December 3rd, 2010


winter walking

The tow path at the moment is a place of wonder and silent delight. Gone are the summer walkers, the usual gaggle of drinkers, holiday makers, fishermen and riverfolk. Only the hardiest rowers and riverboaters remain, cold and scowling at the ice that edges the river, flickering out into the channel at night, retreating by day, biding its time, building its empire.

I pass the occasional family come out to gawp at the snow and feed seagulls and the slightly sad swan family -- now reconciled and back to begging for bread together -- but other than that it's just me and whatever is out there that morning; a robin, bold in the cold, a flock of long-tailed tits twittering in the birch trees. A thrush, scooting under the hedge like a rat as I pass. Magpies and crows, always; and of course the riverine throng of gulls, ducks, geese, roosting in the water until morning lifts enough to be worth a forage.

Sometimes a confident mountain-biker shoots past my elbow or a very tough jogger comes by, with that painfully slow gait that cold weather and ice underfoot provokes. If you listen towards the end of this one, a jogger passes; the birds don't miss a note. You might need to turn up your volume, it's quiet.