The first part in photographic terms is posted here –
As I began my 'tour' I ran into two local 'good old boys' who consented to have their photograph taken for this blog. I'm glad I stopped to chat. I learned a lot.
They had seen both Kingfishers and Dippers this year, as recently as a few days before. Sadly they reported that one young Kingfisher, obviously from a nest nearby, had come to grief by flying into a window pane. However, the fact that these 'exotics' still use the river (I myself have not been so lucky to see them this year) is good news indeed.
One of my new found friends showed me where, as a child, he had climbed across an old iron bridge over the Ouseburn (now replaced by a stone one) and how, if one looked carefully, the site of an old 19th century grinding mill could be found in the woods ... I'll save that story for another post.
I was amazed (as many friends have been) by the extravagance of the foliage and flowers now following our 'start stop start' Spring. Parts of the Ouseburn gorge look like a jungle and only shafts of sunlight filter down to sparkle on the thin flow of water that the Ouseburn can manage after weeks of sunshine. Many woodland birds are still calling high in the treetops above. My two new pals told me a heron, a young one they thought, had clumsily landed in the burn only to be chivvied by the resident crow's, none too pleased to see it arrive in their patch. A heron would look like a Pterodactyl in such a confined space...
The birds I could hear were Chaffinches, Chiff Chaffs, Wrens and perhaps a Wood or Garden Warbler – a clear, liquid, lovely song. It is as if having despaired of the cold static days in May they have extended their breeding season to cash in on these extended, hot, days of High Summer.
I have noticed before how easily one looses any sense of being within a few hundred yards of a crowded, busy city, down here besides the Ouseburn. Huge plants have sprung up; spreading leaves of umbelliferas like oversized rhubarb packed alongside the stream. I spotted a Giant Hogweed poised and slightly menacing in the shade of a grove. Every part of this plant is bad news to touch; it's sap is stinging and burns human skin, requiring a visit to the hospital. It might easily have been the inspiration of a science fiction writer.
Despite the heat of another hot day making itself felt even under these massive trees along Ouseburn 'Road' (no where wide enough for all the vehicles that come along; happily, most behave impeccably and slow for other road users), cyclists were out in force and the scent of barbecues was on the breeze.
To be continued.