The Narrow Straits of Dover

The village of St Margarets lies just to the south of here, where the English Channel is at its narrowest and the chalk cliffs rise dizzyingly high.

The Dover Patrol Memorial standing proud on the cliffs north of St Margarets Bay. It was built to commemorate the two thousand men of the Dover Patrol who lost their lives in the Channel during World War I
The South Foreland Lighthouse is just south of St Margarets. Surprisingly, there is a newly planted vineyard up here now in what is surely a very exposed position

This area was called ‘Hellfire Corner’ in World War II and still bristles with the remains of fortifications from back then.

Photo of an information board up on the cliffs. The guns Winnie, Pooh, Clem and Jane were all situated in the South Foreland area and were removed after the war, although evidence of them remains

We stumbled upon two fortifications that we had never seen before when we took the dog for a walk up there this week:

This was the Fortress Plotting Room for all the gun batteries north of Dover, although it has now been partly filled in and grilled for safety. These days it is a winter bat roost and I know that Kent Bat Group gets round all the roosts that they are aware of every winter to check on number and species of the hibernating bats. Perhaps they have no access to this one though. In January this year, the group hit the national headlines when they found a Greater Horseshoe Bat roosting in the bowels of Dover Castle, the first such sighting for a hundred years.

Nearby was a second structure, built as a deep shelter:

This shelter had one hundred and twenty five steps down to a space that would be safe even in the worst of attacks. Apparently civilians were welcome to use this shelter as well, although it is a fair old walk up from the village. I suspect that most of St Margarets was evacuated of civilians anyway during the war.

Eighty years on now and the narrowness of the Straits of Dover once again mean that this part of the country is on the forefront of another crisis. More than 24,700 desperate migrants have risked their lives packed onto flimsy boats and crossed the Channel so far this year, already three times more than last year. We witnessed a boat arriving this week:

The overloaded migrant boat is on the left. A Border Force rib is on the right and the BF Hurricane is speeding in. I hadn’t seen this boat before but she seems to be specialised for these situations

The BF Hurricane had presumably already just rescued people from another boat because she was towing an empty rib on her port side. The people from that previous boat were now on an RNLI boat, making its way back to Dover:

An RNLI boat, full of migrants at its bow, sprinting back to Dover
The BF Hurricane now comes alongside this second migrant inflatable dinghy
Offloading the people from the dinghy. I see that there is a portaloo on the stern for them – probably much needed too after all that time at sea

A few days after we watched this boat being safely intercepted, there has been a terrible tragedy and one of these woefully inadequate vessels has sunk off Calais, heavily overloaded with its precious human cargo. At least twenty-seven lives have been lost, every one of them someone’s son or daughter. Hopefully now Britain and France will work positively together to come up with a solution to this heartbreaking problem.

In the meadows, it has been cold with bitter northerly winds and abrupt showers:

Preparations for winter are well under way at the Badger sett. A large volume of pond reed has been taken off underground as bedding:

In the garden, all these leaves came off one tree over the course of a few hours. So, there’s a job for us:

We usually make leaf mould with the fallen leaves by bundling them up and putting them into crates in the meadows. A couple of years of inattention, however, and the whole structure has practically disappeared behind a vicious bramble patch. So, that’s another job:

A lovely Yew grows in the garden, covered in berries at this time of year that are much loved by Blackbirds and Thrushes:

As Blackbirds start to gather around the tree, I think the fun is just about to begin. This is made all the more enjoyable for us because we can view it all from the comfort of our kitchen:

This photo is from this time last year when the Yew was stripped of its berries in no time at all once the birds got going. They only start on these Yew berries once the Hawthorn berries are all gone from the meadows

Growing in the lawn are a few beautiful Amethyst Deceiver toadstools. I can’t help but notice that there is not actually much grass in our lawn:

Green Woodpeckers have been keeping a low profile in the meadows recently and this was the first summer that I have not seen any speckled juveniles around. Good to see this female then:

Things have been generally very quiet on the trail cameras but one morning a male Sparrowhawk came in for a bath:

In the wood, we still have a camera strapped to a pole and looking along a horizontal branch. Over the months that it has been there, we have got some great shots from it:

Buzzard in the wood this week

Now that the Woodcock are back, I am always excited to see what this pond camera has to offer, because we often see them here:

Pheasants can apparently be very variable and this is a surprisingly dark female:

Grey Squirrels do so much damage in the wood but I cannot deny that they are also rather sweet:

One of our daughters moved to the lovely village of Wye in the North Downs this year. They were delighted to discover a healthy population of hedgehogs in their garden and have provided a safe place for them to hibernate in, should they so desire. The box has an internal wall to create a room within that is inaccessible to reaching paws. This week, prospective viewings have been taking place…

…but there was also a reminder of the perils these little creatures face every day:

What a fabulous trail camera photo

This Christmas Cactus always gets it wrong and flowers in November:

I now see this flowering as a herald of the start of the Christmas season. It’s getting wintry out there and, as my thoughts are turning to the upcoming festivities, I do so hope that all the wildlife is getting itself tucked up snugly until spring.

One thought on “The Narrow Straits of Dover

  1. I really hope no migrants have been arriving during the recent storm Arwen. 🙁 Love that you have amethyst decievers and green woodpeckers. The Yew Tree looks amazing packed with berries. X

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