A September evening and I'm sitting in a low-lit room, with a candle flickering on the hearth, listening to the rain against the window. It's quiet enough to hear the rain.

I'm tired and my feet hurt and my legs ache…I'm out of practice with this walking lark. A state of affairs which starts to change right now, and it starts from here, because this quiet, low-lit room is my own living room and my walk today was one of my favourite routes on the City fringe. To make it a circuit from my door and home again does involve some less than pleasant road walking…but that's a small price to pay.

The marsh is lush and green after a hot and wet summer. Algae and weed are thriving on the river and much as I love the underwater stars of whatever weed it is, I suspect there's a reason I shouldn't. The chaps from the Environment Agency have bigger problems to deal with. The front of one of their scary-orange boats has a weed-plough attached – I wonder what it's really called – a pushing metal-grid-thing, which I assume forces surface and subsurface vegetation into a clump suitable for heaving out onto the banks to die, leaving the water to flow more freely. His companion has a chainsaw.

That might have felt a bit extreme if I hadn't already come across the victims of the week's high winds. Fallen branches, half-trees, lying across the river like an abandoned beaver dam. We don't have beaver. We do have otters I'm told, and I think that they will prefer the unrestricted passage that chainsaw man no doubt intends to re-create.


I say intends, because clearly I have stumbled upon them at break time.

Your man with a saw has a flask and a cup of something hot and steaming. He is prow into the bank, idly watching the cows who are themselves just as idly chewing the cud. His mate was on the other side of the water, longwise to the flow, a flimsy fishing rod in his hands, clearly for the fun of it more than the intent.

Both smile as I pass.

I think: if any of these cows get too close I'm relying on you guys to do the chivalrous thing.

They're not needed. For all the wetness of the night, the sun is strong, the day becoming humid, the cattle content to languish in what shade they can find.


On past the mediaeval bridge where the river is at its reflective best – the sky losing its early morning clearness, the first colours of autumn shimmer in the ripples.

Beyond the Poohsticks bridge at the end of the Broad, the reeds are overcrowding the path, more abundant than I've yet seen along here, grass taller than I am, high-high nettles stinging through leggings. The path itself is just about clear, suggesting a sudden spurt of growth, confirmed by other walkers sharing my surprise and having their dogs unusually on the leash for fear of having to retrieve them from this unexpected East Anglian jungle.

Skirting back through the woods I mis-place my normal route while playing imagined conversations in my head, so I emerge from the trees earlier than normal. Serendipity kicks in as it seems my normal way is taped off and inaccessible.

"What are those people doing on the roof?" a most unlikely looking chap stops to ask. I actually look around nervous and puzzled, before I realise "oh, them. Art installation…is it Gormly? Anyway, like those on the Wirral…" Not the most erudite explanation I could have mustered but the lightbulb clicked behind his eyes and he suddenly looked much more "likely". I wander up through the manicured paths of the park contemplating my prejudices.

All of this and its only just heading towards lunchtime…

…so there's an afternoon to fritter though lunch, reading, writing, pottering, phoned a friend, cooked a curry, watched TV…and settled into evening rain…which it seems isn't going to come to anything.

The simple days are among the best of them.

© Lesley Mason

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