Saturday - cold and blustery - Kearsney Abbey - We were on grandparent duty today so decided to spend the morning at what was a new location for us. After picking up the little fella in Folkestone we drove to Dover along the scenic Alkham Valley, a classic dry downland valley with sheep-grazed lynchets, Buzzards overhead and the roadside banks on the sunny side smothered in Primroses and Snowdrops.
Kearsney Abbey, on the outskirts of Dover, is something of a misnomer as there is no abbey, set as it is on the site of an old merchant bankers manor house from the 1820`s. There are, however, plenty of splendid old trees set in a traditional Victorian style parkland with lakes and the River Dour flowing through. The park was dog-friendly, so Barney tagged along, and it had the usual accompaniments of kids play area, follies and a tea room that, incidentally, sold a damn fine mug of hot chocolate; the car park was also free, a rare event these days.
Birdwise it was your typical town parkland fare with loads of common wildfowl (including a dodgy Pintail) and gulls on the lakes which were duly checked, being mostly Black-headed with a few Herring and Common Gulls thrown in. Probably the best birds were a Grey Wagtail at the far end of the park, where water babbled up from an aquifer amongst a tangle of tree roots, and a singing Goldcrest in conifers by the main lake. Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Mistle Thrush were also in song and I counted 64 Moorhens feeding on the lawns, with more on the water totalling at least 110 birds; I can`t recall the last time I saw so many Moorhens in one place...
So, what did the Victorians ever do for us - forget the Empire, Brunel, Darwin, Dickens and all that, how about town parks? I have the greatest admiration for town planners of yesteryear as all over the country they laid out these fantastic open spaces for Joe public to enjoy - and this little 10 acre gem is no different, as it is stuffed full to the gunnels with some marvellous trees.
Some of the older specimens, such as a spectacular and ancient Cedar of Lebanon, and one or two of the Yews and Oaks have been here for hundreds of years, but the Victorians retained them and added a variety of native and exotic species to complement and contrast; the avenue of Limes on the hillside and an Indian Bean tree in the cark park being typical examples. There is also a rare Lucombe Oak somewhere in the park which I failed to locate.
It always saddens me a little to think that these former landscapers and tree-planters never saw the full fruits of their labours, but we can, so a silent thank you to the visionaries of yesteryear whoever you were for a job well done.
Sunday - Lade - cold and blustery - It was back to the treeless, shingle wastes of the local patch this morning where the Shoveler flock topped out at 124 and a Great White Egret lurked in the main reedbed. I couldn't find the wintering Slavonian Grebe, but it too was probably also tucked away in the reeds.