Richard Taylor Jones, a wildlife cameraman, who filmed a wild winter walk for Winterwatch, reflects on one of his favourite places from the White Cliffs of Dover to Pegwell Bay.
It’s very easy to want to simply stay indoors during the winter months, to keep the cold as far as away as possible. But if you do, I think you’re missing out. When it comes to the wild there is plenty to enjoy even in the depths of winter. The stretch of coast running from the White Cliffs of Dover to Pegwell Bay is certainly one of my favourite places to spend some time.
A walk starting above the White Cliffs National Trust visitor centre will see some very friendly characters greeting you, Exmoor Ponies, the resident on-site conservation workers. This semi-wild herd does the important job of grazing the chalk grassland and keeping it in good nick for the flowering plants that burst out in spring and summer.
They’re not scared to come and give you a good sniff, in the hope of a treat or two. They’ll be close enough to snap some pictures with your mobile phone, but you’re best off not feeding them and letting them get on the with the job of chewing the grass. A hungry pony who thinks you have food may just decide to chew you, in a friendly manner of course, but you won’t appreciate it.
Further along the cliffs in Fan Bay, dark green bushes with bright lemon yellow clumps can be seen spread across the landscape. This is gorse. Its dazzling flower makes even the greyest of days seem bright. It’s one of those rare plants that flowers in every month of the year, hoping for a rare warm winter day when an insect might emerge to pollinate it. It’s a risky strategy to put energy into flowering in the winter, but one that must pay off for this showy plant, one of nature’s chancers.
There will be many crows and jackdaws soaring along cliffs as you might expect, but as you’re walking along towards South Foreland keep your eyes and ears out for a much bigger black bird, the Raven. They start their mating display as early as December and you can see them barrel rolling in spectacular style along the cliff edges, their “cronking” call echoing as they go.
It’s a simple equation, the longer you walk, the more you will see. And if you make it all the way to Pegwell Bay you’ll have a list as long as your arm, as well as sore feet! But even if all you get is a short stroll out in the cold, I’ll bet the wild windswept coastline will have invigorated you, made you feel that little bit vulnerable and in doing so re-connected you with nature. So don’t stay in, get out!