Last winter, the River Bourne in Chertsey rose from it’s usual level of c. 50cm, to over 2m.
Being only a couple of dozen yards from my house, it meant we got a v soggy garden – mid thigh at it’s peak – but thankfully, the house stayed dry (by an inch, if that) thanks to the foresight and skill of the builders in the 1920’s.
Before this, living by the river hadn’t really affected my life – I knew it was there, but it’s usually hidden, and overshadowed by the Thames it drains into a mile or so downstream.
So, when I was faced with a day at home to myself, I thought it might be good to have a play with the camera and explore it a bit more, and grab me some more blackberries I’d noticed were coming into fruit when I was out with the kids at the weekend.
Suitably equipped – flask of Yorkshire Tea, camera, tripod, phone, empty bags for fruit – I headed out this morning, slightly knackered from a crap nights sleep (had lump removed from my face last night, so was a bit sore).
Now, as I’m a dad now, I’ve found myself keen to impart a love of the outdoors on the children, but I’m painfully aware of my own lack of knowledge/understanding. To help, I’m consciously making an effort not just to enjoy being outside, and the natural world around me, but to learn more about it.
My stroll along the river (well, parallel to it most of the time, as the banks are overgrown) was a great eye opener to the variety of wildlife just a few steps from my front door.
The first bit of river I got to was by a well used footbridge/cyclepath which has a bit of crap strewn around. Despite this, there was a few demoiselles flitting about, and after failing miserably to get a pic of one in flight, I managed to catch one as it stopped for a breather.
At this point, I tried walking down the less used bank that is more wooded, but after a hundred yards it was impenetrable, due to overgrowth and private property, so I doubled back and tracked a horse margin, that roughly followed the Bourne’s course – staying closer to the river than path through the meadow.
As I moved away from the relatively well used paths, I started feeling a bit more comfortable taking out the camera and shooting whatever I fancied -including this little fellow who I’m still not entirely sure I can identify, despite some thorough Googling!
Oddly (to me) I found a pond that was home to more damselflies, and some of the biggest dragonflies I’ve ever seen!
Managed to get a couple of decent shots, of one (and 2 seconds of film as it took off – too fast to see at 25 fps!) but, again, I’m not sure what species it is – so the whole “learning more about nature” thing, isn’t going too well!
He (or she) was a beast! Wingspan must have been a good 6 or so inches, which I didn’t think was normal for an insect within the M25!
As I was out in the late morning/lunchtime (ie hottest part of the day) there wasn’t much chance of me seeing anything other than insects and the like, but having seen a few funky looking butterflies, loads of demoiselles, and captain beefy the dragonfly, I actually relaxed into my self-appointed task of trying to get some good pictures/footage.
When I got what I thought was “just another” demoiselle, I actually checked the shots from earlier, and realised it was a different species. Again, not something I’d thought about, but of course there are different species, and they’re a 15 minute stroll from my bed.
When the route took me away from the river, across the scrubby grass meadow, I at first thought it was pretty sparse for wildlife, but looking (and listening) closer, revealed dozens and dozens of different butterflies and insects.
Thankfully I had a macro lens which made it easier to get a few snaps (and a lot of blurry splodges) before they flew off, and that helped me to really appreciate the different colours, shapes and sizes that there are out there.
I found a few gaps in the nettles where I could get down to the river (and nearly went in at one point but stopped myself on some nettles!), and had a nice brew hidden among the overgrowth trying to get a pic of the most cameras shy dragon fly on earth.
I found an old farm bridge that didn’t really go anywhere, and set up the tripod to get some film of waterboatmen, damselflies, and whatever else I could see (back of mind was hoping for kingfisher as I’m sure I heard one at one point!). Typically, every time I saw something good, in the few seconds it took to get the camera on it, the moment would pass.
After a couple of enjoyable hours, I headed back, hopefully wiser, and having gained a bit of confidence with the camera, and with a softer tread, and sharper ears, manged to find a funky looking grasshopper, who obligingly let me get one shot before buggering off into the undergrowth.
All in all, an enjoyable few hours. Not sure when I’ll get to do it again, but did get a bulging bag full of blackberries that are now nestled in my freezer whilst I decide their fate!