Marching off the mince pies

  Frosty but festive – this year I’ve added a little seasonal (if not tasteful) cheer to the bridge!
 This Christmas we’ve been blessed with some fantastic, if frosty days. The last few have been the heralds for heavy rain and therefore disturbed nights on the weirs, but not so 2016. The lovely bright weather has meant that we are even busier on the towpath. I still see a few of my regular walkers and lots of the boaters enjoy spending Christmas aboard. Being a seasoned boater I can vouch for the fact that a boat is one of the best places to wake up on Christmas morning. 

On the whole though it’s new faces and once a year visitors over Christmas. I like the fact that we’re an important part of some families’ traditions. Growing up in Dorset we always had a seaside Boxing Day walk, paper hats and all. For many generations of families round here the river is where you bring your visitors to saunter, route march or meander off the possible excesses of the season. And of course all are equally welcome. That is not to say that some of the residents don’t look forward to the time they get the river back to themselves, but maybe some of the one off visitors this year may end up being regulars of the future.


Last minute pre-Christmas chores

The run up to Christmas is busy for most of us and that is especially true down by the river. I always like to make sure my mooring lines and lock sides look their best for the Christmas visitors and myriad obligatory photographs. I managed to take advantage of the brief dry window before the predicted wet and windy weather and give my mower a good run and cut Pyrford mooring line and lock. I spent much of the time behind my mower trying to calculate how far I’ve had to walk, as I often do to pass the time. I used to know exactly how far I had to walk behind a marker to line a rugby pitch, mower to stripe a bowling green and how far round my cricket boundaries were. But that was a lifetime ago. Now I have the luxury of a step counter to check my sums. I wasn’t far off, it turns out I mowed 4.18 miles.

The sheep are never as pleased to see me as the cows, which is always disappointing.

Magnus, Muriel and Mo the swans clearly aren’t impressed by my bridge decorating in an attempt to ramp up the Christmassy for everyone. (That’s Mo in the middle, the only one of the cygnets to make it this year)

I actually have my first Christmas Day off in the 6 Christmases since I got here which is great, but means that I am running out of time to get everything done. That, and the fact that we’ve got storms predicted in the next few days and no doubt trees down as a result, it’s not shaping up to be that peaceful a Christmas season. The Chinese curse of hoping you live interesting times might well apply. It might not be peaceful but it will be interesting but that’s ok by me.

Neighbours paying a visit

Part of the job of looking after the river involves knowing what we’ve got so we can manage the landscape accordingly. To that end I’ve recently added another toy to the box. I’m trialing a trail-cam and it’s already getting some good images. So far I’ve just been setting it up in the garden so I can keep an eye on it, with the plan later of setting it up further in the wild where I know we have badgers and other wildlife and where I’m not sure what we’ll find. You just strap it to a tree and forget about it.

(!gnore the date..I’ve not worked out how to change it yet!)Fox dinner.JPG

This clearly shows what I already knew. Foxes and rabbits are visiting at night, although we’re clearly a bunny down after this midnight feast. And I’m pretty sure he knows I’m watching him!

Fox Watching.JPG

I’ve also got a few nice daytime shots….


But to be honest, the majority have been more like this! My dog Tilley clearly also wants to know who’s been visiting her garden.


For those of you with an interest in wildlife I really can recommend getting one. Mine has only been out a couple of days and has already given me an insight into what’s been going on without me knowing. They are worth a try if you’re nosy like me and don’t cost a great deal anymore . (Mine was recently purchased cheaply from a national supermarket that shall remain nameless. Suffice it to say it was one of those shops where people in posh cars hurry to shove their produce into bags from an establishment they deem more prestigious and suitable for the neighbours to see.)