Since I last walked along the bank here just 3 weeks ago the path has almost vanished under spring growth, grass that barely covered my boots is now up to my knees. The apple trees are in full bloom, which seems a little bit late though I imagine it is dependent on the varieties, whereas the fruit is already setting on the pear trees.
I walk to the bench and unpack my bag. The high thin cloud is clearing now and blue sky and sunshine are filling in. Through the trees the river sparkles.
The flow thrusts and jostles my legs as I slide in from the stones feeling for a stable footstep. The river is still a little swollen after the rain a few days ago and the water is also surprisingly dark. That’s a shame as this short stretch of the river has a deep water channel that winds between vertical walls over a bed of pebbles and golden sand. I places the channel is 10 feet deep until finally the river forks around a huge boulder and then the river bed dives away to 19 feet deep under the massive spreading oak tree, the deepest point on the non-tidal river. It is a fascinating place to explore, but not today it would seem.
At first the river rushes me on quickly, the channel quickly funnels and deepens beneath the surface and yet from above little changes, the river seems to be just as wide, the surface swirling, but here it barely covers the ledges of rock, the river bed profile changing from a ‘V’ to a ‘T’.
For some years, where the channel does a zig-zag, a huge tree trunk has been wedged across the turn. Now however 2 more mature trees have joined it. They lie with branches pointing downstream, some still have leaves where they poke above the surface and beneath the water the smaller twigs and branches have not yet been torn off, which leaves a tangle that is best avoided especially as the visibility is not so great. Actually they have not joined the older trunk, that has now gone, but not far, it has lifted out of the zig-zag only to rest up again a few yards further downstream where the channel shallows and widens. This really has become something of an obstacle course.
Over the final rock and beneath me there is only darkness. I have been down there several times, but the river bed is just the same, more sand and pebbles. There is, or was, also another sunken tree but some of the branches remained and were only just hidden beneath the surface. I cannot see the branches today, maybe that too has moved on.
From here the river shallows and is unswimable for more than a mile. However, now I can swim back upstream against the flow and that will keep me going for the next 15 minutes, moving in and out of the patches of sunshine that filter through the river bank trees, swinging from side to side of the river to stay out of the faster flow, I am not in any rush now.