Yesterday afternoon I glanced out of my window and noticed a spreading line of water stretching out, from the River Ouse, across the Cosgrove fields. This morning, heading out before the sun was up, I wandered into the floods.
Ouse Valley Floods
I was filled with tricky decisions as I looked across the Ouse Valley, the sun not having broken the horizon. My regular routes appeared to be underwater. I should have worn my boots. So while I started around the church in Old Wolverton, I quickly decided there was no point walking from here to the river (if I even could). so headed instead directly to the Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve, and passed Manor Farm.
Ponies & Sunrise
As I crested the hill and could see the nature reserve below me, the first thing I noticed was that in the fields below the farm, two of the Konik Ponies were grazing. Obviously moved for safety to higher ground, the other two were still on the reserve.
Walking towards the Farm Hide I was stunned by the sheer amount of water, the nearer I got the more it dawned that I would have no hope of accessing the hides, and in fact by the time I reached the first gate I realised I wouldn’t be walking the paths either.
Not that I will complain, as the site of that much water is one to behold. Especially as the sun was beginning to rise behind me and the sky was turning into a golden pink.
The birdlife on the reserve was very limited, at least in the areas that could be seen, very few ducks could be seen. There was the odd whistle from a Teal; and a male Goosander flew through, but otherwise nothing.
I briefly tried to enter the reserve from the Aqueduct end, but water was flowing along the path at the pace of the river. And was too deep for my walking boots.
The canal was bright and sunny as I wandered the thin towpath, heading towards Cosgrove. Dropping down to the River I could see just how fast and furious the water was running.
Through the Aqueduct
Passing under the canal to check the western reaches of the Ouse, the tale was much the same. Areas usually teeming with dog walkers, were deep under water, paths now invisible under muddy brown water. Geese and gulls swam the now lake like fields. The old canal route, now refilled and burst, was as impassable as I had surmised when looking down across the valley an hour or so earlier in the day.
With little chance of passing, even if I had worn my rubber boots, I headed back up along the canal.
What I was not expecting today was a patch year tick, let alone two! Yet as I walked back towards Old Wolverton, a calling finch flew over. A quick check and I was watching a Brambling fly off into the distance. Stunned by this little finches presence (I see maybe 1 or 2 a year if I am lucky) I carried on walking, aiming to head down to the old lock from above. Hoping there would be a clear path from the church.
But before I had reached the end of the canal another calling bird caught my attention. Picking this bird out in the bushes a Marsh Tit slowly worked its way through the hedges. Again a bird I see if I am luck once a year now. Although years ago they were not uncommon beside the Aqueduct.
Eventually I was back at the old lock entrance. And started to wander through. I knew I wouldn’t get all the way, having seen the water at the other end but I was surprised I made it all the way to the old lock itself. However the area itself was quite quiet in terms of birds.
Heading back out I spotted a number of birds picking around on the frozen edges of the flood waters. Great Tits were hanging on the long grassy edges; a Robin was regularly hopping down from a fence post to pick at the ice; Blackbirds flew and skittered across the frozen water; and a number of Redwing hopped about the crystalline surface. The latter an unusual site (I’ve never seen them on ice before).
I now made my way back home across the sheep fields. Pausing for a few last photos of the floods, as the five bar gate I photographed my daughter climbing on Boxing Day, stood deep in the creeping water. The furrows left by the old village now slowly filling with icy water.
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