Thursday, 19 January 2012

A Riverside Ramble

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.

Take care.


  1. great photos, and yes the willows no doubt came from those original willow-cuttings for sure. A quite sizeable pruning, staked up, will just take off, like these did. Such a pretty photo now and perhaps moreso when covered in new green growth. Wow 'vino on the punt and strutting-your-stuff on the harmonica; what a way to go.

  2. It is a beautiful setting with much potential for wildlife. I love the first silhouette shot of the tree line... that's one humdinger of an image!

  3. That brilliant willow tree photograph John - needs making into a card - wonderful image of wetlands.

  4. I love the line of willows photo and the little tale with it!

    Lots of nice memories and the silhouette photo is fantastic.

  5. Beautiful reflections in all the pics with water. The last photo is very dramatic but at the same time peaceful. I always enjoy the history associated with your landscapes.

  6. It looks very peaceful and I'm sure the wildlife will turn up eventually. That final photo of Cambridge is really lovely.

  7. Great photos-and I loved the story about the stakes turning into the trees : )

  8. Great shots John! If you are getting Snipe flying in, that is a great first step. Look forward to seeing how this area progresses over time.
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  9. Another excellent series, John. It is pretty already, and you will enjoy seeing it develop with time.

  10. Very nice, John. Those are pleasant memories, but I think they will best be left as memories. Too much red wine hurts much more these days! Jim

  11. The reflections of blue sky, grasses, and trees is equally as compelling as the real things. I love the image of willows and the story related to it. The changing colors of birds’ plumage reflecting the sunlight must be beautiful.

  12. Thanks for all your comments. Snipe have been seen in the area before and I've even seen a Greenshank (once). So I hope that more species will turn up some day. I'll keep you posted.


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