The surface of the river is white with the cottony seeds off the willows. There is a little scurry of breeze which runs up the river, ruffles the surface for a moment and puffs another billow of white cotton into the air. The breeze passes and the surface of the river glasses over, expectantly awaiting the next dusting of seeds across the water.
The little beach of golden sand fills the inside curve of the river beneath the oak trees with their new spring mantle of leaves. At the water’s edge the river appears quite clear, but though the beach shelves only very gently by the time it is deeper than my ankles its true colour is revealed; dark peaty orange-brown, the colour of over-stewed tea and by the time it is up to my knees the river bed is completely hidden.
I have waded 3/4 of the way to the far bank before it is deep enough to swim, but the river bed drops off deeply there, dug out by winter storms. I duck under the surface, diving down to the bottom, maybe 8 feet to where everything has an orange-pink hue of tea filtered sunlight. I skim the river bed, sand, a few pebbles, gliding downstream before being forced up to breathe.
Distantly up the river a dog barks. The sound is buffered by the trees, the sharpness has been worn off at the edges, ‘waugh, waugh’, it echoes ever so slightly from the trees and then high above it, over the hill is the whistle of the steam train, the train that passed by 10 minutes ago, now leaving Staverton station, the final stop of the day.
Whilst being carried by the imperceptible flow downstream I hear voices beyond the riverbank screen of bushes and stick figures flick behind the dark stems, I cannot imagine they have any idea I am there as there is barely a ripple to give me away.
Reaching the lower end of the water meadow it is time to turn back. Each stroke is slow, but firm, pushing out a gentle bow wave that rocks the surface, bobs a piece of stick and flutters the riverbank reeds.
All too soon, though it has been almost 30 minutes, and my toes tap the beach again. The sunshine ducks behind a cloud, finds a small gap for a final burst and then fades away. It would seem it was time to wrap up anyway.