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Friday, 20 January 2012

Walking by Water

We started our first walk of the year, and the first in a set of eight new walks for our project Light Walks for Dark Days.

We set out in Kettering on a crisp, frosty day.  The bright sunlight seemed to heighten the colours in the bare trees, vibrant red and green twigs in a sapphire blue sky.

Frost edged leaves and blades of grass like tiny diamonds.

It was hard to imagine that the patch of rough grass near the bridge had once been the site of a Mill and that the field we were walking across had once been a dumping ground for waste materials from the local Boot and Shoe factories. This green space is a well used, well loved space, children play here and throughout the day there are many meetings of groups of regular dog walkers of all ages. To the left hand side of the field there are old apple and plum trees which still produce fruit to this day.

We headed across the common towards the water's edge, and stopped on the footbridge for a while. Carole caught sight of a large trout darting in amongst the water plants and told the group that this was a popular spot for young anglers and exuberant dogs who love to career down the banks after sticks or squeaky toys!

Looking over the bridge, fast running shallow water and luminous green flowing weeds.  We started thinking about the speed of the water, where it goes.  "How are rivers made?" somebody asked.  We talked about the power of water to carve its way through earth and rock, rivulets joining with other rivulets to create torrential rivers, all down to gravity and the search for the lowest point.

Walking on down the path along the water's edge, a horse plodded across its frozen field to greet us.

A field stretching up the hill beside us, its dead stalks contouring the slopes in rhythmic lines. During the planning walk in December Carole and Jo found clusters of fungi nestled in between the ground level branches of an inviting tree.

On the day of our walk Carolyn found the same tree equally inviting and couldn't resist clambering where the fungi had clustered just a month before. This is the wonderful thing about walking, the route may stay constant but time and seasons bring a host of tiny changes which create subtle alterations.

We found a single boot, sturdy, quite new, mysteriously abandoned at the side of the path and we all wondered why it was that there were often single boots / shoes / trainers left to fend for themselves.

John was reminded of the song Jake the Peg, and created a new leg for the boot, 


which then temporarily became a walking stick

Willow trees growing wild by the water, loving the moisture! Their yellow whips of new growth got us thinking about weaving willows and how nature always regrows after death.

A line of frost clung to the water's edge.

Pete recognised the pip pips of Great Tits and we spotted a pair of them flitting repeatedly from one tree to another.   Jo mentioned she had spotted coots nesting on the river on a previous visit.  And so, attuned to watching for further wildlife, we continued on, ears pricked and eyes searching for any movement.

Further down, we spotted a great grey heron on the other side of the water, standing still as a statue.  It reminded John of other great birds and when he saw an Albatross at a nearby reserve.

Further down, the water's rush slowed until perfectly still, creating perfect mirror images.

As we picnicked, a cheeky red robin hopped up really close to us, checking out any crumbs on offer.  Quick, mad rush to get out the camera in time to snap him - but no!  

Each time the camera was lined up and ready to click, he would flit away again!  Teasing us, he reappeared several times, just flying off again as we were about the capture him ... until ... finally!  Jo got this -

and Carole got this - we were quite sure he was starting to pose for us!

 After lunch Jo showed everyone how to make paper boats

we had wondered about using seed paper but thought it wouldn't be very watertight

we chose a simple orange paper which would break apart in due course.

The paper folding was great fun, luckily the sun was just warm enough to keep our fingers supple and it wasn't long until we had created a whole flotilla.

We left our secluded picnic spot and walked further along the path, heading towards Warkton, as Carole knew where there was an ideal spot to launch the boats from.  She assured us that it was just a short stretch away, with a shingly outcrop and quite fast flowing water. The first attempts caught a reverse current and came back to us, so we made sure the boats were thrown out to the furthest bank where the current carried them swiftly forwards. The boats were a Light Thoughts intervention, carrying our hopes and wishes with them.

The return walk covered a variety of paces, some were watching the time, having meetings to get to by 3pm, others were still caught up in the spirit of exploration, finding new things to see on the way back, but we finally got back to our starting point, rosy cheeked and with fairly muddy feet. It was a very good way to start the week.

A rich day of colours, sounds, birds and water, many memories stored away of a good day.