Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Havant

Walking The Dog 5

with one comment

Our climate seems to be playing many tricks on us these days. Or at least, so the media frenzy about global warming would have us believe. With my personal experience and memory stretching back only about 40 years it’s difficult to know whether what seems unusual in that context is merely just the ebb and flow of nature. This spring and summer certainly seems to have been missing our normal south-westerly winds. Instead they’ve been coming from the east and closer to due south.

It was the return of a more familiar wind direction that gave rise to another rather embarrassing confrontation with the local wildlife and another failure to capture the event with my camera.

As Capone and I pass by Warblington Church, I suppose it’s my many repeated commands to walk to heel in case of any traffic which means that it has become a habit and, try as I might, I cannot encourage him to “get on” and quarter the ground in front as his half-pointer breeding should favour. He just prefers to walk by my side.

As we swing round past the old vicarage and turn south again down the Pook Lane path to the sea, he changes and forges ahead, often unseen, even on the brightest day, in the dark and dappled tunnel of hedgerow. To both sides there are ditches, thick with nettles and to my right, the west, a field of pasture, foot high with grasses. About a third of a way down we pass two great cedar trees. If you look seaward from the Havant junction on the A27 you can’t miss them. They appear to be three but, in fact, one splits right near the base of its trunk.

Right there, with wind in my face, a russet shape with a great bushy tail wanders along the edge of the field, casual, calm and blissfully unaware, my scent blown behind me before any chance of reaching him.

He is less than six feet from me. His feet at my eye level. Even fumbling for my camera does not alarm him. The wind is strong enough to blow away the noise too. My clumsy camera work continues and he walks right past paying me no notice.

Now I have to turn back slightly and towards the ditch. At last my viewfinder is on but I can’t see him anymore. So I part the nettles with my leg and edge gently into the ditch – until I begin to slide.

Arms and face tingling with nettle stings, I have discovered that the ditch is six feet deep and as I try to scramble back up, who should be there looking down at me with bemusement? Capone, of course, complete bafflement on his face as to what these human beings get up to and why!

The other “environmental” issue that has been concerning me are the vast carpets of glutinous seaweed that have been smothering the beaches. Sid, the Emsworth harbourmaster and fount of all knowledge on such matters, tells me that it is caused by nitrates washed down into the sea from the farmland.

It is revolting stuff, perhaps six inches deep, slippery and treacherous to walk over. In bright sunlight it bleaches quickly and dries to a crispy underlay over which the next tide deposits another layer. I was lucky enough to enjoy a day’s sailing in a 45 foot yacht out of Northney Marina and saw great swathes of the stuff as far out as the Isle of Wight. Then suddenly, with no mention of our local problem, “mutant seaweed” choking the Olympic Games sailing venue in Beijing has become a stick with which to beat the Chinese.

I hold no brief for the Far East at all but surely this is just more media befuddlement, cheap sensationalism (even in The Times!). We love to paint them as the great polluters, as incompetent to manage this great sporting occasion. Look closer to home first, skip the all expenses paid trip to China and please, can someone give us some honesty, some straightforwardness and some real information?

Capone agrees too. “Now get on and throw that stick!”

 

Walking The Dog 1

leave a comment »

When I first saw it, my heart went into my mouth and then dropped in to my stomach as I realised I was looking at a pterodactyl. Loping away from a low branch, it’s massive wings somehow rolling up and then unrolling in an unbelievably slow movement, it rose gracefully, magnificently away from me.

Regaining my composure, with my trusty Kodak Digital at my side, I still managed to miss the chance of a great picture and Capone, my faithful, four-legged companion, just looked at me in disgust before doing his own loping away towards the sea.

Ever since then I’ve been hunting the heron and its mate, for there are two of them cruising the farmland, woods and foreshore between Emsworth, Warblington and Langstone. I’ve seen it perhaps half a dozen times in as many months, once just three feet above my head as I walked down one of Havant’s more exclusive residential avenues. Every time I fumble for my camera, it uncurls those great wings, folds its neck up in dinosaur style and leaves me in disarray.

Every day produces something remarkable in this little haven on the south coast. Across Chichester and Langstone harbours the Portsmouth Spinnaker tower glints bright white in the sun. Crowds of brent geese grow bigger and individually fatter by the day and the oyster catchers screech low along the water’s edge, swinging in formation to display the dazzling zigzags along their backs.

When the brent geese first came in from their summer home in the arctic, they would gather in one huge flock of perhaps five hundred in a field just above the sea. Capone would put them up in a force five south-westerly and they would head seaward in a cacophony of honking, flapping wings getting them nowhere, directly into the gale. I would walk on with them above and all around me, hanging motionless, creating a world of noise and feathers and wind and dog and insignificant me.

Warblington cemetery contains a piteous children’s section where the gravestones are decorated with teddies, windmills, rubber ducks, Rupert and Peter Rabbit. Every day that two minute walk touches me but never more so than on Christmas morning. Then, the really remarkable thing was the intense, beaming smiles that both the bereaved mothers gave me as they tended their child’s grave. Walking into the south-westerly that morning made my eyes water as never before.

The March storms brought both drama and damage, the fields along the coast displaying lines of seaweed 40 yards further back than usual. Other dog walkers who live right on the foreshore told me their roof tiles were tinkling like a xylophone. Parts of Emsworth were flooded. The sea overflowing the mill pond wall filled the empty eight and a half acre pond in half an hour and brought down great lengths of the inner retaining wall. I found myself up to my knees in overflowing sea as it swept in round the sailing clubhouse and caused chaos in the dinghy park.

This morning I left the warmth of Nore Barn Wood and struck out across the most heavily pigeoned stubble field I know. Then to my right a white object caught my eye in the middle of the boggy area that runs down to the stream where the pterodactyl had first frightened me. Capone and I diverted and plugged our way towards it but it was still, inert, probably one of those plastic bags that Emsworth has virtually done away with. We trudged on, me avoiding the cow pats, Capone stepping in every one and relaxed into the warm morning sunshine, another storm promised for the weekend.

It rose again, elegant and yet ponderous at the same time, lofted up and away and gone.

Peter Reynolds 20-03-08