Archive for Coast

Barbie House “misleading” say experts

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on December 18, 2018 by cliffdean

Last week the Lidl free magazine featured this irresistible “Barbie Holiday House” which, unfortunately, demonstrated that its designers had neglected to do their homework.

The following errors are easily noted:

  1. 1. The Pitched Roof. Although some older properties exhibit this feature, FLAT roofs have been de rigueur for a good 20 years.

2. The Pink Decor. Barbie it might be, but anyone knows that colour is to be eschewed in favour of monochrome or silvering timber.

3. The House Is Open. The rule is that these houses should be shut up, blinds closed or curtains drawn, and dark at night apart from dazzling security lights.

4. There Are People. In a real Holiday Home no sign of life should ever be apparent.

5. There Is No Estate Agent’s Board Outside.

6. The Decimal Point Is In The Wrong Place



Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 25, 2018 by cliffdean

Not a date but the number of this post. I had intended to stop at 1,000, then 1066, but have carried on.

Yesterday, Wednesday started cold but quickly got very warm. I was out by 8 for a “short walk” along the seawall, where the usual flocks of finches (GO, LI, SK, LR) were coasting NE. As I crossed the caravan site to the seawall I heard, for the first time this autumn, the chipping calls of approaching Crossbills and 8 went over my head. Some years, though not this one, I hear them every day.

As I cut back past The Smuggler I was reminded that, according to one count, there are 7 contentious planning issues just now around the village. The pub is one of them, closed for some time and currently proposed as a development site with various unsatisfactory options while at the other end of the seawall houses, the shabby “Clonette” is also to be replaced by the ever-popular Weekend Cubes. The uniting theme is that of Social Cleansing, with small and/or potentially affordable homes replaced with buildings too expensive for anyone on a local salary therefore going as holiday homes, empty for much of the year.

The water in the Canal is at a low level to facilitate various Environment Agency maintenance operations. At present they are replacing the pipe which carries water across the canal from the Pannel Sewer – backed up in summer to feed water across to the ditch network of the main marsh. In about a month’s time they’ll begin desilting, when disposal of spoil usually entails dumping it along the bank. Along the PLPT land this has in the past created a slight bund which impedes the drainage of what should be dry grassland so we’ve been discussing alternatives with the EA. At the southern end it looks possible to dump a pile further back, adjacent to the (presently defunct) Smuggler car park but closer to the (presently boarded-up) “Tamarisk” it appears that will not be possible. Meanwhile, Grey Herons, Little & Great Egrets, Coots, Moorhens, Mute Swans, Mallards & a Kingfisher have profited from easy pickings in the mud.

Although I once more failed to find a Yellow-browed Warbler (lots everywhere else, including 60 right down on Linosa, an island level with Malta) there was a good range of the usual species around Toot Rock: Goldcrest, Coal & Long-tailed tit, Cetti’s W, Water Rail.

With the tide rapidly rising, waders were squeezed onto a narrow stretch of moorlog where I could see Oystercatcher, Curlew, Turnstone, Grey Plover,  & Redshank but there was little at sea apart from a Grey Seal, one of 4 present recently.

A large number of Greylag & Canada Geese have now settled on the marsh but I was unable to find any other species and have yet, this autumn, to see a Brent but I did see one Great Egret (the Cattle Egrets seem to have moved on).

The congregation of Little Grebes on the roadside pool seems steady at c40, with another 10 elsewhere. Bearded Tits were very vocal in the reeds, with up to 10 flying up pinging in the way they do in October and as I watched them I could hear a Rock Pipit squeaking behind me on the shingle.

On the Pools I could see Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon, Tufted Duck & Pochard along with a single GC Grebe, and a single Shelduck came flying along the shore. On the eastern bank, among the roosting Cormorants, sat the identity-crisis, Wigeon-killing GB Gull, now an adult.

As long as I scanned the fields and gate-posts, I could see no Buzzard or Harrier and I missed several other regular birds but still ended up with a list of 73 species – only one off my record for this short stretch of coast.

An hour or so later I was up at the allotment when I got a message from MIchael H to say he’s just seen a White Stork flying towards Pett. It’s years since I’ve seen one here but many records now are compromised by the reintroduction scheme at Knepp. So continued wielding my Wolf Garten Soil Miller, compensated when my first Fieldfare of the autumn flew over.

Landscape With Egrets

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 29, 2018 by cliffdean

Actually I have no pictures of them, in fact I’m not sure whether anyone has good ones because at first they were a long way off, then afterwards very close but by then the excitement had died down.

A wonderful day though, dawning misty and golden, heating up into the low 20s, the bay an intense blue, hardly like home at all.

Three of us walked from Cliff End to Castle Water via the Conqueror, during that time finding 93 bird species – none particularly rare and as always missing several common birds that should have been there but just – weren’t: the Birds of Shame. This great variety which can be matched in few other parts of the country, is owing to the range of habitats along this stretch of coast. And although we saw a fair spread of migrants most were represented by a single individual – so no flood of birds then.

Back to the egrets though – Cattle Egrets, whose arrival has been exceptional this autumn. they have been scattered around the RX area as singletons, pairs, flocks small & large, the largest so far 19 at Combe Valley. There have been two near Pett Pools for a few days now so when we notice two little white heads poking up from a ditch just N of the Pools we assumed them to be the same. Until there appeared 4 more to the right, still rather far from us but all the same looking like Cattle rather than Little. And then they flew off to the back of the marsh – all the same size, looking good – and we took a farm track to get a better view.

Long before we arrived at the group of bullocks we’d identified as the landmark, we could make out even more white heads – 11 actually – but soon 5 of them flew back past us showing, in the lovely sunlight, the yellow bills and green legs of definite Cattle Egrets. Another 5 headed back toward the seawall, leaving just one on its own…unless there were more left in the ditch.

By the time we had walked back to the road, these birds were right beside it. wandering among the livestock hardly 50 m away.

Apart from that, what? For me the biggest surprise was a single Little Tern flying past Winchelsea Beach as we took a rest on a convenient memorial bench. And a lot of Stonechats on the reserve – I’d have said 20 but we just hadn’t counted until it was plain there were a lot passing through. Several Rock Pipits alongside the Rother….


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 10, 2018 by cliffdean

From the top of Chick Hill we can see dark shoals of Mackerel moving through the bay, attended by a crowd of white gulls & terns.

The sea is warm and high tide has moved round to morning, when the low sun glitters from silver flanks along the tideline. Thousands of pesciolini lie along the pebbles and float in the shallows where they have been driven onshore by hunting Mackerel which are in turn predated by splashing Gannets and up to 3 Grey Seals together.


Their big jelly discs of eyes stare fixedly, mournfully at the sky.

They provide a feast for Herring, Black-headed & Med Gulls which scavenge them from the shore while Sandwich Terns pick them from the sandy green water.

Last two photos from Dengemarsh by Tim Waters

Sea anglers too are intoxicated by the illusion of plenty, catch more than they can eat, sell a few on to seaside restaurants who offer them at prices inflated rather than reduced.

These though represent the last vestiges of populations largely destroyed by industrial over-fishing.

Read the 18th century accounts quoted in George Monbiot’s “Feral”.

Although stocks quickly recover in Marine Conservation Zones our local representatives are against such measures and want to be there at the end.



Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on August 3, 2018 by cliffdean

After greening up from a bit of rain, the grasslands are entering a new cycle of desiccation, the landscape returning to pallour.

Over the garden twitter the first brood of young House Martins and the nest outside our window has been incompletely renewed so we can hear them from bed. Seasonal wanders include invisible Nuthatches and stealthy Jays. The first migrant phylloscopus warblers are creeping around the oak foliage and young Buzzards wail from the old cliff-line.

The water in the roadside pool has receded to reveal a rim of mud which has attracted a few waders including Dunlin, Avocet, Ruff, Common, Green & Wood Sandpipers though it has been so hot that even at quite close range these birds were distorted by haze. One day 3 Ruff helped out by roosting on the near bank with a bunch of loafing Mallards; each was in a distinct plumage & moult, one all white at the front with big black spots.

From the mid-70s for about 25 years, this pool was pumped out by the SOS and brought in an amazing variety of waders which could all be studied at close range since they quickly became indifferent to passers-by, traffic and even back-firing cars. I recently happened up on a diary from that era which mentioned a flock of 40-odd Curlew Sandpipers! (I’m sure I’m not dreaming, but these days that would be remarkable anywhere. Needless to say, I now can’t find this reference.)

The other week I was at the British Library investigating the contact sheets Fay Godwin made in preparation for her 1979 book “Romney Marsh”. Although I hoped for revealing images of Rye Harbour from that era, they were few, however there were many more showing the repair of coastal defences, improvised dwellings, the stone piers of Smeaton’s Harbour and, most unexpectedly, a sheet showing numerous birdwatchers gathered at the “Wader Pool/Project Pool” on a hot day. Old-fashioned cars, hair-styles and telescopes and, really, a lot of people. Was it that, at that time, the Pools Project was the only show in town? (RHNR had only Ternery Pool then) Or could it have been the Pools’ Greatest Hit – a Least Sandpiper in 1984? With more time and a better magnifying glass it may be possible to identify some of the people present but first I have to struggle through layers of BL bureaucracy.

The pebbles are warm when we emerge from the sea every high tide and the water is so warm it doesn’t make you feel as if you’re going to die every time you wade in. In general the beach is pretty quiet, with scattered groups of sunbathers, a few heads of swimmers and a dark, glossy head beyond of an inquisitive Grey Seal watching patiently. It dives then pops up again, watching, a little unnerving if you’re swimming nearby but there seem to be no recorded instances of unprovoked aggression. Although up to 4 Grey Seals have been noticed, it could be that some or all originate from the release of rescued individuals from RSPCA Mallydams Wood, in which case they have positive memories of human benevolence and are hoping to be fed.

On a couple of days, 3 species of jellyfish appeared: transparent Moon Jellyfish Aurelia aurita, the lovely blue Cyanea lamarckii (several years since I’ve seen them) and beautifully marked Compass Jellyfish Chrysaora hysoscella. The appearance of Lion’s mane Jelly in other areas has given rise to some typically stupid Silly-Season articles in stupid newspapers for stupid people.

That smell….

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 31, 2018 by cliffdean

That springtime scent seeps in from the sea; it goes with sunshine and buttercups. Some people hate it and complain to the council, wanting Something To Be Done but I inhale deeply.

It comes from an algal bloom in the shallow waters of the bay. Sometimes the shallows are stained orange. Fishing lines are slimed and shrimp-nets fouled with it. The moorlog acquires a grey, slithery surface. The rich, fertile ferment oozes its oily perfume over the meadows and up the hill.

It’s called gullywater or Mayrot or Maybloom.

But today, after forty years of wondering, thanks to my EA informant, I discovered the organism’s scientific name:


Learn that name. You can win admiration this weekend by deploying it at BBQs or among fellow beach-goers. You can complain knowledgeably in the pub: “Yeah, it’s the ******** Phaeocystis innit?” In no time at all you’ll hear it on the Today programme.

Here’s what else I learnt:

Locally it’s believed to be cause by a combination of a few things

1.     Water reaching a critical temperature

2.     The nutrient loading caused by the Bognor weed banks breaking away and rotting down – subsequently pulled along the coast

3.     Nutrient enrichment caused by outfalls & run off.

OSPAR  did a study on it in Belgium, Holland and Germany. – below is the link to the full article.


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on March 2, 2018 by cliffdean

In seeking shelter from the freezing wind I dropped down into the cliff-top Landslip Wood. Few passers-by notice it and nobody goes there.

In the years since I’d last visited this extraordinary site, blackthorn had closed up over its steep and obscure access tunnels but now the snow revealed the tracks of a previous visitor…


Exposed to relentless wind and salt spray, the stunted oaks that grow here crouch down into the incline but stretch out their limbs almost horizontally to grab at the seaside light. Negotiation of the tilted way requires a good deal of ducking and diving and, occasionally, some Limbo skills.

With the khaki sea pounding just below, the danger of approaching the cliff-edge is all too clear but from a distance you can recognise the skeleton tree where the Peregrine sits, while Fulmars skate past its roots exposed by previous rock-falls.

There’s nowhere else like this in the South-east nor, I suspect, in the whole of England.