Wild geese

I went along to the Swale yesterday — on the Kent side of the Thames estuary — on what turned out to be a startlingly warm day, for February. Bare arm weather! And very nice it was too, to have several hours of uninterrupted warm sunshine.

Spring was breaking out all over: loads of skylarks all over the place singing their hearts out, my first singing chiffchaff of the spring, my first butterfly of the year (a peacock), a great big bumblebee, and less appealingly, clouds of black midges.

But the overwintering seabirds were still there; big flocks of lapwing, curlew, golden plover, avocet, and most spectacularly, brent geese:

This is the kind of place that George Osborne was referring to in his Autumn Statement when he said “we will make sure that gold plating of EU rules on things like habitats aren’t placing ridiculous costs on British businesses”.

I can only assume the Treasury has a rule of thumb that, if conservation is actually working, it must mean we’re trying too hard.

It’s not just the wildlife itself which I think has value: it’s the fact that there is a place so near to London which actually feels a bit wild, a place where a person can feel small in Nature.

That wildness is a bit of an illusion; it’s a landscape gridded with seawalls, groynes and drainage ditches, all there to keep the sea and land decorously separate.

It must have been an amazing place in its truly natural state: a shifting, complex landscape of mudflats, saltmarsh, reedbeds, lakes, wet woodland, changing with the seasons and the tides. A wetland to compare with any in the world.

That landscape is lost forever. But at least we can try to hang on to what we have left. Not just as a refuge for the geese, so they can take a break from the Siberia tundra, but as a place where people like me can take a break from London.

2 Comments

  1. 24 February 2012 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    let them be left, wildness and wet…

    Birds make use of our constructions and artifices where they can too, though it’s a fact that all the mediaeval hunting and trapping of and gorging on wildfowl made little difference to their populations compared with the destruction of habitats in more modern times.

    Back in the autumn I caught a shot of a solitary Brent goose in a cove near a resort up the coast from us in Brittany, the area which big agribusiness threatens to wreck further with nitrate pollution, and Sarkozy dubs the people who protest at it ‘eco-terrorists’.

    These are lovely pictures and video; estuarine places and birds have a special magic.

  2. Harry
    25 February 2012 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    They certainly do.

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  1. […] there’s a whole system of drainage ditches and embankments to keep the sea out — but it certainly feels wilder than most of the space around London, and it’s important for […]

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