I was walking through a vast field, the rain falling gently and the air around me quiet – the absence of roads was deafening. Not knowing where I was, it was a surprise when I stumbled across the river Peterill, snaking through the field and disappearing under a bridge, into the cover of trees.
I followed the twisting river, the sound of fast flowing water rushing through my ears. The ground underneath me changed from soft grass into a muddy pathway. I saw few human and dog footprints from those who had braved the off beaten track. The wet mud showed all the activity of passersby – though I didn’t see any animal prints besides the dogs. Walking on, I found myself dodging fallen branches and pushing through brambles, the area wildly overgrown. In front of me, sparrows would flit from tree to tree, chirping as they flew by. Rustles in the hedges told me that something was there watching and waiting for me to pass by – not quite used to the human presence.
In the corner of my eye I sensed movement. Slowing down, I turned to see a dipper on the opposite side of the river. It wasn’t paying much attention to me as I sank to the ground. Lying across the wet riverbank, I stayed still, watching and photographing as the bird preened whilst stood on a rock.
Having the time to just sit and be in the wild is calming. You can take a step back from the ‘real world’ and take the time to really appreciate what’s around us. Birds calling, the sounds of leaves rustling and a river flowing beside you is real. Sitting alone in nature watching the animals around you, feeling the soft ground beneath you and having rain on your face is as close as you can get to the real world.
After a while, the dipper decided it was time to find food, and I watched as it bobbed around the water. Seeing a dipper swimming and diving was great, being a first for me. It flew off, and I decided to journey further down the river.
Not far from where I had been, I came across a bridge. The river had widened, and the path had gone. Disappointed, I made my way up the side of the riverbank and found myself in a shop’s car park. Following the direction of the river, I spotted a small sign on the opposite side of the road, signalling that there was a public pathway. I eagerly made my way across the busy road, having to wait for the lights to change before I could zip across.
The rain started to get heavier as I set off down the pathway. I came to a flooded section, and had no choice but to walk through the brambles. I could see tall reeds a few metres ahead, and glimpsed small birds flitting between them. By the time I got there the birds had disappeared, leaving me to just wonder what they were. I carried on along the river, occasionally seeing a sparrow fly past me. I met a couple of dog walkers along this stretch, smiling in greeting.
I was happily walking along, looking down the river trying to spot some form of wildlife, when a deafening sound of wings flapping scared the living daylights out of me! I hadn’t seen it, but a grey heron had clearly heard me and decided that I was a threat! After recovering from that shock, I spotted a second dipper. This one was a lot more wary, and as I lowered myself onto the ground, it scuttled behind some branches. A few minutes later I was happy to see it come back out, walking along the branches that hung over the flowing water. It dipped in and out a few times before disappearing off down the river.
Having gotten fairly wet through the rain, and being hungry, I headed back to the main road and started back home. I had mud on my trousers and my hair was frizzing in the rain; it was beginning to resemble a birds nest. Needless to say, I got a few strange looks on my journey home. It didn’t matter – I had finally gotten photographs of a dipper, had seen a heron and had a lovely walk. Just what I needed before a four hour shift at work later that day!