Posts Tagged ‘Coots’

The Now Near Daily Weekend Treat

Before I retired and before our dog died from old age, the weekends, most weekends would see Sophie and I at the nearby Whittlesey’s Lattersey Nature reserve. Sophie was a lovely old girl with a lot of black collie in her heritage, a rescue dog, she was clever, loving and funny.

During the working week my wife would give Sophie her daily walk but at the weekends it was my turn. This man and his dog would wander round the two parts of the reserve, Sophie running around not normally venturing too far away from my side, except sometimes to unsuccessfully chase the odd rabbit. Now and again she would have a swim in one of the ponds but it wasn’t a regular event. Sophie’s death put an end to my weekend treats, her ill health had limited and ended them a while before. Having no reason to visit the nature reserve, I seldom ventured into its confines. Sophie’s absence was not only something we felt in our home but something more profound than that.

Sophie

Sophie our old dog

Just over a year ago my son and his girlfriend adopted a golden Labrador pup, Hugo. We participate in a dog share during the working week. Monday to Thursday, my wife and I look after Hugo. He is a character, about sixteen months old, still full of puppyish naughtiness and bounding with energy. Most days we go to the nature reserve for one of his twice daily walks.

Young Hugo

A young Hugo

We usually start on the right hand side of the reserve entering through the galvanised metal kissing  gate into the reserve. Before us a large field fenced on the right hand side to accommodate grazing cattle. We walk  along a mud track worn into the grass, to the left rough grass edged by trees, falling away into a dip. Moving down the track, Hugo enthusiastically exploring new smells, pulling on his lead his tail wagging constantly.. The grass, mainly uncut is often still  damp from the night the air full of wet leaved earthy smells. The field path ends at, the reserve’s boundary, marked by a hedge of Birch trees, Elder and Hawthorn bushes. The reserve is higher at this point, originally brick workings, then a refuse tip. Turning left, the track descends a slope then joins a raised board walk, about a foot from the ground which is prone to winter flooding. The ground is dry in the summer months the reeds and rushes flourishing. Alongside the slope are brambles their uneaten fruits available in the late summer and early autumn, an avenue of silver birch flank the board walk. The walkway follows the line of an old railway siding which had served the brickworks, broken willows decay amongst the birches, many perforated by burrowing Goat moth caterpillars. There is little audible bird song most is drowned out by the noise of vehicles at a gravel works and from the railway nearby.

The boardwalk in spring

The Boardwalk in spring

 

The boardwalk in autumn

The Boardwalk in autumn

The walkway planking is topped with wire mesh to prevent slipping, to our left is a pool of open black water, much of it filled with reed and rushes, these die back brown for the winter. A few red dragonflies skim about as we walk, one foolhardily lands on the decking in front of us, Hugo fortunately doesn’t notice it, he eats them. During the autumn around the boardwalk the leaves of the trees and bushes, are a riot of brown and gold.  Later in the autumn any greenery left is mainly from grass. brown leaves, predominantly hawthorn and birch form thick carpets in places. We leave the boardwalk ascending rough steps in the slope that are edged with old railway sleepers. Following another track through more brambles before ascending another set of steeper narrower steps back to near our starting point, then through the gate crossing to the left hand part of the nature reserve.

Ducks and Coots on the big pond

Ducks and Coots on the big pond

We enter by a kissing gate and descend wide  steps cut into the slope edged by old railway sleepers. This part of the reserve has a larger cleaner pond, another former clay pit, home to ducks coots and the occasional visiting Canada Goose. At times we have witnessed fights by both ducks and coots in the water. If there are no young coots or ducklings around, Hugo likes a swim retrieving the sticks I throw for him. When either he or I have tired of the activity we resume our walk round the reserve. There is no boardwalk network this side of the reserve just one across an area that becomes waterlogged in the winter months. The paths are of rough earth  worn into the ground through constant use. Leaving the pond area the reserve splits into woodland on the left and grass and scrub and bushes to the right. If the sun is particularly hot we stick to the shade of the woodland. retracing our steps when we reach the end before returning home. On cooler days we leave by a gate at the top and walk the long way home along the roads.

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