Trip reports

Riverside Country Park

Riverside Country Park
Sharp's Green to Horrid Hill (Wikipedia)

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Riverside country park is a large coastal country park located on the Medway Estuary near Gillingham. The Medway estuary is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which stretches along the banks of River Medway, between Gillingham and Sheerness in Kent. It is a Nature Conservation site and Special Protection Area, internationally important for wintering and breeding birds. Also important for it rare flora and fauna.

There is a visitor centre with a cafe with all facilities and also an excellent information area and a large car park and picnic areas.

Eighteen of us met at the car park. It was a dry morning, although rain was forecast for later in the day. After introductions, our guide led us to the viewpoint where we could see the estuary spread out in front of us. We could see Sheerness in the distance, and Hoo away to our left. The tide was very far out.

The estuary was littered with evidence of past industries of boats and hulks and remnants of wharfs and jetties.

Large numbers of swallows were flying around feeding before their long journey back to Africa.

We first went along to Horrid Hill. Apparently this used to be an island, to which a causeway was built to the cement works. It was called Horrid Hill , as they used to hang escaped criminals there in the past as a warning to others. Luckily nothing so horrid was happening today and we saw lots of redshanks, curlews, lots of grey plover in summer plumage, turnstones, oystercatchers, shell duck and a flock of Brent geese.

We then walked along to Bloors wharf. This in its past life had been used for many purposes including being a ship breakers yard. Evidence of this can be seen at low tide with all the remains of bits of boats.

We saw common gulls, greater and lesser black back gulls, herring gulls, black headed gulls. There were also plenty of widgeon, mallard, some teal, a mute swan and some cormorants.
A marsh harrier was spotted in the distance. A kestrel was seen flying around the trees and a buzzard was spotted above the car park.

After lunch our guide led us along Sharps Green Bay to East court meadows. The pond was closed for maintenance, so we missed the opportunity of seeing a kingfisher or water-voles.

Along the bay, we saw lots of redshank feeding in the channels and large flocks of starlings flying around.

As the tide was still very far out and it had started to rain, so we went along to the meadows. A lot of song birds were seen, including blackbird, great tits, blue tits, jay, robin, goldfinch, chaffinch, wren and dunnock. Collared doves, pigeons, wood pigeons, and magpies were also seen.

Butterflies seen were red admiral, and cabbage white. Dragonflies were also evident, although I am not familiar enough to identify them. Our guide also pointed out a very interesting insect which was a Rambur's Pied Shield bug which is a ground nesting bug which feeds on red dead nettles. It is bug which is usually found in Europe which has now moved here due to the warmer climate.

The migrating birds were not much in evidence. Apparently nightingales nest here in spring.
Our guide had arrived early and had seen a hobby and a green woodpecker. Despite the tide being very far out, we saw an amazing 38 different species of birds.

We were lucky with the weather, as we only had a brief shower.

Apart from seeing the birds and flora and fauna, I was intrigued by the landscape and its history and all the past industries. I could see why Dickens was fascinated with this area.
And when the light fades, I would not have been surprised to see Abel Magwitch scrapping here in the muddy estuary with his arch enemy Compeyson!

A wonderful day out. Thanks to Bromley RSPB for arranging it and our guide for leading and pointing out interesting birds.

Indra Doyle