29 December 2013
Royal Military Canal, Hythe
A still and sunny day between more Atlantic depressions. It dawned cold and very frosty but that meant clear blue skies and sunshine. Mandy fancied a bit of fresh air and a long walk, but somewhere different. After pondering many options I chanced upon the Kent Ramblers website and soon found a suitable circular walk from Hythe along the Royal Military Canal out to Dymchurch and back. It even went past two pubs! Perfect.
We parked at the Hythe miniature railway station and set off on the toe path. We encountered a couple of flocks of Long-tailed Tit, a group of feeding Blackbirds and a few Goldfinch and tried out the model listening ear across the Canal.
We were soon at West Hythe where we continued on the north bank providing lovely views of the sunlit Downs and the Roman fort at Port Lympne. A calling Common Buzzard went unseen and 2 super Firecrest showed in the canalside vegetation - I think they regularly winter along here. Halfway along the zoo fence we encountered a family of Giraffe giving very close views as they de-barked some dead trees beside the path. A couple of Ostrich feeding among Wildebeast and Eland looked most incongruous in the Kent countryside. Zebra, Rhino and Elephant were added to the exotics list before a pride of Lions sitting in the sunshine watching a passing helicopter were found in the woods! In case you're wondering the footpath runs right along the bottom of the Port Lympne Wild Animal Park.
We then walked out across the fields towards Dymchurch stopping for a well earned pint in the Shepherd and Crook pub at Burmarsh, which looked like it had remained unchanged for centuries. The agricultural desert that is Romney Marsh was virtually bird less as we stomped across damp and ploughed fields.
A single Kestrel and just two Skylark were seen before I nearly stepped on a Brown Hare hiding in the grass. It raced away at incredible speed and must have been quite spooked as it did not stop until well out of sight.
We returned through West Hythe then back along the Canal past the weir of Green Heron fame. Just a single Goldcrest seen among a Long-tailed Tit flock. An enjoyable walk in beautiful countryside and some most welcome winter sunshine.