On what would be our last walk of 2015, the last dance on the patch, and as we set foot on Alpaca road, as it has become known to us (there are two alpacas that live in a field here), all around us the first signs of spring could be heard, at least that is how it felt, Robins and Blackbirds were in full song, singing their melodic mating songs from high up in the canopy all along the car free stretch.
Last Dance and Squelching
The sky was a stunning, rich, azure blue, sprinkled with fluffy white clouds, the kind of sky that I would associate with the start of spring, not as crisp as a sunny winter sky, the sort that has that last haze of winter but is slowly metamorphosing into summer. Further along there were even Cherries coming into blossom, the weather really is quite screwy at the moment.
Today my daughter and I, along with Granny, had decided to take a walk along the Grand Union Canal; Bubs had said yesterday that she really wanted to walk over the Aqueduct, and as her mum is a bit of a coward when it comes to heights (I recall a time in Madeira when she sat back to the wall in sheer darkness counting, rather than listen out for incoming Fea’s Petrel high up in the mountains) we thought, what better day when we were without her.
Before we had even hit the canal though, and just as we were passing Holy Trinity Church, and starting our first game of eye spy, a gloriously, rich coloured, rusty tailed Red Kite soared into sight. High above the canopy of the small copse the elegant raptor hung in the air; moving only it’s tail as a rudder to steer itself in small circles, as it slowly drifted its elegant beauty across the road and above our heads; until it disappeared into the brilliant sun and off over Wolverton.
Buoyed by the wonderful sight of this enigmatic raptor (and full of bitter disappointment that I had not brought my long lens) we carried on towards the canal only stopping briefly to look at the sheep and marvel at the already blossoming cherry tree.
|Cherries in blossom in late December, the weather really is messed up!|
We headed onto the canal tow path, just beyond the Galleon pub, and were soon in amongst the throng of other walkers who were also taking advantage of the unseasonable warmth and brilliant sunshine. As we made our way through the Canada Geese feeding families, the young lad bouncing alongside the canal on a pogo stick (you see it all along a canal), and people with dogs in pushchairs (I kid you now) we began to pick out highlights of nature.
|The Grand Union Canal – Old Wolverton|
Blue Tits and Great Tits could be seen flying from the Blackthorn either side of the water, Moorhen strutted their stuff along the banks, and Mallards hurried along passed us, back to the feeding families, each one after a snack on the bread being thrown into the water.
We soon caught up with a pair of Mute Swan who were gracefully navigating the slow moving water prior to our arrival, once the spotted us they soon headed our way, calling and hissing at us to throw them a morsel or two, not that we had anything. Eventually they came so close that I was easily able to teach the little one how to tell which is male and which female. As we stood and watched the pair settled in at the waters edge pulling at the tall green stems of grass edging the canal.
|Mute Swan, backlit at the edge of the Grand Union Canal|
|Mute Swan, backlit at the edge of the Grand Union Canal|
Leaving the swans to carry on their elegant journey, we finally reached the Iron Trunk Aqueduct and set out over the still swollen River Ouse below. The view down across the patch from the aqueduct is an impressive one. But not and easy one to spend time enjoying. The path is narrow with a great drop one side and the canal the other. with barely a couple of feet of concrete between the two.
After passing over the River Ouse, we continued up along the canal and into Cosgrove. An area not strictly part of the patch, but one I occasionally wander. From the canals path we could see out over the camp site and its multitude of lakes. I was pleased to find a small flock of 6 Goosander (4 males 2 females) hidden away on one of the more tree encircled lakes; they were accompanied by a lone Great-crested Grebe; and a fishing Cormorant who was taking ever longer dives in search of a fishy feast.
While attempting to show the little one these beautiful saw billed ducks, a task not always easy 6 year old’s and binoculars don’t always work well together, although we did manage eventually; two heron species flew across the top of the lake below us. First a long necked Grey Heron, closely followed by its smaller whiter cousin a Little Egret. The latter landing in amongst the reeds on the far side from us. All the while a small raft of Tufted Duck could be seen swimming the murky waters; while a single Coot was diving up and down.
After navigating (successfully thankfully) a lock to cross over the canal we headed into the fields at Cosgrove (mentioned before but worth doing so again please sign the petition here to save them and join the Facebook Page), a vast area of flood plain and farmers fields, as we first skirted the edges all seemed fine, a little muddy but easily passable and with barely mudding up, but the further into the fields we walked, the more the squelching of the title started. By the time we reached the style to cross over into the last field the area was a quagmire, thick mud and deep puddles put our footwear to the test for sure today.
Finally we managed to cross through the fields and onto the bridge beside the old mill building, standing looking both up and down stream it was clear the river while still swollen is not at present in danger of bursting the banks, although I am sure by the time I am back out on the patch this will have changed again, with more rain forecast it is only a matter of time.
|Bubs in front of the Old Mill|
|Down river from the Old Mill|
|Up Stream of the Old Mill|
Heading back passed Wolverton House we made our way back home worn out from a 3+ mile long walk across some of the dampest (while not being flooded yet) fields; high along the Grand Union canal as it crosses the river Ouse. And having enjoyed the unnatural spring weather of this crazy December. The final dance of Views From an Urban Lake from 2015.