I recently mentioned that some former agricultural land beside the River Cam is being returned to a wetland nature reserve. The land will be allowed to flood during the winter months and should provide a feeding ground for many species of birds. The land is already taking on a more natural appearance but with the naked eye I wasn't able to see if any birds were present last week. So I returned yesterday armed with binoculars....
Flooded fields on the far side
of the river
...well, not much to see even with the extra magnification! Several Rooks, some Wood Pigeons and a Pheasant. But the natural river terrace where I was standing will make a splendid viewpoint when more birds find their way here. Two Snipe flew in while I was watching.
The land set aside for the wetland amounts to around 70 acres (31 hectares). Historically it used to be grazing land but has grown crops for many years, though it flooded every five years or so and crops were lost. I remember one winter in the late 1960s when the water was deep enough to take our punt right across these fields.
I walked along the river bank. Moorhens, Mallards and Little Grebes were all present on the water. The late afternoon sun broke through and made the male Mallards look magnificent as the light caught their iridescent plumage.
A little further along a line of willow trees on the far bank sparked some memories and made me feel very ancient indeed! You see, I remember how these trees came into being. The story I heard was that one of the tractor drivers on the farm had not seen the edge of the river here and had ended up in the water. Shortly afterwards a line of stakes were driven in along the bank. Whether it was the intention that these would sprout leaves and grow into trees I don't know, but that is exactly what happened.
On past deep corners which were favoured by fishermen and where we once moored a punt for an afternoon and drank rather too much red wine while Andy played his guitar and I fooled around trying to play blues harmonica. Where long philosophical conversations, about subjects we didn't fully understand, rambled on long into the twilight.
That was all in summertime of course. Now the wind was getting colder as the sun declined to the south-west and I made my way, wrapped up in warm reminiscences, to the city of Cambridge.