Preparing to meet an old friend

This Saturday I am volunteering at Essex Wildlife Trust’s AGM, the flagship event of one of the East of England’s largest conservation organisations. It will be a rather special event for me personally as it is being held at ‘the Naze‘, a part of the county that holds a particular place in my heart, as you will probably know if you are a regular reader of this blog. I spent a very happy 13 months there as the reserve ranger and it will be nice to see some old faces and to tread some familiar paths. The principal aim of the day is to officially launch the Education and Visitor centre, which is being opened by BBC Coast‘s Nick Crane. I will be part of a team taking guests round the peninsula on guided walks, which I am very much looking forward to doing (although having looked at the forecast just now I can foresee numbers of people willing to trudge around the site might be limited given the expected heavy torrents). I realised when I was walking the beach at Holnicote down in Somerset on Monday quite how much I miss the sound and salty smell of the sea and the uniquely fresh air that accompanies it. I’ve been brushing up on my know how of the place today, although in reality, having got to know the place intimately through writing my book on the place, it is more like preparing to meet an old friend. Landscapes (and habitats and certain species) can be like that. When you strike an affinity with a place and return to it, it is like picking up from where you started with a very old friend. You click with it. You connect with it. You may notice subtle changes but in essence it is still very much the same. In the case of the Naze the soft rocks continue to erode. I am tempted to do some measurements at the weekend at the key points where I used to take readings when I worked there – and compare the results to those that I still have from 2014. It’s a bit of a family affair on Saturday as my father will be leading a work party to create a new (small) sea defence at the north east corner of the site, filling gabion baskets with granite rocks. The aim is to slow the erosion along this particularly fragile corner of the peninsula. The trial for the works, initiated a few months ago, seems to have been a success and thankfully Natural England have granted permission for this secondary works to now be carried out. It is the next chapter in what has been a centuries long battle of man against the rising tide, increasing storminess and the risk of surges. This, I think will form the key subject of the walk as I walk around the site.

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