadows of pylons and telegraph poles lay across the pebbles on the nature reserve.  Those trees that are without leaves stand starkly on the horizon like guardians to our private part of the world.



NIGHT:

 

In the dusk there is a skein of geese, twentyfive to thirty of them, flying in echelon formation towards the quarry lakes.  The leader about one necks length from his number two on the right and so on all down the line. 

 

There are ten tractors, all with lights on, working in one field, the first ploughs, the next following in the furrow of the first to cultivate, then another to harrow, and so on so that they can get a complete very large field tilled and ready for seeding all in one day.

 

After the sun has set an eeriness envelops the area.

 

The power station is lit up like a battleship and the quarry lake is so calm that the reflection makes it look like a fairy castle.

 

One or two nocturnal creatures venture out  - a fox runs across the road and patrols the beach.  Another fox stands close to the rear of the houses, still and watching, any movement and it is off in a flash.

 

The wind begins to build up and there is a distinct howl through the power cables and telephone wires.  Time to batten down the hatches as the wind is capable of finding any nook and cranny in the windows and doors making strange and unusual sounds.  There is now no mist so the moon reflects patches of silver in the sea and the lights on the fishing boats bob up and down.

 

Street lights along the coast and cliffs now show very clearly.  Even a lighthouse on the French coast is visible, its light flashing in opposition to our own which flashes at regular intervals and in the night when the mist rises again it is joined by the foghorn which gives a gentle moan throughout the night.  Very comforting!

 

There is no  better place to live than on the Romney Marshes!


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