Page 1

For the Medway Swale Estuary and north Kent marshes

News and features

2015 FREE

Welcome This issue of the Mudlark marks the start of what will be now be an annual publication. As a result, in order for the magazine to remain current throughout the next 12 months, the events listings and some news items, will now only be published online. Hopefully though, given the magazine’s increased number of pages and lengthier articles, it will continue to be a useful and stimulating read. In this issue we cover everything from making your garden friendlier to bees to a day in the life of artist Paul Fowler, known for his evocative paintings of the north Kent marshes. Have a wonderful year

Mudlark is published by: Medway Swale Estuary Partnership, 3 Lock Cottages, Lock Lane, Maidstone, Kent ME14 3AU. Phone: 01622 768573 MedwaySwaleEP Email: Visit: The views expressed in the articles in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the partnership. The partnership acknowledges the financial assistance of:

Kent Wildfowling and Conservation Association

Follow the MSEP on Twitter

@MedwaySwaleEP to get the latest news and more.

G9212 Designed by Medway Council’s Communications Team.

The Medway Swale Estuary Partnership is a not-for-profit organisation established in 2000, whose work is centred on the sustainable management of the estuary’s natural and historical environment and increasing knowledge of the estuary through research, publications and public activities.

Cover image: Robert Canis

Alan Jarrett, MSEP Chairman

MSEP news Delivering the catchment based approach across north Kent What is the Catchment Based Approach (CaBA)? In March 2011, the government announced that it would fundamentally review its river basin planning strategy in the context of the European Water Framework Directive (WFD). As part of this review, Defra launched its pilot phase of the Catchment Based Approach, aimed at providing a clear understanding of the issues in a catchment and to involve local communities in the decision-making process. For north Kent, this work is being undertaken by the North Kent Catchment Improvement Group, hosted by the Medway Swale Estuary Partnership and the South East Rivers Trust. Over the last two years, the group has collected data from across the area, in order to develop two draft action plans (one for the Medway Swale Estuary and one for its freshwater tributaries). Getting involved Comment on the draft action plans. If you would like to receive a copy of either or both of the plans, email the MSEP at: the closing date for comments is 31 October 2015. Volunteer. Many of the actions identified so far, require volunteer assistance. If you would like to help us improve the estuary or any of the watercourses highlighted on the would love to here from you at the above email address. map below, then we T Isle of Grain

Hoo St Werburgh

Sheerness Minster



Rochester Gillingham Chatham

Leysdown on Sea

Isle of Sheppey

Strood Lower 1 Halstow


Iwade = tributary = freshwater project area








4 M2



News Making a Buzz for the Coast - Sam Page, BCT Did you know that Medway and Swale is home to some of our rarest bumblebees? The shrill carder bee is now only found in seven locations across southern England and Wales, making it one of the rarest and most threatened species in the UK. With help from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust is developing an exciting new project – Making a Buzz for the Coast. The project aims to work with communities along the Kent coast to encourage local people to do something positive to help bumblebees and other pollinators – whether by planting bee-friendly flowers in your garden, helping to monitor bumblebee populations, or organising a local event or activity to raise awareness of the plight of our bees. There will be lots of opportunities to get involved and we are keen to work with all members of the community including local schools and community groups. We’d also like your ideas on how to best deliver the project and spread the buzz. So if you’re interested in getting involved, either through volunteering or by feeding in your ideas, then please get in touch: phone 07780 931114. Coastal kiln - Imogen Noble, Artist Black seaweed washed up on the shore is not something most people want to take home in quantities. I regularly go on foraging walks along the Kent coast looking for just that. Not the frothy beige stuff, or the cabbagy cream stuff, but proper crunchy bladderwrack, preferably dry and minus feathers and plastic. I’m not going to eat the black stuff, or put it on my garden, I’m going to wrap it round my pots and put it in my kiln. I am a ceramicist based on the Kent coast and I have developed a firing technique that uses seaweed instead of glazes. In the high temperatures of the kiln, the rich and complex molecular formula of the salt laden seaweed interacts with the similarly rich and complex formula of the clay to create surface colours and textures that speaks to me directly of geological processes, acknowledging the origins of the clay that the pots are made from, and echoing the chaos of the Earth’s mantle. The resulting pots look thoroughly ‘fired’. In November 2015, I will be showing new works onboard LV21, Light Vessel moored at Gillingham pier. I will run accompanying public workshops and foraging walks. Details at

News Environment Agency plans to reduce the risk of flooding in the Medway Estuary and Swale Over the coming years, sea defences, climate change and sea level rise, will all increase the risk of tidal and coastal flooding and erosion around the estuary. Throughout the summer of 2015, the Environment Agency will be working closely with partners and local communities to develop outline plans for flood defence schemes, which will help to protect people and property from the devastating effects of flooding over the next 100 years. To find out more, get involved or sign up to an email updates, email or visit: medway-estuary-and-swale-flood-andcoastal-risk-management-strategy The importance of soil 2015 has been declared the International Year of Soils by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in order to raise awareness of its importance. Find out more at To celebraate here are a few soil facts, courtesy of Over 95 per cent of our food comes from the soil. The quality of soil influences the quality of food, especially in relation to the content of important trace elements, such as selenium and zinc, and arguably also in relation to taste. A spoonful of healthy soil can contain more living organisms than there are people on the planet. Soil is a mixture of minerals from rocks (45 per cent), organic matter derived from decaying plant and animal material, plus the tiny living creatures in the soil (5 per cent) – along with air (25 per cent) and water (25 per cent). It takes approximately 500 years for one inch of soil to form. Soils still contain more carbon than the atmosphere and all the world’s forests combined. Soil is one of our key defences against climate change because of this. The healthier the soil, the more carbon it holds. Soil organic matter is about 50 per cent carbon. Humus is dark, stable, organic matter in healthy soils. Each gram of humus can hold twenty times its own weight of water, allowing soils with high organic matter to act as a sponge to soak up heavy rain and continue to provide moisture for crops during dry conditions.



What choice does nature have? - Rolf Williams So, the election; how did you vote? The same as last time? Probably. When you go shopping, the same super store? When you do your weekly shop do you walk the aisles in the same sequence and, when you get to the till, is 80 to 90 per cent of what is in your trolley, the same? Admit it, you are a creature of habit. Change, and sudden change in particular, does not come easily. Your landlord says he is selling-up and you need to move in two months, “eek”, calamity. We orchestrate our lives to minimise the rate of change as much as possible. We take comfort in the familiar, familiarity not because we have experienced it once before, but because we have experienced it as the background to our lives for a comfortably long time. Things unchanging, is a defining characteristic of a home and our nation, we pride ourselves on centuries of ancient architecture. However, one of the fundamental reasons why we are so content with some things remaining unchanged is because it is still very much our choice. As soon as anyone tries to take away our right to choose what we want, even if we choose the same, we will protest, riot, even go to war over it. If, despite all of that, life’s circumstances force us to change, we then have it in us, albeit reluctantly and not without an amount of pain, to go ahead and change. When we look at nature, those creatures that are able to adapt to sudden change are successful, and very often because they are also quite a bit smarter than their fellows. The magpie, the fox, the crow, alligator and crocodiles are all smarter than your average bear, although bears are moving with the times also. They tend to take advantage of the changes we have hoisted upon them and then, in our eyes, become a nuisance; but these animals are the minority. Most of nature does not have a choice, if change comes too quickly and what it was used to is gone, species have no sense of choice to exercise, and they are extinct before you know it; not least, because choosing another way is not an option - that other way of life is occupied by another species, there just isn’t the opportunity. Along with our aversion to change, another human trait appears to be anthropomorphism, projecting a human outlook and values onto domestic and wild creatures. A pet does well out of this, lots of affection and treats, and why not, you are the leader of the pack or at least a provider of most if not all of its needs. Back to the election, did you vote? People will give you a hard time if you did not exercise your hard-fought-for right to vote. We enjoy giving politicians short shrift, but


they do put themselves in unenviable positions taking on the running of our society (at least they’re up for the responsibility). I fear that being a politician demands that you are also a jack-of-all-trades, because your constituents will be coming to you from all angles expecting action and solutions. When it comes to the environment, the human luxury of choice and eagerness to transpose our values onto nature becomes a lethal concoction. With no real understanding of the behaviour of species, ecosystems and biodiversity it is all too easy to expect nature to up-sticks and shift when we, the landlords of their habitat, decide to do something else with it. We expect nature to be as flexible as we have to be when there are difficult choices to be made, and that just is not how it works. Consequently, the WWF’s most conservative estimate of the rate of global extinction is 1,000 times greater than what would be described as natural. That extinction is happening in your back garden, not just in the rainforests or the oceans, and it matters just as much. Consequently, whomever you voted for, it is time to make sure that your politician understands as much as they need to given that north Kent is home to some nationally and internationally important ecosystems and a rich diversity of species associated with them. There is a simple test, the next time you hear a councillor or MP saying that “we can move the wildlife and create a new home for it some-where else because people have to come first”, they have failed that test. It is a lazy, selfish, irresponsible choice of thinking that has become something of a habit. Understanding the science behind these issues demands proper attention and not political sound bites. The Aborigines know all about this, they are removed from the land along with the wildlife for what are considered greater human interests; their society survived 40,000 living sustainably with the land. The Aborigines say, “We do not own the land, the land owns us.” I think it is time we all started thinking that way… but the choice is yours.


GIFT-T! Introduction GIFT-T! (Green Infrastructure For Tomorrow – Together!) was a four year transnational project designed to bring together local communities and businesses, through the development of bottom-up planning tools, that can help deliver sustainable and robust green infrastructure* (GI) across their local environment. The project started in September 2011 and consisted of five case study areas across north west Europe, including the Hoo Peninsula. A key output of the overall project is an online guide (the manual) to the bottom-up approach to the planning of green infrastructure. GIFT-T! on the Hoo Peninsula The first stage of the project on the Hoo peninsula involved two public group discussions, a series of interviews with stakeholders, and focus groups with local school children and young people, in order to identify a broad vision for the area’s Green Infrastructure and top level goals for the GI Business Plan. The project developed over 70 maps showing Landscape Service delivery across the peninsula, providing a valuable resource when thinking about future landscape changes. But statistics can only tell us so much. GIFT-T! has also been talking to lots of different people – residents, farmers, businesses, politicians, environmental groups and people from a wide range of organisations – to help define a positive Vision for the future of Hoo Peninsula, in terms of improved green and blue spaces. Five targeted youth conversations took place – the results of which are embedded in the business plan. The two common messages from the GIFT-T! Community Conversations, youth meetings and face to face interviews were: “There is a need to make the Peninsula better known, and make it more attractive to visitors.” and “I want to be proud of Grain, not embarrassed by where I live.” Transforming the quality of the Hoo environment is never going to be achieved through just one project, by one partner or from one budget. Delivering a more sustainable and healthier Hoo Peninsula will require concentrated, coordinated, proactive plan informed by local input and needs, and delivered by a broad partnership of local and regional interests.


What can GIFT-T! bring to the peninsula? Communities • Positive examples of how communities can improve the quality of their environment, working together with businesses and administrative bodies. • Insight into how green infrastructure can strengthen both the local community and economy. • Tools to enable you go through this process in your area. Businesses • Examples of how green infrastructure can deliver value for businesses, and strengthen the embedding of businesses in local communities and the environment. • Insight in how businesses can be more sustainable by using and planning green infrastructure. • Tools to enable your business to go through this process. Policymakers • Examples of how local communities, businesses and administrative bodies can contribute to the implementation of the Water Framework Directive, Habitats and Birds Directives, EU Biodiversity Strategy and the Lisbon and Gothenburg Strategies, to grow prosperity within the context of sustainability. • Examples of how communities, business and administrative bodies can jointly improve their green infrastructure, for their own needs. • Insights and recommendations on the incentives and conditions required to enable communities, business and administrative bodies to jointly improve the green infrastructure. Read the business plan at: or watch the short film on Youtube (search for Spaghetti Weston and GIFT-T!). You can find out more about the wider project at: *Green infrastructure is a term used to describe networks of natural features, that provide benefits (ecosystem services) to people and communities.

Escape to an Island

Writer Carol Donaldson interviews artist Stephen Turner

Stephen Turner greets me at the door of his studio tucked away in Chatham Dockyard. We climb the stairs and walk through the airy rooms, past a series of intriguing objects; a copper distiller which he used to boil down flower essences for 2012’s Urban Fringe project, a huge canvas of a tree ring, painted using ground up tree bark, a table full of goose feathers, collected during his recent stay on the Exbury River where he spent 365 days living in a wooden egg observing life on a tidal creek. We perch on chairs in his office and, in his softly spoken voice, Stephen tells me about his love affair with the Medway estuary. It was 1998 when Stephen first officially stayed on Hoo Ness Island, but the truth was he had been visiting the islands for years, sailing across in a dingy he had bought from a clearance sail at the dockyard and camping under the radar. “I was looking for an escape to an island,” Stephen says. “I had seen a book at a boot fair called ‘Escape to an Island’ and thought, it’s a sign.” He had always been drawn to isolated spaces. As a small boy he had created a den in some derelict buildings down the end of the road. “A retreat is important to me,” He says. “I look for somewhere you can choose whether to be social or not.” However, in 1998 Stephen received a grant from the local authority (then Gillingham Borough Council) and South East Arts, to stay on the island for a longer period and work on large canvases for an exhibition called Tide and Change. “I knew I couldn’t trespass when I was using public money to fund my work, so I asked Medway Ports, who managed the island for permission to stay.” They refused. Undeterred, Stephen approached the man who had a waste disposal licence for tipping gravel on the island and asked if he could employ him for no wages. In this way Stephen became the official night watchman and could spend weeks on the island, pegging out canvases and letting the tide wash over them leaving behind its mark.

Portrait in Studio 2010 © Julie Turner



I ask why Hoo Island? “There is a lot of talk nowadays about deep engagement with the countryside,” he says, “but this is what I have with Hoo. I believe you can love places like you can love people and I love this island. I felt a great responsibility to care for and protect it.” Specifically it is the, “time evident in the landscape,” that he tells me he loves. “I’m drawn to places where people have been, but are not there anymore. ”These places, Stephen says, remind him of the transience of human life. He carries on his travels a copy of a painting by Gauguin. It is not the painting he loves but the title of it. ‘Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?’ He likes to think of this while living in places where people have been and are now not. I tell Stephen of my own experience of staying on Darnet Island on Midsummer’s Eve. I had gone looking for solitude too, but the place was busier than Piccadilly Circus, with boats and hovercraft landing and the island covered in the litter left behind by thoughtless campers. I had gone there looking for a wilderness experience and instead fellow campers had offered to whizz me into Gillingham on their hovercraft to pick up a takeaway. I ask Stephen if he thinks there is too much access to the estuary these days and do artists, film makers, writers have some responsibility for that. Stephen agrees that the act of telling others about remote places initiates change.

“Besides,” Stephen says. “Access to the river isn’t new, people have always used the river. The difference is that it’s more of an invasion now. Before the people who came were local, they came because they were part of a natural cycle, their parents had shown them the way to walk there at low water. Now everyone seems to zip about at will on noisy jet skis that so disturb the peace of the place for other people and for wildlife.”

Hoo Island Selfie 1994 © Stephen Turner

“But the fact that you’re there means that change is happening anyway.” He says. “At least you are recording how it was and the more people that think somewhere is wonderful the safer it will be.”


I tell him about the people who had offered to get me a takeaway during my stay on Darnet. “That is what I mean.” Stephen says. “Now we have a society of convenience, everything is within reach and is easily available. If you go to Darnet it ought to be special. Before you could only go there at high water, you had to work with the tide. You had to work at its speed. It made you pay your respects to where you were. If you can now go off to Gillingham for a beer in the evening then what are you there for? It’s like John Ruskin said, it is seeing but not looking or understanding. This is why I like to go to remote places with few conveniences so I can reflect on other ways of living.” Stephen said. “When you come back from somewhere remote it makes you more aware of the world.” Before I leave I ask Stephen what he feels will happen with the estuary in the future. “I would like a manifesto, so we can all decide on what future we want for the river. The economic argument is not the only argument worth making.” He emphasises that he is not against economic prosperity, “we need it in order to sustain a decent standard of living,” but he feels it has become unbalanced.

Watching a Canvas Emerge, Motney Hill, May 2011 © Steve Mace

“People need to appreciate that this area is a wilderness. People have always lived here but it has been taken back by nature. There is nothing else in the south east quite like it and it needs to be protected.”

Walking to work Paul Fowler


“Dawn on Northward Hill. I park the car, switch off the engine and sit, like a poacher about to sneak into the wood. As darkness lifts the hill contracts in the half light and I begin assembling my usual artists baggage. Walking bleary eyed from the car park I make my way upwards through the trees, early blackthorn blossom ghosting the path ahead. I have to resist the temptation to carry too much gear, unless I know in advance that I want to commit to a single painting and can then settle in one spot for the day. If I’m just walking I’ll limit myself to a sketchbook, a drawing board, and whatever comfortably fits in the back of a rucksack in terms of paint and brushes. Today I’ll spend the morning here, then head out on the Saxon Shore Way to finish at St Mary’s Church, Lower Higham. Unseen creatures scatter as I trudge on. As I reach the crown of the hill, a tangle of mature oaks, an almost full moon is setting, caught in a basketwork of branches, whilst below and to the north the lights of the Thames Estuary are strung out along the horizon. I stand and listen to the dawn chorus. A vast avian orchestra tuning up for the day, scales ascending and descending throughout the wood. The sky lightens, and to a background of woodpeckers’ distant drilling I set up amongst the oaks, pencil and charcoal tracing the hypnotic weave of branch, limb and bole. Some lower branches thrust out at impossible angles, as thick as the trunk. When working outside I generally begin by making lots of drawings, in pencil or charcoal, to feel my way into the landscape through structure, form and tone - sketching rapidly and instinctively, without being too precious or inhibited. At some point this process becomes more involved and you begin to commit to the image, seeing and working more intensely. If I’m using paint I try to work quite ‘dry’ - wether watercolour, gouache or acrylic, it doesn’t help to have to wait for things to dry if you’re moving on. Today, with plenty of walking to do, I’m making lots of fairly quick drawings, with the intention of working some into paintings in the studio. I’m carrying a sketchbook, loose paper clipped to a drawing board and one sheet of stretched watercolour paper, if time allows for painting.

Under the oak trees

Dawn to dusk on the Saxon Shore Way, an artists journey

Heading out of the trees on the lower slope of the hill I pass vivid spears of bluebells, some already flowering, which are joined by celandine, primroses and dog violets. I stop at the viewpoint, the farther shore of the Thames in sudden sunlight. From here to the river lies a low, level expanse of wet grazing marsh, sectioned by fleets and drainage ditches, providing an environment vital to the biodiversity of the reserve. On the information board, however, is a sobering reminder of a very different potential future, had Cliffe Airport been given the go ahead: “Northward Hill would have been bulldozed flat and the earth built up on the marshes in a layer fifty feet thick..” Thousands of protected birds would have been the target of “aggressive deterrent measures” and this unique habitat lost for good. Almost impossible to think of it standing here, watching my first heron of the day over Whalebone Marshes, then another, big wings beating above me, blotting the sun for an instant. A pair of marsh harriers, each one a shallow ‘v’, held by the midday heat as they quarter the reed beds. As I skirt the base of the hill I disturb a kingfisher, a blue flare at the edge of sight that skims the grass in a long loop to disappear back under overhanging branches. Leaving Northward I pick up the footpath and follow it along the Cooling road, passing fine tilthed, freshly sown fields. I pause at St James Church, made famous by the opening chapter of Great Expectations. This morning has been blue skied and bucolic, but Dickens described it thus: “..the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low, leaden line beyond was the river..” A tranquil spot for some lunch in the shade of the trees before I carry on, past the gatehouse of Cooling Castle then cross country till I reach Cliffe Pools, a skylark ahead of me singing encouragement. Lapwings and Redshanks crowd the waters edge. The broadening Thames ahead of me cools the air. Past the Fort and then to Higham Creek, where rotting jetty timbers poke snaggle toothed out of the water and the wreck of the Hans Egede tilts forlornly in the Thames’ oozing mud. I enjoy this bleakness, the

Clouds build over the Thames, Higham Marsh



sense of being at the edge of things, at the mercy of tide and flood, sea-wrack and ruin. Big skies here, and broader marks on the paper too. Light catches water wherever the clouds break. A heron lifts out of nowhere and at the edge of a field stands a solitary, nodding snakeshead fritillary, the first I’ve seen for a long time. From here to St Mary’s is a foot drenching experience - I squelch through a sodden field underneath the cable buzz of the pylons. The church spire peeps above treetops as I cross the railway line, a welcome sight with wet feet. Even before I get there I’m thinking ahead to the paintings that will be the result of these walks, my memory seeded with images and ideas for future works. Following on from a previous project these drawings and paintings form a series of work focussed on the coast and estuary of north Kent.” This is an excerpt from a much longer piece. The body of work resulting from this walk will be included with the complete article on my website. Some of the paintings will be submitted for selection to Art in the Church, St Mary’s, Lower Higham, July 25-26, 2015. www.stmaryschurchhigham All images © Paul Fowler


Northward Hill

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust was established seven years ago because of serious concerns about the plight of the bumblebee. In the last 80 years, our bumblebee populations have crashed. Two species have become nationally extinct and several others have declined dramatically. The main cause for declines has been the loss of flowers from our landscape, leaving the bumblebees with little to feed upon, mainly resulting from changes in farming practices and the intensification of agriculture, but development and urbanisation has also played its role. We have lost over 97 per cent of our wild flower meadows since the Second World War and up to 50 per cent of our hedgerows in some areas. Pesticides and disease can also have a negative effect on bees, putting extra pressure on already vulnerable populations.

Shrill carder bee © Bumblebee Conservation Trust

Boost your garden for bumblebees

Gardens are a vital link in helping our bumblebees to flourish. Several species are now more common in urban and suburban gardens than they are in the wider countryside because gardeners tend to like flowering plants – and so do bees. Even if you don’t have an awful lot of space, you can still help bees by having a small planter or window box filled with bee-friendly flowers. It’s important to have the right plants though, as not every flowering plant produces the pollen and nectar that bees need. Mass produced bedding plants, such as busy lizzies and begonias for example, often have little or no nectar to offer insect visitors. Many plants are bred for their appearance, so showy ornamental plants and double or multi petalled varieties although beautiful - are often no good for bees as too many tightly bunched petals prevent them from reaching the pollen and nectar. A recent study at the University of Sussex compared the attractiveness of 32 popular summer-flowering garden plants to bumblebees and other pollinating insects. The top most visited plants by bumblebees were Catmint (Nepeta), Giant hyssop (Agastache), Sage (Salvia), Hyssop and some lavenders – so these are definitely good additions to your garden. Lavender is great for bumblebees but

Garden bumblebee © Bumblebee Conservation Trust



You may be surprised to hear that bumblebees have tongues of different lengths, ranging from 6mm up to almost 2cm. This means they need a variety of flowers with different shapes, from open daisy-like flowers (for bees with shorter tongues) to tubular-shaped flowers which are preferred by long-tongued bumblebees such as the garden bumblebee and the rare shrill carder bee. Foxgloves, with their tall spikes of purple flowers, are a favourite of the garden bumblebee. Other good plants for long tongued bumblebees include aquilegia which comes in many colours and shapes, comfrey, honeysuckle, viper’s bugloss and purple loosestrife. Bumblebees need flowers from the moment the first queens appear in early spring right through to early autumn when late-emerging species are still completing their life cycles. So providing a continuous supply of flowers right through from march to september is another thing to think about. Rosemary, lungwort and flowering currant provide important spring forage for bees; consider alliums, globe thistle and thyme for early summer flowering; and plants like cosmos, echinacea, verbena and marjoram for late summer. To help people make their gardens more bee-friendly, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust has created Bee kind, an interactive gardening tool which gives you a rating for how bee-friendly your garden is and suggestions for other plants to make it even more beefriendly. You can find Bee kind at:


this study found that certain lavenders are much more attractive to bees than others. The two main species of lavender sold in garden centres are Lavandula angustifolia (English lavender) and the Lavandula x intermedia (a hybrid). The study found that Lavandula x intermedia ‘Gros Bleu’ was the top bumblebee favourite - but also that Lavandula x intermedia cultivars in general were significantly more attractive to bees than the L angustifolia cultivars. So if you are going to buy lavender, try to make sure it’s a Lavandula x intermedia cultivar.


Friends of the Westbrook Stream The Westbrook stream is a chalk stream running through the heart of Faversham into Stonebridge Pond and allotments and onto Faversham Creek. It is an attractive stream, much used and appreciated by the local community. The Chart Mills Gunpowder Works lies on the stream – a legacy of the stream’s role in the gunpowder history of Faversham. While still an attractive area, both the stream and pond suffer with problems including litter, invasive species, pollution, over-abstraction and lack of management. In the summer of 2013, the North Kent Catchment Improvement Group made a call for voluntary groups to step up to the challenge of improving local streams and watercourses. Having lived by the Westbrook for a number of years, I felt that this was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass by. The Friends of the Westbrook and Stonebridge Pond group began later that summer, beginning the process of getting the local community interested (lots of leaflet dropping and articles in the paper), organising our first litter and stream clears, helping with a drop-in event on the stream’s future, fund raising, forming a committee and running meetings and work parties. We are now in the process of writing a management plan. We are very fortunate in Faversham to have an active and able community, who have been keen to get involved with the project. We have also enjoyed the invaluable support of the Medway Swale Estuary Partnership, Environment Agency and Swale Borough Council. The project is an ongoing one – we are still in the very early stages – but we take great encouragement from the work we have done so far, the support we are getting for this work and the opportunities for the future. Find out more about the friends at:

Book Review by Andrea Griffiths Feral - George Monbiot Penguin (2013) I started George Monbiot’s Feral with excitement, whilst also expecting to find it dry and hard going. Apart from my dislike of the long chapters and occasional sense of repetition, not only is Feral far from dry, the prose is beautiful and wonderfully descriptive, not something that I expect from books rooted in scientific theory. It is also refreshingly based on the wildlife and land of Great Britain specifically. Feral explores the idea that we need to let nature back in charge of her own fate. Rather than manage the land, even in the name of conservation, we need to step back and literally let nature take its course, both for the benefit of the natural world and also for our own sense of belonging and peace within it. Whilst describing his journey out of ecological boredom, Monbiot details the damage we have done to the land and the re-wilding that is required to repair it. The descriptions of his wild adventures also reflect our need for a more untamed life. Feral is both inspirational and hard hitting. I found elements of it uncomfortable reading. My degree and subsequent career has been embedded in the philosophy that we need to manage the land in order to enhance and conserve. If everything simply reverted to woodland for example, surely there would be less species diversity. However, after reading Feral I realise that my inability to accept some of the re-wilding logic, is perhaps an example of the short termism which the author refers to throughout his book. Feral is a must read for anyone interested in the natural world. It awakens passion and optimism, whilst also challenging our original understandings of the ecology and history of our land.



Inspired reading by Autumn Richardson and Richard Skelton


Autumn Richardson and Richard Skelton are writers, musicians and artists, who run Corbel Stone Press based in Cumbria. Their particular areas of interest are landscape, the poetics of place, ecology, folklore and animism. We asked them to select some of their most inspirational reads. Crow - Ted Hughes Faber & Faber (1970) Twenty years after first reading it, Crow is still the most startling, vivid and memorable book of poems I’ve encountered. It engorges on mythology, folklore and animism, and in so doing demonstrates what a poetry collection can be - not a disparate assemblage (which seems to be the norm), but a connected, wide-ranging sequence that is greater than the sum of its parts. RS People of the Deer - Farley Mowat Little Brown (1952) I first read this as a child and it had a great and permanent impact upon me. It outlines a rapidly disappearing way of life among the Inhalmiut (Inuit) peoples of the far north in Canada and their relationships with the vast herds of caribou that once roamed in the barren lands west of Hudson Bay. It opened my eyes to entirely ‘other’ ways of being on the earth and was my first true encounter with a culture, language and belief system other than my own. It cracked my perception wide open, initiating a life-long passion for and exploration of other cultures and ways of being in the world. AR The Book of the Green Man - Ronald Johnson Longmans, Green & Co (1967) I discovered The Book of the Green Man only recently, and I’m sorry not to have encountered it at the same time as Crow. It too is a unified sequence - a long topographical poem which travels both broadly and deeply, rooting its way down into the mythic strata of the English landscape, drawing on a vast array of literary and folkloric sources. RS


Never Cry Wolf - Farley Mowat McClelland & Stewart (1963) Also discovered as a child, this book was one of my first encounters with philosophies of conservation, focusing upon wolves and the treatment of them in the north of Canada. From it I learned how we must each take responsibility for our manner of being in the world - and we must also challenge accepted norms and research for ourselves what a truth may be. Both books also empowered me to believe that our actions can have positive effects, that we must try to live our beliefs, to bring them into the worlds surrounding us. AR All Our Wonder Unavenged - Don Domanski Brick Books (2007) This book hasn’t left my side since I first discovered it on a friend’s desk in early 2008. It creates a world of its own, with each poem combining to manifest a much larger and mysterious whole. Part Buddhism, part Animism, part humble yet potent observations upon the simple yet astonishing worlds surrounding us, and with a use of language like no other poet I’ve come across. An alchemical combination of words inducing visions. AR The Pattern Under the Plough - George Ewart Evans Faber & Faber (1966) Evans has written many books about English landscapes, documenting the lost or disappearing customs, beliefs and folklore of those who have lived and worked in the countryside. This book is about East Anglia, and I discovered it whilst on residency in Suffolk. Like Ronald Johnson’s book, it gave me a view of a landscape imbued with a strange, dark life and a long, half-forgotten history. RS


A guide to wildlife across the north Kent marshes The north Kent marshes provide some of best places in the south east to see wetland wildlife, supporting globally important numbers of breeding and wintering birds, mammals such as seals, along with rare plants and insects. Over the next few pages, you can find details of some of the best family friendly wildlife sites in the area, along with details of some of the species to look out for while you’re there.

Cliffe Marshes Northward Hill

Elmley Riverside Country Park Oare Marshes


Seasalter Levels Faversham Creek

This publication includes mapping data reproduced from/based upon Ordnance Survey material with the permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office © Crown copyright and/or database right, (2015). All rights reserved. Licence number 100024225.

Photographic key to additional species to look out for during your visit, many of which can be seen at more than one location.

Water vole

Little egret

Marsh harrier

Common seal


Barn owl

Common reed

Sea lavender

Sea astor

Yellow archangel Golden samphire

Brent geese


Cliffe Pools

Postcode: ME3 7SU

Just north of the remote peninsula village of Cliffe stands the RSPB reserve of Cliffe Pools. This unique landscape owes much to the nineteenth century cement industry, which dug quarries in search of clay. These lagoons, which over time slowly flooded now, provide a variety of habitats for a number of different bird species. As a result, several of the lagoons attract breeding birds such as avocets, once rarely seen in Kent, along with common terns and great crested grebes. The adjacent grazing marsh is still farmed traditionally, using sheep and cattle and very occasionally, brown hares can be seen crossing the open landscape at speeds of up to 70km per hour. All across the marsh can be seen numerous ditches, often crowned by willows. These not only provide drainage but are also an important habitat for wildlife including dragonflies and the nationally scarce water vole, for which the north Kent marshes is an important stronghold. Also look out for:


Northward Hill

Postcode: ME3 8DS

Standing on a ridge high above the north Kent marshes, Northward Hill offers superb views across the Thames estuary. Established in 1955, it is the RSPB’s oldest nature reserve and is only one of three woodlands on the Hoo peninsula. Its abundance of mature oak trees make the reserve ideal territory for grey herons and it is actually the largest heronry in England. Breeding alongside the herons can now be found the once rare little egret. The woodland is also particularly good for wildflowers and is renowned for its springtime displays of bluebells, along with other flowers such as yellow archangel and dog’s mercury. At its eastern edge the trees slowly give way to scrubland, where in spring nightingales can often be heard. The scrubland then in turn gives way to a vast expanse of open marshland, where large numbers of swallows gather around the remote farm buildings throughout summer. Also look out for:


Riverside Country Park

Postcode: ME7 2XH

With its stunning views and attractive waterside walks, Riverside Country Park is the perfect place for families to become acquainted with the north Kent marshes. The park is home to a number of different wildlife habitats, including mudflats, saltmarsh, reedbeds, ponds, grassland and scrub. The adjacent estuary is recognised as both a nationally and internationally important site for wintering ducks and waders, which thrive on the invertebrate rich mudflats. Amongst the birds regularly seen here during the winter months are Brent geese, pintail and dunlin. As well as the birds, the park’s diverse habitats also support a number of other species of wildlife. In spring, as the ponds come back to life, look out for insects such as water boatmen and dragonflies. In summer, the surrounding grassland and scrub areas are home to butterflies such as the common blue and peacock and listen out for the occasional Roussel’s bush cricket. Also look out for:



Postcode: ME12 3RW

The impressive Elmley Marshes reserve, situated on the south west corner of the Isle of Sheppey, is the largest remaining area of coastal grazing marsh in the south east. It also consists of a number of smaller areas of saltmarsh, brackish water pools and fleets. The reserve has possibly the highest nesting population of redshanks and lapwings in the country and the spring air is full of their distinctive calls. In winter, birds of prey such as hen harrier, peregrine falcon and merlin can often be seen out hunting across the sometimes bleak and windswept landscape. Apart from its vast array of bird life, the reserve also plays host to mammals such as water voles, hares and common shrews. During the summer months, plants and grasses such as sea lavender and scurvy grass can be found along the saltmarsh. This is also when the distinctive ‘laughing’ croak of the marsh frog can often be heard. Also look out for:


Oare Marshes

Postcode: ME13 0QA

Just north of the small village that shares its name, Oare Marshes have wonderful views up and down the Swale, which provide excellent opportunities to spot seals. Up until the building of the sea wall in the 1950’s, the area originally consisted of extensive saltmarsh with tidal creeks. Today it is a mixture of grazing marsh with freshwater dykes, open water and saltmarsh, and is of international importance as a wildlife habitat. The birds at this Kent Wildlife Trust reserve include species such as avocet, snipe, curlew and whimbrel along with over wintering birds such as merlin and Brent geese. Throughout the dykes can be found plants such as lesser reedmace, frogbit and great water dock. The saltmarsh includes such species as sea lavender and golden samphire, whilst aromatic sea wormweed can be found along the sea wall. Also look out for:



Postcode: ME12 4RP

The Swale National Nature Reserve at Shellness is a wild and remote spot, situated on the coast, just east of the seaside town of Leysdown. Predominantly the reserve is grazing marsh and supports significant numbers of wintering waterfowl. Apart from these, it is also home to birds such the marsh harrier and short eared owl. Scarce plants such as glasswort and golden samphire are found on the saltmarsh, whilst the adjacent beach has sea kale, whose young shoots used to be collected as a vegetable, along with the rare Ray’s knotgrass. The reserve is best visited in the spring and summer months when, along with the large numbers of breeding birds, a number of rare butterflies and moths can often be seen. These include such delights as the Essex emerald and the clouded yellow butterfly along with the convolvulus and bedstraw hawk-moths. Please note: The reserve is situated adjacent to an authorised naturist beach. Also look out for:


Faversham Creek

Postcode: ME13 7TU

Situated within easy walking distance of the market town that shares its name, Faversham Creek is rich in both wildlife and history. The tidal nature of the creek was the sole reason for the establishment of the town, which was once one of the country’s busiest ports. Today, much of the surrounding industry has gone and the creek is now a peaceful backwater where the sights and sounds of the estuary can be fully appreciated. During the summer months, birds such as reed and sedge warblers can often be seen fluttering amongst the creek’s numerous drainage ditches. The long summer evenings also provide the perfect opportunity to catch sight of a ghostly barn owl out hunting for food. Should your interest lay closer to the ground, saltmarsh plants such as glasswort, whose name derives from its usage in the 16th century glass making industry, thrive in the saline conditions beside the creek. Also look out for:


Seasalter Levels

Postcode: CT5 4BP

Located on the southern bank of the Swale, between Faversham and Whitstable, the South Swale Reserve at Seasalter is home to an impressive variety of flora and fauna. A visit in summer is likely to be rewarded with the sight of birds such as the reedwarblers and redshanks. Listen out as well for the evocative song of the skylark high above you. Wildflowers such as the spectacular yellow horned poppy can be found, just over the sea wall on the adjacent beach, which is also an ideal spot to look out for seals. Towards the western edge of the reserve as it nears Faversham Creek, saltmarsh plants such as golden samphire and sea lavender make a colourful display throughout summer. In winter the adjacent mudflats and waters teem with aquatic life such as shellfish and worms, which attract huge numbers of feeding birds such as oystercatcher and curlew. Also look out for:

Limited edition cards


Together with artist Paul Fowler and photographer Robert Canis we’ve produced the following limited edition cards. Each pack contains 10 cards, five of each design with envelopes. Each card measures 148mm x 105mm.

PF pack A

RC pack B

Please send me the following number of packs priced at £5 per pack (inc p & p): PF pack A ........... RC pack B ............... I enclose a cheque for £.............. made payable to Medway Council (please add MSEP account to the rear of the cheque) and send to: Medway Swale Estuary Partnership, 3 Lock Cottages, Lock Lane, Maidstone, Kent ME14 3AU. Mr/Mrs/Ms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..................................................

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Postcode:


If you would like to receive details of forthcoming MSEP events/publications electronically, email us at:

Please recycle


Profile for Medway Council

Mudlark 2015  

Mudlark 2015