Our last WildEssex walk of 2023 was a most enjoyable event. Against a backdrop of variable cloudscapes, a few spots of rain and some warm sunshine, our group of enthusiastic ladies were treated to birds, trees, lichens and mosses, fungi, rare plants plus fossils, shells and dramatic cliffs along the beach, in fact all kinds of everything!
Autumn colours abounded – red fruits, lichens giving some of the established trees atop the cliffs an eerie green or yellow glow, and the fresh green patches of moss on concrete hardstandings, a reminder of the chequered 20th century history of the site.
As befits this damp season, fungi were to be found everywhere, including Mosaic Puffballs in the grass, Birch Bracket gently killing and rotting its host Silver Birch tree, plus several species of mini – and most charming – fungi on tree branches.
Gorse of course was in flower, as more surprisingly was Sea Hog’s-fennel, along with a beautiful pink form of Yarrow.
When the sun shone a few invertebrates presented themselves, including this harvestman and Marmalade Hoverfly.
Our afternoon session was down on the beach, enjoying that whatever-age-you-are-it’s-fun activity of beachcombing. Pyritized wood and fossilised shells were everywhere, the rusty hue of the latter indicative of many their millions of years stuck in the sandy cliff.
Erosion is a continual event along the cliffs, and there had been several recent landslides leaving dramatic profiles against the by-now-blue sky.
Being a Beside the Sea day, we were also on the lookout for birdlife. One of the magical moments was the discovery of a Kestrel having an early lunch of a smaller feathered friend, using one of the ex-wartime gun batteries as a dining table. He was completely unfazed as we stood by watching and taking photos.
Along the shore were the usual suspects of Brent Geese, Grey Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwits and various gulls, all going about their daily business of eating and shooing each other out of the way.
We are very fortunate to have this wonderful area on our doorstep – a veritable time-machine enabling us to witness life over the past fifty million years!