In 1950 Eric Gillham, with Dick Homes, published The Birds of the North Kent Marshes. In this book they describe the landscape, habitats and bird life of the marshes stretching from Gravesend to Whitstable. It’s full of surprises and somehow a real sense of wildness shines through the facts and numbers. I know that Bill Oddie bought a copy and that it inspired him to visit the marshes to see the birds for himself. He has been a strong supporter of the conservation of the North Kent marshes ever since.
When Sally and I came to live in Gravesend in 1973 I acquired a second hand copy of “Gillham and Homes”. It inspired us and we soon started to birdwatch the area. We even moved to Chalk so that we could access the marshes from our front door! We walked out across the marsh this afternoon. Little grebes were courting, we heard a cettis warbler and pintail ducks were still on the flooded fields opposite our house. Shelducks have been attracted to these floods and Sally could have taken a photograph similar to the wonderful image on the dust jacket.
My copy of the book also contains a personal letter from Eric Gillham to a Miss Grange (dated 29th Sept. 1954) thanking her for sending him records of birds. Much later (1st February 2005) I got hold of a letter from him that had been sent to the RSPB Northward Hill office asking if it would be possible to send him a copy of their newsletter “On the Marshes”.
The book is a good read and it is still the best available on the North Kent marshes. The marshes are part of our heritage. “Gillham and Homes” contains sufficient on its own to oppose any airport development!