The location was Groveferry (OS 179 Map Ref 235633) to Fordwich (Map Ref 181597) along five miles of the beautiful Great Stour River situated in Kent to the east of Canterbury, taking in Westbere Marshes to the north of the river and a large nature reserve to the south.
The motley crew met at Groveferry on Saturday 3rd April and consisted of the organiser and captain for the day, Ian Andrews (Characterboats), Edward Norton (Kit-Monster), Terry Longley (Boyd-Longley) and Mike Taylor (Greyheron 53). Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, Terry had to pull out at the last minute and was missed during our river sojourn.
Ian had provided steaming mugs of hot coffee for the participants in the clubhouse before boarding the good ship "Gemiini" for the start of our cruise . . . . . . oh and we had to stop off at the new slipway to save Ian's van from the rising tide!
Just under the first bridge the excitement started, a huge fish leapt out of the water a few metres off the port bow, spraying us all with water - did we get a photograph?. . . . . well, that was the first one that got away that day! So we consoled ourselves with Mars bars all round.
The weather was grey and overcast for most of the day with some drizzle but occasionally the sun broke through in spectacular form, bathing us in glorious warmth. Our first stop was at Westbere Marshes where we were lucky to see a red kite soaring on the thermals above the northern ridge. We photographed bright yellow marsh marigolds while taking in the scent of crushed mint which grew everywhere. Many wildfowl are seen on these waters and it was a privilege to be able to spend time here and take photographs.
There were many interesting structures along the river bank which made great subjects for our cameras. I can't wait to go back as I feel I missed so many opportunities. Several kingfishers were seen darting at breakneck speed up and down the river - much too quickly to be caught on "film" (remember?)! So it was that after bagging shots of swans taking flight right in front of the boat we tied up at the jetty of the Fordwich Arms for lunch and liquid refreshment. Thanks to Edward for treating us to a fabulous lunch - most welcome. After a relaxing chat in the comfortable surroundingd of this riverside establishment we felt rejuvenated enough to wield the big glass again!
Edward took up his position in the bow once more and entertained us with his Kate Winslet impersonation - much to Ian's and my amusement - and we all tucked into hot cross buns for dessert, courtesy of Ian.
On the way back to Groveferry we had the tide with us and were lucky enough to see the red kite once more, together with a showy cormorant drying his wings on a wooden structure fronting a spectacular reedbed. Off our starboard bow Edward saw a pair of greater spotted woodpeckers dancing and chasing each other around the trunk of a large tree. Meanwhile, all three of us missed yet another chance to get that elusive grey heron flight shot as it disappeared into the distance . . . . . oh well, next time!
The fuel lasted just long enough to get us back safely to the clubhouse, where Ian provided more coffee and we discussed the day. All agreed it had been a great success and both Edward and I would like to say a very big thank you to Ian for organising a fantastic day out for us.