England’s southern coastline is not the world’s most alluring, but it is striking in its own way. After spending the last year and a half in landlocked Rwanda, moreover, D found it quite refreshing – both visually and meteorologically.
After a gloomy Saturday, the weather gods smiled on the English coast on Sunday, which sparkled under a brightly shining sun. Whatever warmth the sun’s rays may have offered, however, was easily negated by the blustering wind, which swept off the ocean in rolling frigid gusts. There is nothing quite like being buffeted by an icy wind to reinvigorate the senses.
With only a few hours at their disposal, D and his friend headed to Hengistbury Head – an elevated promontory jutting out into the English Channel near Bournemouth. Much of the land has been protected by the local council as a nature reserve for the last three decades, so D was a bit surprised to see a small golf course abutting the walking trails.
Whereas rain-soaked Poole felt empty the previous day, the sun-dappled heaths of Hengistbury were teeming with visitors. The golfers wore poofy jackets to shield themselves from the wind. Children played on the thin sandy beach, dodging ocean waves. Ascending Warren Hill – the elevated part of the promontory – the visitor is treated to expansive views of the Channel, and plenty of people made the short uphill hike, dogs and kids in tow.
From Warren Hill, D and his friend descended to a thin spit of land studded with closely built beach huts, and from there skirted the harbor en route back to their car – a pleasant, two-hour stroll before heading back north towards London.
Not thinking that he would have an opportunity to go birding on this quick trip to the UK, D did not bring most of his camera gear. Even so, he got close enough to snap a few decent photos with his everyday lens. Swans and wigeons were aplenty in the harbor while starlings caused a racket on the golfing greens. There were the usual gulls, a handful of oystercatchers, and a kestrel that hovered overhead just as D and his friend were nearing the end of their hike – all common species, several of which were new to D, however, as this was his first visit to these climes.