Riverwatch - September
Today we follow the footpath alongside the river Wissey. It is something that is just there that we take for granted although it is an important and integral part of the riverside. It follows the same twists and turns as the river. It shares the same countryside and wildlife. Both change with the weather and the seasons. They are inseparable!
We pass a solitary fisherman sitting at a favourite spot in the tall reedbeds. He is probably there for the whole day and patiently watches his float for the merest movement. He has had only a short walk to find his place of pleasure but never the less with good fortune perhaps his only interruption will be the passing morehens or the friendly inspection by the resident swan. This path is well worn and trodden as it has the most use.
A trio of young boys chase along the path. To them the path goes on for ever. It leads them to their own world of magic where they can play as children were intended to behave. They don't keep to the footpath for it is more fun to search out the woods and undergrowth for their adventures. At the end of their play they will have lost all sense of direction and so just finding the footpath again is important. Then they will have little bother finding their bikes which were left in a bed of nettles near the old five bar gate. They will have dirty and bruised knees with shoes full of water but will be anxious to return again another day!
We have now reached that part of the footpath where it changes from an easy walk. Here it becomes barely wide enough to pass. In places obstinate branches and even bent trees impede the way and must be negotiated like an obstacle course. The further we travel the more difficult it becomes until it completely disappears. We have no worry for if we follow the river itself we know the path will eventually reappear again. From now on it becomes more interesting and the chance of spotting wildlife is greater.
The footpath changes with all the seasons for the clock is always ticking. The arrival of Autumn and its inclement rain will prompt rapid growth of everything. Then the tall grass will become even taller and unmanageable. The passage through will have to be waded through like water. Then the trees will also lose their leaves making them more vulnerable to high winds so all the aged and weak branches will be truly tested. The resultant debris and flotsam will make even greater hurdles to negotiate and the challenge to pass will become even more of a challenge.
Come the wintertime the footpath with its poor drainage will give way to mud and in places 'extreme mud' and make it truly impassable. But still there will be ardent ramblers attempting to pass along. The passionate pike fishermen may also be tempted for they always have the urge to explore and find those really obscure places where they imagine giant predators queue up to be caught! For sure there is a greater sense of achievement if you can catch a personal best fish from somewhere that results in bramble scratches and a tricky dyke or similar to negotiate!
Whichever path we take and whenever we use it there can be different creatures to spot. Mother Nature's little folk are always about. We know they also enjoy its benefit. Especially during the hours of darkness the pathway becomes their own busy highway. We can see from the tell tale tracks which record their passing who went where! They show that rabbits and foxes, ducks and rats and even snakes all use its way. The tracks of deer are always there to find and at dusk there have been many sighting of stags followed by their harems making their way beside our river Wissey! They definitely use and enjoy the benefit of the footpath.
We can also track the river itself. Each stretch has its own different fish to spot so the footpath provides a wonderful overview of all that is happening in the shallows and deeps! So, unreservedly, the riverside pathway must not be taken for granted and when you find use it and it will lead you to a whole new world!
By Ivor Hook