January 5

A midwinter visit to Herne Bay, Kent

Today I find myself walking through an old sepia landscape photograph, or so it feels. Rich Kent soils stain the old oaks and hedgerows a rich tawny brown. Even the ditches flow the hue of weak, milky tea.

Trudging through the sticky soils, my new Christmas welly socks from Nicola do a good job of clinging onto my gumboots and my new Christmas ‘thermal base layer’, courtesy of her parents, successfully raises a sweat on this still, chill day.

It’s quite alien and as if to remind me that I’m an outsider the few patches of green show me plants who’s winter pelage is distinctly unfamiliar to me, emphasising just how parochial my knowledge is. However names for many of these strange species keep rising unbidden into my mind, perhaps dredged up from former days of poring over Collins Field Guides and exploring identification keys. I’m not confident enough to put the names into solid written form though!

The mist riven sky is heavy with the hurried beat of wood pigeon wing and the tremor of crow caws, a familiar soundtrack from my Northern haunts, although it’s overlaid with a backing track of herring gull, the Thames estuary not being many stone throws from me.

I make a break through a gap in a fence and submerse myself in a broken woodland where I follow an animal trail through fallen trees and past small ponds that hold the anaemic sky in their bowels. Could it be a deer trail I wonder? I find no tracks so am left to guess.

I did meet a couple more mammals before journeys end, a spaniel who threatens to further tan my already muddied trousers and her owner who returns my dour Northern ‘howdo’ with a cheery Southern ‘mournin’.

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