14th October 2011: Yesterday, at 13:45, on an industrial estate at the north end of the marsh, a huge explosion shook the ground. Clouds of thick black smoke rose into the air. Ten fire engines rushed to the site. How many ambulances were at the scene I don’t know, but there were many sirens heard over the next hour. Fortunately – unbelievably I thought – no one was injured.
It was 4 degrees centigrade as I walked along the waterworks pipes this morning. Unlike last week, most squirrels were still abed, but I did hear a couple squabbling in a tree on the other side of the river. I waited behind a bush that offered a reasonable view up and down the pipes. The animals use the pipes as an easy route through the very swampy ground. If I wait long enough, I will see a critter or two. All I saw this morning was a cock pheasant walking towards me. I shot a few images, but he was just too far away, and he knew I was behind the bush, so he wasn’t going to come any closer. After 20 minutes, when nothing else came along, I gave up waiting and made my way towards North Pond.
As I skirted the river side of the pond, I checked the lightening tree for herons sitting on the topmost branches. The herons are always very vigilant, and this tree is one of the best perches on the marsh. If they see any unusual movement, they will fly off in an instant – they don’t wait about to see what is coming along. The only way I have found of fooling them is to wear my Ghillie suit and a face mask, and even then I have to move forward very, very slowly. This morning, though, there was only a crow sitting in the tree.
With nothing worthwhile for me to photograph in the lightening tree, I relaxed a bit and picked-up my walking speed ever so slightly. It takes me four to five hours to walk from one end of the marsh to the other and back again. So with my camera pointing to the ground, I ambled off to the north pasture. No sooner had I relaxed, than a huge heron launched its self from the river with a loud whooshing sound, just over my right shoulder. This is the sort of thing that can put the wind-up a person on dark marsh evening. I had to fight to pull my senses together and raise my camera up to my eye. I did manage to get a few shots off, but my camera settings were completely wrong for this photo opportunity. The images were over exposed and out of focus. It would have been a very good action shot, if I had been able to pull myself together quickly enough. Of course, it would have!
Rare breed cattle are grazing on the north and south pastures. I think this is a new herd. There are five cows at the north end: one being a cute calf and another being a right bellower. At the south end, there are between eight and ten cows: three or four of these being calves. Cattle are not something I have given much thought to on the marsh before. However, these cows are really pleasant and placid animals – easy on the eye. I have met some ill-tempered cattle in my time, and I can’t say that I have ever felt the need to interact with them any more than has been absolutely necessary.
I sat on the riverbank waiting for a kingfisher to fly by this afternoon. I had watched the river for around fifteen minutes when I heard a rustling from behind. I had a quick look, and the cattle had arranged themselves in a semi-circle around me. They too were watching the river. I think these attractive cows will prove good company for me on future cold and lonely evenings. I wonder how long it will be before they are replaced with another herd.
The last couple of evenings I have noticed increased fox activity in Hoo Wood. I can’t help wondering if this has something to do with the cattle being on the north pasture. I guess the cattle are effective mowing and fertilising assets.
It is certainly ‘owl time’ at the moment. There has been much hooting, tooting and screeching from Tawny Owls, Long Eared Owls and a Barn Owl; they were a delight to listen to this evening.