29th October 2011: A ribbon of dense white mist covered the Lower Stour Valley early this morning. This is always an impressive sight when viewed from high-up in Hoo Wood. I watched crows, magpies, pigeons and buzzards emerge from its murky vapours into a bright autumn sunrise, only to see them fade away again as they flew back into the mist.
The marsh vegetation was dripping wet as the heavily water laden mist lifted. I realised later that I should have taken more photographs of what was really a spectacular event. For a short period, as the sunlight began to break through, the water droplets hanging from leaves and other vegetation twinkled as the sunlight refracted through them. I did take a couple of water droplet photographs, but I know I missed a golden opportunity to capture some really dramatic images. Next time I see a mist floating above the marsh, I won’t make the same mistake.
I find it exciting walking along the twin iron pipes from the water works early in the morning – if I have said this before, then I apologise. Badgers, foxes, squirrels, the odd weasel, mink, various birds, and sometimes muntjacs leave their droppings along the top surface of the pipes: an animal’s calling card, if you like. This is one of the few places on the marsh where I can readily see what animals have passed before me. This morning it was fox and badger droppings that threatened to get between the pipes and my boots to put me on my backside in amongst the brambles and stinging nettles. Heavy vegetation grows vigorously in between and to each side of the iron pipes. At a guess, I would put each pipe as being half a meter in diameter and 100 mm apart. Depending on the composition of my boot’s soles, moving along the pipes in wet weather is a very risky business that requires a high level of concentration to avoid my sliding off into the dense bramble and stinging nettle bushes. Rubber soles work best on the wet iron pipes: polyurethane soles are deadly, offering only minimal grip. At the moment, I have 5 pairs of Gortex lined waterproof boots, and I have found four pairs severely lacking in their ability so separate my feet from the wetness of the marsh. I am so disappointed in the modern high-tech boots that I am replacing them with traditional rubber wellingtons and lace-up wellie type boots. At least, the latter can be relied upon to keep the feet dry.
Every so often, I have long dog-rose tendrils to deal with. These are often 25 mm thick, thorn covered, flesh ripping whips that are best avoided at all costs; in darkness, these can prove to be particularly dangerous. They wind their way in and out of the tree and bush branches. Sometimes the tendrils get so long and overbearing that their hosts are unable to support them. They fall unrestrained across the pipes, waiting to embrace and entangle anyone or anything foolish enough to brush past them. The older dog-rose tendrils are hard and tough and the thorns extremely sharp. I carry a folding pruning saw in my pocket to deal with these vicious obstacles; a sharp pocket knife is just not up to the rigours of this job. I mean to say: eventually, you might cut your way through a tendril with a sharp knife, but you could also get ripped to pieces by its thorns in the process. Cutting through dog-rose tendrils is dangerous, they are often highly strung with various latent tension or compression stresses. The free end of this organic spring is likely to lash around all over the place when it is severed and, before it is eventually restrained by the surrounding vegetation, you might find yourself entangled in one of these unpleasant man traps.
The marsh cattle had cleared a fair bit of the tall undergrowth from around North Pond and they have even started working on the swamp. Progress through the north end of the marsh is now much easier. The Shetland cows do seem ready to eat anything green. I watched a well horned cow stripping the leaves from the tree branches around the pond this morning.
Six cormorants arrived on the marsh last week after an absence of six months or so. I am glad to see them back.
There is more marsh-related stuff I could drone on about, but at the risk of boring everyone … another day, perhaps! What goes around comes around repeatedly.
In the slide show below are some of the images I made today on the marsh: