Setting Off From Sandwell valley

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Saturday 16th January - Rainham, Vange and Shorne Marsh

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Well so much has happened since the last blog so now for a quick summary.  Eventually got to Rainham RSPB reserve after a ride in the pouring rain along the A13. Couldn't cycle along the cycle path as it was covered in ice. Still arrived at the reserve and was greeted wonderfully by Howard Vaughan, Brenda and others.
'What do you want to do,' says Howard. 'Birding or sandwich?' 2 minutes later outside Howard had the answer and to cut it short I think we were out doing so for over 2 hours. What a brilliantly talented and chatty birder. Superb skills and great conversation. Birds seen included rock pipit, snipe, a stunningly beautiful yet strangely plumaged pale female stonechat, no serins on view but also seen was the juv' glaucous, ad' yellow-legged gull and peregrine. [2.6 secs scope to bird - new British record - Well done Howard!]

Really this quick description of the walk around the reserve doesn't do it justice. I would never have thought that Rainham would be the favourite reserve visit of the trip so far but from the moment you walk into the top floor cafe area the place is so fabulously beautiful and the RSPB staff on hand such brilliant people.
By the way Howard the clue is in the name - Biking BIRDER!

A real privilige to be shown around. Great place. Thanks. I'll be back - so good you go there twice.

Now up to 89 bird species for the year.

A B & B in Baker Street, Orsett, Essex was eventually found; a really superb converted barn with great room, tv, coffee, tea etc and a fabulous breakfast next morning. [Jay's Lodge, Baker Street]

Cycled to Vange with an unadorned by paniers bike on Friday morning. Actually took a wrong road and ended up on Langdon Hill. Went in the small church there and chatted. WW1 memorial had 2 Jays, possibly brothers and a Swan as soldiers who had died.

Down the hill, seeing 2 foxes in fields on the way down and eventually found Vange Marsh after being given the wrng directions.

Met by Glenn and Alan at the excellent RSPB centre there. I'd last been here around 20 years to see an olive backed pipit but boy how it's changed. Coffee, chat and photos then off by myself to Vange Marsh itself. Super marsh with very wild duck. Wigeon and teal in hundreds, a lovely male stonechat, a coupe of cettis and water rail seen.

Back to the centre to say thanks and goodbye.

Cycled around to West Canvey Marsh and Bowper Marsh. Little egret by the bridge over a river system was the only year tick but enjoyed watching the 4 foxes [!] out on the marsh and searching through the large numbers of gulls here, mostly herring gulls.

A puncture, my first of the trip and the back brake knackered. Struggled but repaired the former and rode back to Orsett.


Saturday 16th January

Up late, well awake very early, 5.00am, to write the 12 ages of notes about Rainham and then breakfast and a very sincere thank you to Margaret for the stay. Excellent quality B & B. Well recommended.

Cycled to  the library at Chadwell St Mary but they couldn't log me on. Tanya wishes me luck and showed me a map but Denise and Gill at Tilbury library had no problems and I spent a pleasant hour plus accessing emails and answering them. One from the secretary of the Archbishop of Canterbury was appreciated. The secretary's name Andrew Nunn. Think about that for a moment. He thanked me for my letter about the charge for entering St Paul's Cathedral, £12.50 if you remember, stated that the Bishop was aware of concerns and quoted historical precedents.

Down to Tilbury ferry, checked it was timetables and boarded.

To Shorne Marshes RSPB reserve. Impossible to get to via the road that leads to it on the OS map; a very high, very padlocked gate prevents crossing the railway line. Use the phone it states on a sign. Where's the phone - the other side of the gate!

Met Paul Burnham, the owner of BURNHAM RED SHOP AUTOS, by stopping to phoograph an old Ford Zephyr outside the workshop. Explained the gate problem and was invited in for a look around and a coffee. Who am I to refuse? Was shown round and told about each individual classic car being restored or altered. Fascinating place.

Tried to find someone at the shunting yard - no one around. Cycled to Lower Highham and back to Shorne via a cycle path. Found a concrete road down to the Thames shoreline and found a small RSPB notice board by the fort. I'd found it officially. 3 avocet on the mud, around 2-3,000 dunlin on the opposite shore and a few other birds were here but best were 3 little owls seen and heard on the way back to Lower Highham. Now 93 birds for the year.

A bike ride in the dark and found Dave and Leslie Saunders' house. Wonderful, kind people who I'm with at the moment.

So to the sound of Mussorsky's Pictures at an Exhibition on the piano on Classic FM, I sound off and wish you all a pleasant night's sleep.

There I told you it was brief!!


  1. For now, my good thoughts sent your way will have to do instead of a donation. Three excellent causes - I'm wondering if you or someone you love suffers from asthma. (Maybe I missed that on your blog.) I'm glad you didn't try to cycle on ice! Ride safe and continue to enjoy meeting the wonderful people and birds along the way. (Pictures at an Exhibition, with its cathedral theme, and majestic power could spur you on in those times less euphoric moments of wrong turns and challenging weather. And, one of the movements represents a ballet of unhatched chicks - quite appropriate, don't you think:)

  2. Hi Gary
    Glad you like Rainham - it's our local patch - we're always amazed that East London can feel so wild. Have a great year - you're becoming quite a celeb already! I remember you well from Chester btw

  3. To Carol and Liz,

    Thank you so much for your comments. Whenh people write a comment of support it gives a lovely buzz to me and helps spur me on. [By the way Liz, what's Chester btw? As for the asthma Carol, I've got it quite badly as have over 1 million children in the UK and over 5 million adults. Thanks again, Gary