Afternoon on the river

The Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh wrote that ‘to know fully even one field or one land is a lifetime’s experience’.  He thought that it was important for a poet to know every inch of their own acre in depth.  Observation is everything.

Spot the heron in the middle of the weir!
This is my acre. I’ve lived here for over twenty one years and I’ve walked along this river bank at least once a week for almost the whole of that time. The river is the first thing I see when I wake in the morning and the hushing noise of water over the weir lulls me to sleep at night.  In summer it glitters and sparkles; in winter it turns into a thundering brown torrent that sometimes runs through the ground floor.

Winter birch trees reflected in the river today
For the last three years I’ve been based in Italy and only back at the Mill once a month - occasionally for longer periods.  But a couple of weeks ago, when I was in New Zealand, I was asked if I’d like to have my RLF Fellowship at Lancaster University back. The answer, for a number of complicated reasons, was yes.  So here I am, on the river bank again, re-discovering my territory.

The river is looking its best in autumn and, even though most of the trees have shed their leaves, there’s the occasional torch still staring at its golden reflection.

The resident heron has his/her pitch on the weir, fending off all competition, though there’s another one hiding a few hundred yards downstream.

And the otters are still here.  A few days ago I was drinking my early cup of tea in bed watching the heron fishing on the edge of the weir, when suddenly there was a swirl and a flourish in the water directly under his beak.   The heron reared back in astonishment as the head of an otter emerged from the river to look at him before diving again.  The heron took flight, but the otter stayed in what was obviously rich fishing territory, rolling and diving like a seal, before heading back upriver.

Today the heron was about a mile further up where the river broadens out under shaded banks, the only evidence a big disturbance in the water and that familiar sleek body curving up and then down - gone before you can even think of getting a camera out.

Such glimpses of the wild are gifts.

A leaf floating among the clouds and trees reflected in the water.


  1. have always thought your English home is in a beautiful spot!
    What a privilege to see otters!
    We could do with some of the water flowing over that weir. We have been in drought for nearly 18 months now. Our main creek would fit through a garden hose now!

  2. So sorry to hear about your water problems Al - I'd be happy to share some of ours - we have too much! Climate change seems to be dishing out extremes.


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