Leigh-On-Sea – Wildlife Refuge for City Dwellers

Leigh On SeaLeigh-On-Sea is a tow at the end of Thames Estuary Path. The path is 29 miles (47 km) long, which is a lot of walking if you intend to do it on a single day. But that’s not necessary to enjoy the estuary and its wildlife.

Sometimes all we need is a bit of seclusion. A goal difficult to achieve in a big city. As a crowd hater living in London, I’ve explored some of the quieter places in the immediate vicinity but there was always something missing there. It just wasn’t quiet enough for me.

LeighOnSea-1  LeighOnSea

Don’t get me wrong. Canada it ain’t. There are people everywhere. Paths are littered with dog turds and even the sky is polluted with noise made by Radio Control Airplanes. Some sound like mosquito farts, others seem to be of a more serious caliber. But this place has something other places don’t. Salt marches with deep ditches, cracks and river-like channels, deep sticky mud resembling quicksand, and above all – tides periodically cutting the marshes off the main land.

And this is great because very few people will risk getting dirty these days. You wouldn’t have thought that’d be enough to stop dog walkers and tourists from following you. It almost sounds too good. But that’s exactly what happened when we went to visit the marshes. Not a single person dared to challenge the treacherous bog. We just laid there like it was all ours 🙂

Salt Marshes Szymon Szary Simon's Discoveries

The day was beautiful and sunny. Not too cold, not too warm. It also happens to be the spring bird migration time so we could enjoy biggest flocks of curlew I’ve ever seen. A hundred, maybe two hundred birds. Plenty of redshanks, brant geese, pipits, skylarks etc.  The place was actually full of surprises and ‘biggest things ever’. Like that massive 5 metre tall bramble twig we saw on our way from the island. Have I mentioned there was an island? Or the rabbit-seze rat feeding on leftovers from bird feeders.

Good times just an hour away from London.

Leigh-On-Sea Leigh On Sea Leigh On Sea 1 Salt Marsh Salt Marsh


Call me the fox whisperer

I only included a short part of the whole story in this video as most of the footage was too dark and shaky. Besides, I had to watch the mad fox all the time

I was coming back from a day trip, good times BTW…

…But it started getting dark and I had to start getting back home. Walking down a forest path, I suddenly stopped for some reason. I don’t remember what it was but it made me turn around and switch on my flashlight. I clearly saw a pair of eyes glowing in the dark. At first I thought it was a dog lost in the woods. I took a closer look and it became obvious there was a fox just a few meters behind me.

My first thought was that the poor guy must’ve just stumble upon me unintentionally, is about to realise his mistake and run. But to my surprise that never happened. The fox stood there for a few seconds, looked at me and started trotting toward me. The video was shot just after that initial impression and shows the fox’s behaviour right after we realised, we knew of each other.

I started getting a little worried as we do have cases of rabid foxes here in Poland, and I immediately remembered all the warnings I’d heard about strangely behaving wild animals. So I tried to keep my distance. Unfortunately, it soon turned out that wasn’t enough. The problem wasn’t me. It was the curious fox who just wouldn’t stay away and even attempted to playfully (I hope) charge me and stalk me in the bushes on the path’s sides.

At that point I was seriously concerned and even reached for my pepper spray. I mean, think abut it. You’re in the middle of the woods, in pitch darkness, alone and there is a freaking fox following you, trying to charge you and approaching as close as 3 meters away. Pretty spooky eh?

Either way… the spray didn’t help. I don’t know if it was the low temperature (about -8) or the spray had expired, but it clearly had no effect on the fox other than driving it back a bit as soon as the spray made that hissing sound. In addition, some of that crap got on my fingers and gave me a taste of my own medicine later at home.

Since the fox wouldn’t live me alone, I started throwing sticks at it. Well, that drove him good 50 meters away. For about 20 seconds. He was still following me. Just at a greater distance. At one point he felt so comfortable with me around, he actually started hunting a few steps away from me, doing this foxy head jump into the snow. I started suspecting it might be a this year’s pup. The way it was behaving, playing and wallowing in the snow, all that seemed to suggest it’s just a young and hopefully healthy fox, who had simply never seen snow before.

In fact, that was the first snowy day this winter, which meant the fox could’ve seen this strange white stuff before. That is of course, it it was indeed a youngster. Considering the circumstances, I still found it hard to believe that a fox could get so cocky just because it was excited about its first snow. Especially that people shoot foxes in these parts. I can’t believe it had never encountered a human before either. Why did it behave this way then? How did it even survive that long? I honestly don’t understand that.

The situation took place just a couple of day after my close encounter with a wild boar, which only made things even more confusing. Don’t get me wrong. I always wanted to have a special connection with wild animals but this was getting a bit overwhelming 🙂

The fox walked me almost to the main road a couple hundred meters from my house, where the lights and strange noises must’ve proven too much for him. He disappeared somewhere in the young growth and we never met again.