Banks of the Darent

Banks of the Darent

Bank Holiday Monday and I realised that I’d missed the International Dawn Chorus Day. Well, I didn’t even know it existed until I switched on Radio 4 that morning to find out that it is held annually on the first Sunday in May. People are encouraged to rise early to listen to birdsong. Motivated, I planned a walk from Datford to Erith determined to listen more carefully to the birdsong.

Darent Valley Path

Darent Valley Path

The walk was along the Darent to the confluence with the Cray and then following the Cray as it flows into the Thames. My starting point was the railway station at Dartford then picking up the Darent Valley Path close to the Court House. Still in the heart of the town there was a coot’s nest in the river, an omen that this was going to be a good birdsong day. However, I could still hear the constant hum of the ringroad traffic and a distant radio helping the workers at Wickes get through a Bank Holiday shift. Momentarily I shifted focus from the birdsong to the abundance of wildflowers along the banks of the river: Native Geranium; Ragged Robin; Meadow Cranes Bill; Meadow Sweet; Vetch; waves of Cow Parsley interspersed with escaped Oil Seed Rape. Beyond the boundary of the town the sound of birdsong came to the fore again.
A bed of reeds was alive with the sound of birds: Robins, Blue Tits, Wrens, Warblers and the shrill sound of Black Caps.

View of the QE2 Bridge from the Darent Valley

View of the QE2 Bridge from the Darent Valley

In the distance the distinctive QE2 Bridge and the grey outline of massive distribution sheds. Still 160 square feet available for rent, the same as last time I passed this way. The switch to follow the Cray involves negotiating an unpromising stretch of the A206 the only interest being the dog roses on the side of the road. Beyond The Jolly Farmers, now another derelict pub up for sale, is the first section of the London Loop that follows the Cray to the Thames.

River Cray - London Loop

Banks of River Cray – London Loop

The first stretch is a post industrial waste land made more hazardous by the fierce looking and sounding scrap yard dogs. Cranes perched on the top of piles of earth adding to the apocalyptic feel of the place. Ten minutes brisk walk takes you beyond this and on to the estuary flat lands. On the west side of the river is a slight manmade hill of landfill with pipes, to release the methane gas, clearly visible. In the river are shell ducks but the birdsong is drowned out by a loud and constant drone of cross country motor cycles on the other side of the river.

Thames Estuary - R. Cray entering Thames
An interesting walk with lots of birdsong but not for those who want a more pastoral scene.

Advertisements