Rainham Marshes is perched on the urban fringe of London, and is an intriguing little part of the landscape of the Thames Estuary.
Very little has changed on this medieval freshwater marsh since its original reclamation from the mighty Thames – except all the firing and shooting that went on when the Ministry of Defence took it over for a while.
By actively deterring human encroachment, the Ministry of Defence has often proved to be a safeguard for many reserves, including Rainham Marshes, which allowed indigenous flora and fauna to flourish (once they’ve got over the initial shock of seeing a small hillock or sapling blasted to bits by covering fire).
There were plenty of migrating birds knuckling down with the resident waterfowl on the pools and scrapes, with eager Peregrines eyeing the menu from the tall pylons that overlook the reserve.
There was the usual generous sprinkling of waders and ducks – Lapwings, Curlew, Snipe, Wigeon, Teal, Pochard and Pintail with a strong supporting cast of herons, geese and swans.
A dead Heron lay by the reed beds, the victim of another Heron. Earlier in the week, it had been photographed being attacked by a kindred spite.
The whole episode can be seen on the community RSPB website for Rainham Marshes:
A pair of Marsh Harriers gleefully flustered the ducks and waders, particularly the Lapwings which were up-in-wings as the raptors nonchalantly cased the marshy joints for a snack.
Bird of the day may well have been the Water Pipit dancing along the water’s edge at the charmingly-named Butt’s Scrape.
As with many features around the reserve such as Target Pools, Shooting Butts and the Cordite Store, Butt’s Scrape owes its nomenclature (dead swotty word meaning ‘name’) to its Ministry of Defence heritage.
If this is your bag – and you’re done with the birds – there’s a very good clip about Rainham’s role in this on YouTube:
Halesowen 0 – 1 Tamworth was a real humdinger of hum-drumminess. A few years back I did get to see Tamworth take on Everton in the FA Cup at Goodison Park. This was nothing like it.
Many more sparks flew at the Ocean Colour Scene concert at the Birmingham Academy.
It was brave of Ocean Colour Scene (OCS to their mates) to have Martha and The Vandellas as the supporting act as they almost stole the show with a 50-minute set that showcased 77-year old Martha’s incredible vocals and the band’s superb musicianship.
Here’s an abridged review by Millie Finn from the Counteract website:
The night kicked off with tracks of Motown and Northern Soul in the form of ‘Jimmy Mack’ and ‘Dancing In The Street.’ Martha & The Vandellas have still got it!
Ocean Colour Scene arrived with waves to the crowd that had packed out the venue. It was another special moment for music lovers, and they wasted no time before heading straight into ‘The Riverboat Song’ with its distinctive driving riff.
One glance around the room gave a swift reminder just how long the group has been on the scene. The band have had fans since 1989 when they first formed so their fan base boasts an impressive age range – people old and young stood happily in their groups drinking and punching the air as they screamed the words of each track back to the band.
It wouldn’t be the finale of an Ocean Colour Scene gig without fan favourite ‘The Day We Caught The Train’ – every lyric was chanted with pints of beer flying over the rest of the audience.
Gerry volunteered to lead this month’s walk to Bredon Hill in the Vale of Evesham in Worcestershire.
Bredon Hill: Map: OS Explorer 190 – GR: SO982412
Meet in Main Road, Elmley Castle, by the Queen Elizabeth Inn, and park on road.
There are good views in all directions and, if the weather is clear, we should have good sight of the Suckley and Malvern Hills, and the Cotswolds to the east.
Leaving Elmley Castle, follow Hill Lane to a track which leads directly to Banbury Stone Tower. From there we head south-west for about half a mile where we pick up a path heading south-east which runs past Sundial Farm. In about another half mile we turn onto The Belt and follow this until we reach the Wychavon Way, which is followed down into Ashton Under Hill and our fuel stop at the Star Inn in Ashton Under Hill (dogs, hikers and Brummies are welcome in the bar).
After lunch we walk to end of village and pick up a bridleway taking us towards Fiddlers Knap to follow a path back to Elmley Castle.
The name “Bredon Hill” is unusual in that it combines the name for “hill” in three different languages. The word “bre” is of Celtic origin, and “don” is an Old English usage. Thus Bredon Hill can be translated as: Hillhill hill.
Now for a bit of poetry – this from A Shropshire Lad by A. E. Housman, which mentions Bredon Hill.
In summertime on Bredon
The bells they sound so clear;
Round both the shires they ring them
In steeples far and near,
A happy noise to hear.
Here of a Sunday morning
My love and I would lie,
And see the coloured counties,
And hear the larks so high
About us in the sky.
The bells would ring to call her
In valleys miles away:
‘Come all to church, good people;
Good people, come and pray.
But here my love would stay.
And I would turn and answer
Among the springing thyme,
‘Oh, peal upon our wedding,
And we will hear the chime,
And come to church in time.
But when the snows at Christmas
On Bredon top were strewn,
My love rose up so early
And stole out unbeknown
And went to church alone.
They tolled the one bell only,
Groom there was none to see,
The mourners followed after,
And so to church went she,
And would not wait for me.
The bells they sound on Bredon,
And still the steeples hum.
‘Come all to church, good people,’ –
Oh, noisy bells, be dumb;
I hear you, I will come.
By A. E. Housman
Not content with just one concert this month, it was time for those legendary rockers Def Leppard to perform a blistering break-neck bonanza at Birmingham Arena for their Hysteria tour.
Playing all the tracks from their signature dish Hysteria album, Def Leppard were not left wanting in the legendary stakes. A pulsating Big Cat of a concert if ever there was one (you can tell I haven’t been able to find a review yet to steal from…)
Stellar support band Cheap Trick didn’t let anyone down, and the bonuses kept stacking up with a guest appearance by the (dare I say it) legendary Roy Wood, who sang along with Cheap Trick and treated the Arena to “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day.”
There was a final concert to head-bang to – Clutch at the Birmingham Academy.
Searching for reviews of this rather excellent gig by the Maryland rockers meant navigating through a rake of clutch repair services and various auto-suggestions.
However, I managed to abridge this glowing tribute from the Midlands Metal Heads website by Amy Lawrence (with photos by Lisa Billingham).
Looking from left to right there’s one aspect within the audience that’s noticeably prevalent. Beards. Long, short, coloured and grey, all identifying with the collection of testosterone infused rock that’s about to be unveiled on stage.
The Inspector Cluzo are without a doubt, a fantastic opening band. Bedecked in a waistcoat and suit, the French duo go beyond their suave appearance and deliver a fusion of acoustic melodies and adrenaline fuelled rock n roll. (When the frontman and the drummer are not firing their material on stage, they spend time on their organic farm in Gascony raising geese).
It takes a while for the audience to warm up to German band, The Picturebooks. However, this did not detract from their well-crafted brand of rustic rock, a soundtrack to outcast lifestyles and Harley Davidsons.
It’s refreshing to witness such professionalism and class from the supporting bands, both consisting of two members only, simply excellent to witness for the powerful music they manage to create.
Following in the same vein, Clutch walk onto the stage with no airs or graces, no dramatic introductions or theatrics.
The music does the talking and what a hell of a speech it makes.
The audience are immediately captivated by those infectious grooves that Clutch perfectly conjures in their playing.
Refusing to restrict themselves to the same set list every night, Clutch vary the songs played at each gig, with fans unable to rigidly predict which tracks will be performed.
Neil Fallon is an absolute powerhouse of a singer, striding across the stage with ease, looking into the eyes of the audience, hands frequently pointed and clenched with crazed and distinctive facial expressions.
Within the middle of the show, Fallon reassures the audience that they’re not going anywhere yet, joking that they want to postpone the tragic dining at Greggs before departing from Heathrow airport.
Clutch complete their final show of 2018 with resounding applause. For a band that has been in the rock circuit for 27 years, they are far from waning into retirement anytime soon.