The Bird Nesters

What a wonderful time for us boys growing up in early and mid thirties. (Not so wonderful for our parents with money and unemployment problems in the pre-war depression.) Nevertheless we had freedom, freedom to roam from the edge of the marshes at Blacketts to Provender Woods; from Deerton Street to Doddington.

Our favourite season was springtime when the birds began to build their nests. We would wander across marsh meadows, along streams and hedgerows in search of these nests. When found, their location was jealously guarded until the fledglings had flown.

Some birds returned to the same nesting sights. Kestrels built in small trees at the edge of the marsh whereas rooks had their favourite elms which they occupied for most. of the year. There were always jackdaws at Norton church, although when I visited St. Mary’s last summer there wasn’t a jackdaw to be seen. Provender Wood was home to the jays while swifts returned year after year to Teynham station and Mr Thomas’s oast house; the sand martins preferred the cliff face at Sandowns.

Standing at the top of Sandowns, at this time of year, looking towards Sittingbourne would be a sea of blossom for as far as the eye could see. No electric trains, no juggernaut lorries and no jet aircraft to disturb this idyllic scene. There was however one sound, an ominous sound that carried across the Swale from the Air Force ranges near Leysdown, the rattle of machine guns. A sound that in a few short years was to fill our skies.

The sun was high
In a clear blue sky
We were young and time was free.
The miles we went
And the hours we spent
On secrets of bush and tree.

Jackdaws chatter
Around the church clatter
Jays in Provender Wood.
There’s a bullfinch again
Down Norton Lane
In the hedge where the fir trees stood

As Deerton Street ends
And the narrow road bends
Moorhens build in the rushes,
While on a small ridge
Under the bridge
A lonesome wagtail fusses.

The noisy rooks realm
Is high in the elm
Close to Ozier’s brink,
Two turtle doves fly
to their nests nearby
As we the cool water’s drink.

There’s a six foot track
To that ‘blackie’ and back
I wonder who gave it away?
Eggs are like stone
Why don’t they leave it alone
She won’t he back today.

Martins hold rank
On Sandowns bank
The chaffinch is back in the birch,
A thrush’s song
Is sweet and long
Way up on it’s lofty perch.

The magpies home
Is a spacious dome
There’s a hole were a starling has nested,
There are linnets and wrens
And the farmer’s hens
In the orchard where we rested.

Around oast house and station
Without hesitation
The swifts continually fly,
Darting and weaving
Throughout the evening
Their twittering fills the sky.

So Billy, Tiffy
Corny and me
Trudge wearily home to tea,
“It’s church ‘tomorrer’”
Best suit and clean collar
But there will still be plenty to see.


Teynham Parish Council Website