Observations From The Riverbank #4

Posted by Matt Heason on Mar 18, 2021

Time is ticking inexorably by. It's now been over four months since I started my morning dips. In that time I think I've missed about ten days. Some when I pulled a muscle in my back and couldn't actually make it down to the river, others when the day was just too busy, and then one day last week when I simply forgot! Actually I didn't forget, I opted not to go first thing as there was a howling easterly, it was sleeting and the temperature was just a few degrees above zero. I thought I’d go later in the day when the sky was a different shade of grey, but never got around to it. I felt like I'd cheated! But it has prompted me to be less rigid on the routine element. This week I've followed the forecast and dipped later in the day when the sun has been out. Yesterday afternoon it felt positively warm in there. Honestly! 


I guess there are fewer observations now as much becomes 'normal' and 'ordinary', but that in itself is a wonderful thing, that the amazing things I was noticing a few months back are now effectively part of my every day wallpaper. 


I've been playing with my vision a little. Staring into the moving water for a minute and then lifting my eyes to the river bank sees it rippling and twisting like a special effects earthquake in a 1980s disaster movie. It doesn’t feel great for my eyes so won't be doing this every day. But it's pretty cool, the visual equivalent to having sea-legs when stepping off a boat.


Snowdrops are growing on the beach. It's amazing as the beach is regularly covered with water as they release from the dams up-valley. But they survive.


Some kids are obviously using the beach as a play spot. There's a collection of old pottery and worn glass fragments in an ever-growing pile. It's nice to think that others use the space. There's even a large bone fragment. The sort of size you'd expect in a human shoulder, but presumably it's from a deer or cow. It's so old and brown that even the dog isn’t interested. 


My sitting root is beginning to look just a little worn. The moss is gone and there's a sheen to the bark. 


I've been upping my running and climbing as the weather warms up. As a result I have a lot more aches and pains. It's distinctly noticeable how I will walk down to the river with identifiable niggles, immerse for 30 seconds into the cold water, and walk back home most of them completely gone. Instead they are replaced by tingles and stinging on scrapes and bramble scratches. But they pass quickly.


Still no kingfisher, but herons, ducks and dippers have all kept me company. There is a mass of frogs spawn and a good few newts in the wildlife pond where I descend the river bank. Spring is springing!


This means that I'm interrupted more often by people, usually walking their dogs. It doesn't bother me, and as there are quite a few folk in the village who also dip then I feel less of a feak now. 


A friend has sadly had to leave the village. She's a dipper too. She's moved about a twenty minute drive further down the same river. We've mentioned the idea of sending a message in a bottle. It'd be interesting to know how long it would take to float from here to there. It's a great reminder that, even more so than roads, rivers connect us with one another. It's long been a dream to get into the river here in a kayak or canoe and get out at Hull having paddled and floated down the Derwent, into the Trent and then the Humber. One day.

The power of water came into its own the other day. For six months or more there have been piles of sawn logs left half a mile upriver by the Environment Agency after some riverbank felling. On a day when the water level was high enough to float the logs, but not so high as to whisk them off to Hull, a friend and I donned wetsuits and had the kids throw the logs into the river. We plucked them out onto the beach and they're now split and seasoning ready for burning next winter. The effort required to carry them up the muddy river bank far outweighed that of transporting them half a mile down the river. 

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