Reflections from a Train Window…..

Paul Hadaway, our Connectivity Programme Manager, has written for us about his reflections on conservation in the county inspired by the beauty he encoutered during a train journey.

A few weeks ago I found myself entirely alone in a train carriage making its rather serene way between Ashford and Hastings, the perfect time, space and landscape for some personal reflections on the work we are so fortunate to do.

The journey from Ashford to Hastings in stunning spring sunshine showcased the landscape of Romney Marsh at its finest.

Romney Marsh

The ancient woodlands at Ham Street NNR were awash with bluebells, the perfect evocation of an English spring and a sight which is found almost no-where else in the world. Without the ongoing coppice management of these woodlands, encouraging different ages of growth, providing a tiered structure to the coupes or cants within them we would not have these amazing washes of blue, or the nightingales which are also such a sign of spring.

The hard work of conservations organisations, the volunteers who give their time to support our work and the sympathetic landowners who ensure their sites are managed for wildlife have been and remain vital in protecting and enhancing these habitats.

Romney Marsh itself remains one of the most unique, stunning and sometimes very strange corners of the country. The landscape here has always been in a state of change, reclaimed, drained, farmed and now home to a windfarm, nuclear power station and of course its own breed of sheep. KWT are very busy here at the moment, leading the Fifth Continent Landscape Partnership scheme, which has £2.4m of Heritage Lottery Fund and other funding to spend on the landscape, habitats, species, communities and built heritage.

Looking at it from the train window on a sunny spring day captures the magic of the Marsh but other things strike you too, the almost total lack of lapwing for one, whilst present here in high numbers over winter there are far less breeding pairs now.

Royal Military Canal

Conversely the site of two pairs of buzzards riding thermals and several marsh harriers traversing the ditches and reed beds with that distinctive lazy v shape to their wings reminded me that when I started watching birds thirty odd years ago you would have had to travel to the extremities of the country to see these birds. One of the true conservation success stories of the past decades.

The journey on the train rather reflected my own journey in conservation, from stunning sites to the stark awareness of the need to secure funding manage our habitats, sites and projects effectively, work with others and feed off their experiences.

Which brings me to the purpose of my trip to Hastings. To spend a morning in a workshop with French and English partners, developing and sharing ideas for projects to protect freshwater and marine habitats from source to sea, at a catchment scale. These project ideas are being taken forward in application for Interreg ( European funding) a vital source of funding for our work, joining with partner organisation on both sides of the Channel in taking a unified approach to protecting the environment.