With good weather promised for today I was up early and off for a walk on the Hoo Peninsula (although I did manage to make a few jars of spiced beetroot chutney first of all...!).
I decided to go to Cliffe Pools RSPB reserve on the Thames in north Kent to see if I could spy any interesting waders. One of the main (birdwatching) lessons of the day was that my binoculars are not a great deal of use for such a huge reserve. Many of the birds were on the far side of the water from the pathway, and I could only identify the most obvious (Egret, Lapwing, Coot etc). But it's a great place to walk - very flat and you can stay on tracks all the way round so you don't even really need your walking boots.
It's a curious place, with Tilbury power station looming across the Thames at one end and Coryton oil refinery at the other. Ships drift aimlessly along the river making you do a double take at first when you hadn't realised where the river was, and there are curious ruins dotted around - the 19th century Cliffe Fort and the remains of the launch tracks for the Brennan Torpedo. The ruins of an old munitions factory still stand at the north side of the marshes - Danny McL has some great photos in his Flickr set here.
There's also plenty of foraging to be had. If you need sloes - great big juicy buggers, loads of them - then get yourself to Cliffe and walk down the track to the bird reserve. You will find enough to start a business making sloe gin! There were still quite a few blackberries, albeit rather bland in taste, as well as acres of hips and haws.
I also came across some Shaggy Inkcaps - one of the few fungi that I am confident enough to pick and eat - although I left these as there were only a few. Shaggy Inkcaps, also known as Lawyer's Wig due to their resemblance to aforementioned, have a very distinctive shape and there is no other fungi that looks like them. Pick them before they open fully, and fry in butter.
Many beautiful seedheads were in evidence, such as teasels and bullrushes, and these lovely umbelliferous seeds, so dark and dramatic. I'm not sure what plant they come from - any idea?
The site is pretty flat all round, but at one point near the RSPB car park a little knob of land has survived the quarrying behind it, and a lookout has been built from where it's possible to get the best idea of the site layout.