Jimper’s Jottings March 2009
Follow your eyes and read on and you may think I have gone mad, or perhaps you, like me, cannot see the logic of it.
For four hundred years the land around Camber Castle had not been touched. Early in the 1900s man used the free draining earth for a golf course mowing the grass short and introducing the occasional bunker.
Then someone saw the potential of the shingle in endless quantities and so the lakes appeared. As they excavated the shingle so I grew up. Camber Castle and the adjoining land was my play ground. The islands in the lakes were bare earth and the Terns bred there every year in their hundreds. Us lads loved to rob the nests of eggs to add to our collections and in those days there were Little Terns, Sandwich Terns, Common Terns, Oyster Catchers, Land Rail, Little Greab, Redshank, Kentish Plover and Little Plover, Mallard Duck, Coot, Moorhen, Black headed gulls and Tufted Duck.
One year a pair of Teal nested on one of the islands. Another island was the nesting place of the Black headed Gull and the noise they made when the chicks hatched, could be heard a mile away on calm nights. The Tern island as us lads called the Little Island, was the only place I have seen a Coots nest so near to land, as the water level fluctuated the nest was on dry land. You could not walk on the island without your foot touching a nest, yet the birds were safe from any predator except us lads.
Each spring we paid the island a visit before the birds arrived and set fire to all the dry grass, so learning the land bare. To the east of our island in what we called the cut, there was a bank fifteen feet high that was pure sand. Here the hundreds of Sand Martyns nested each year digging tunnels in the sand.
Sadly this is now all gone as they have turned it all into a Nature Reserve and allowed nature take its course. We all know, or should do if we keep our eyes open, how good nature is at undoing things as man left it. The first thing that vanished were the terns on the islands as growth of grass etc. smothered the ground. The sand bank soon followed as grass and brambles took over.
Along with collecting birds eggs I also learnt about the life living in the area I played in. The valleys between the sand banks that had been the old golf course is carpeted in a grass unique to the Winchelsea marshes. The whole floor of my playground was a mixture of herbs, grasses and clovers, and home to numerous insects, mammals, animals, snails and fungi. Up to last year the valleys were the only place I knew to grow puffball of two species, field mushroom, St Georges mushrooms and Tortoise Back mushroom along with many other odd and colourful fungi that I never touched as I do not know the name of. One sport you could rely on to find a large patch of bright orange jelly like fungi. Along with all these lived, smooth, viper and grass snake, making a good living off the numerous grass hoppers, crickets and beetles. This area of Camber Castle was the last place that I saw the once common slowe worm.
Hedgehogs, mice, voles, rats, foxes, weasels, stoats and badgers earned a living one way or another. Many species of moth and butterfly at some time of the year also found the habitat convenient, to say nothing of the flocks of birds that ate the grass seed. Or like the shy lark that nested there. Now all is destroyed by large machines to make shallow pond for a newt. It appears the conservation people discovered that near by this newt was happily living in a dyke. No one asked this creature if he wanted a new home, he enjoyed his life where he was, but that does not matter. A new home for Mr. Newt.
Has no one stopped to think what mayhem they have caused by destroying this small part of nature, all for a newt. Surely people must understand that the life on this planet starts and continues from the very smallest atom and not from just the things that are visible to the eye. Am I really losing the plot or are there others like me out there, that think and believe like me, that man should leave some things alone?
“Rye’s Own” Supplement March 2009
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