Monday, 22 September 2008

Fowlmead C.P - is that "Cycling Park"?

As Jack Chantler is away for a few days in Norfolk I really needed to find a rarity today as a punishment for leaving the patch in late September, but it wasn't to be. In fact it was pretty quiet. The passage of Siskins continues, although I only counted 55 in four small groups in my walk along the Lees, in addition there were a couple of small groups of Goldfinches. Other migrant numbers seemed lower but the sight of two Peregrines and several Kestrels and Sparrowhawks made the walk worth while. Back at home I watch the "thing" (the BIG falcon) cruising round over the village until it was chased by a Hobby.

This afternoon I decided to go and look at Fowlmead Country Park. My initial thoughts when I've popped in to look at the information centre have been that it doesn't look like my idea of a country park, but I didn't have a good walk round then. Today I walked to the lake and then up to the viewing platform.

There is no doubt that this gives a splendid view over Worth Marshes, I saw a Short-eared Owl and a Marsh Harrier both hunting in the distance. Nearby I watched the modern version of a cowboy. You don't ride a horse to round up your cattle, you drive a Range Rover, and very effective it was too.
Looking over the marshes, I could see Sandwich Bay Observatory, (above the second compartment of the train) and back left Manston Airport.

Looking to my right the Chequers Restaurant, on the Ancient Highway looks quite close in this picture. but it is 1.49 Km (nearly a mile) as the crow flies.

The park is built on the old spoil heap of Betteshanger Colliery, that closed in 1989 and the Richborough power station is another industrial monument to a passed age.

Looking right across Pegwell Bay, West Cliff is to the left of Ramsgate Harbour.

The lake is small and apart from two fleeting views of a Kingfisher, flying in and then back out across the marshes, I saw very little. I'm sure in the summer it will be home some birds in the reeds, but overall it seems to me to be an opportunity missed. The lake is small and situated so that it will be continually disturbed by people using the paths. More careful thought could have given views over a more secluded lake from a screened approach. I did see some dragonflies, Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers, and hopefully the lake and ditches will be good for them and other species. It is obvious from the Fowlmead C.P. WEB site that little priority has been given to the potential it has for birds, considering what a prime site it is. The little write up might have done credit to a primary school pupil but is less than satisfactory as part of the description of a country park that has had a considerable amount of funds spent on it. (I wouldn't have expected spelling mistakes). If the objective was for a biking, dog walking and jogging area, then I'm sure it will meet their needs, but for a true country park they could learn much from the Lee Valley in London. where they seem to do a lot better in meeting mixed needs.


Anonymous said...

Country Parks were not dreamt up to be nature reserves unfortunately. the Government bill that set them up was all about social recreational activity, which is why you end up with all sorts of things in them over the years.

You will need a couple of very vocal political birders using the site regularly to even keep what you have there already.

Tony Morris said...

My point was that the word nature reserve is used in their brochure and that other country parks such as the Lee Valley CP and Trosley CP in Kent, do a much better job in use of the park. I wasn't asking for it to be exclusively a nature reserve, but I think that more thoughtful planning would make it much better. The first paragraph on the second page of their pamphlet says

"The redevelopment of Betteshanger Colliery's former spoil tip into a nature reserve with world class facilities required and immense amount of planning and work".

There is little evidence of this. If they'd called it a cycling facility I would not question it. In the events programme published there are 37 cycle races, 19 Health Walks, a heritage type day, a family fun run and one Christmas do. The only thing to do with natural history is a visit from the Kent Field Club, and that's not orgainised by the park.

Benjamin Young said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Benjamin Young said...

I agree with you, Tony. The place is more of a cycling path than a 'nature reserve'. All I saw was one Sedge Warbler, a few Woodpigeons and many Crows. Also, why did they put Kentish Plover on the 'Birds to be seen in the area' board? Wierd.

Anonymous said...

Your comments re. brochure point towards funding being available during the project phase- I'm sure lip service has been paid after they secured the monies.