Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Riverside

The River Arrow runs north from Kington in north Herefordshire and I walked down to sit on its bank near Titley one August evening last week. It isn't a large river, probably around 20 to 30 feet wide around here and you could probably walk across it in the shallows in a dry year, but there has been much rain recently and the water was rather brisk moving and muddy.

I've found a place to sit just near the water's edge. I had to walk through a puddled corn field and then find my way through the riverbank, here a tall feast of nettles, comfrey, docks, grass, willowherb and bindweed. I'm sitting on a piece of discarded plastic as the earth is too cool and damp for a long wait. My back rests against one of the many alder trees that line the riverbank. It is the end of a very intermittently showery and sunny day. It is a private place though I am not far from a small stone road bridge, but no cars break the peace of the quiet country lane this night. I am wrapped up warm, a thick winter shirt keeps the cool breeze away form my still form. A rainbow led to me to this place. As I walked here it appeared on the hill in front of me - bright, against the dark grey clouds. I am now sitting below the place where I perceived it to exist.

Will there be any different about this place tonight? What will I observe?

All I can hear is the fast tumbling and swirling of the water over the stones and the gentle rustling of leaves in the tall alders.

Ooops, I absent-mindedly squash a tiny weeny spider on my sketch pad that I see out the corner of my eye!

I face downstream, the cold water just a couple of feet away. I give thanks to this place.

A wren chatters. Was that a dipper flying past?

A pile of flood debris forms a wall against the alders on a small island in front of me. A large pale blue plastic barrel, incongruous in the field of view sits there too, washed down by floods earlier in the year along with tree trunks, roots and branches.

Not much really happens does it? I feel a little awkward being here with an expectant heart. Perhaps my perception of time and timescales is at fault. My 'time' feels so inconsequential to Nature's. Should I have done a little ceremony on arrival I wonder?

I am suddenly aware of a low sort of thunderous noise seemingly getting louder. It isn't thunder and, as my view to the field on the other side of the river is obscured by the alders' I wonder if it is a herd of cattle running down down the steep hillside. It gets louder and through the trees I glimpse a herd of ten to fifteen brown and black cattle approach the river bank. Some climb down the six foot muddy drop to the water's edge and stand in the mud and the river. I can smell them, even from around fifty feet away. Then, after ten minutes or so, the slowly and silently return back to the field.

A fish jumps.

The sun has long gone over the horizon and the light is noticeably fading. Do I hear a robin? A faint shape moves in the branches on the opposite bank. Is that another dipper flying past? A dove coos. A wren is calling again, unseen and always on the move. A spider is on my hand. A buzzard calls far away.

Brrr, it's cold!

Alders: always in touch with the water or in the moist soil of the river bank. Tall thin trunks reaching upwards. Beautiful foliage silhouetted against the grey sky

I'll have to move, I'm getting uncomfortable. I give thanks to the place and then depart.

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