Not Quite Swallows and Amazons part 2

Part two

The river banks now are much lower, and the river flows more slowly and
deeply between the occasional rapids. It reflects my own progress. Short
stretches of riding interspersed with lazier spells when I stop to look at
something or other. That something now is a large brick structure on the far bank. It has to be one end of an old railway bridge that must once have crossed the river here. I must look on Google earth to see if there are other signs to confirm it later. Progressing, the far bank changes to farmland, and a line of cows is making its way across the field. They have fuller udders than usual and so I guess they are en route to the milking shed.

Another dog walker, and his initially gruff expression changes to a smile as
he sees me riding towards him. He asks politely whether I am from the
Chinese State Circus. Maybe I ride much better than I think. My truthful answer disappoints him, but we make conversation for a few moments. After he leaves I pause to watch some butterflies. A number of small white ones, wings tinged with orange and gray, linger on the hawthorne flowers. I read that hawthorne are not supposed to be flowering just yet, and that some see it as another global warming phenomenon. There are small blue butterflies too, small jewels flitting in the undergrowth…or are they moths? Two other brown mottled butterflies are engaged in what seems to be a mating flight. They encircle each other at astonishing speed, and with great precision. How can creatures like this, so light with merely a couple of bits of coloured tissue paper for wings, fly with such speed and accuracy?

A heron comes in to land about 50 metres downstream. The fishing spot is
already occupied though, and I see the interloper chased away downstream by a second heron. This resident returns and, as it flies slowly back it seems
far larger, silhouetted against the river surface, than it really is. It lands at the top end of a small sidestream that flows along one side of an island. I marvel at how a bird that huge, plain as a pikestaff to see when in flight, could disappear so completely once it landed near the willows.

I know I should ride on but a voice in my head says “Hello, a chance to
stalk a heron.”, and so I abandon the unicycle, hiding it behind a bush, and
decide to try to get close to the bird. I am trying to be as stealthy as the
heron, which is stalking small fish as it eases its way down the sidestream,
but herons are quite shy birds and so I fail to close the distance to less
than about 15 yards. It often changes direction, and I can only move when
it is facing away from me. The bird quickly has a success and I see it
swallow a small fish, maybe another gudgeon, catching just a glimpse of silver as it is turned in the beak before being swallowed. I trail it as it continues the full length of the streamlet, which is about 100 metres long. It catches one more fish, I know because I see it swallow, but do not see the fish. It makes several more stabbing attacks, all of which miss, I think, and finally reaches the main river, where it wades left and out of my sight. There are paw prints in the riverside mud. I would like to think otter, and there is absolutely nothing in my training as a tracker to say it is not. It may be relevant here to say that I have no training at all as a wildlife tracker.

I retrace my steps back to the unicycle, disturbing a gray squirrel. I think
it was just squatting in the nearby bush rather than making a serious attempt
to ride the 20". Gray squirrels are classed as vermin now in the UK. Tree rats, say some. Regrettably I have never seen one of our native red squirrels. Pictures suggest they are much prettier than the gray.

I manage more consistent riding from here on, there are far less bankside trees, and fewer other interesting diversions. So I have to concentrate on the unicycle, and I ride with ease the rest of the way. No UPD’s, no difficult moments, few wobbles. Oh apart from the bug. As I ride it flies into my mouth, causing an obnoxious tickle back of my throat before I manage to spit it out. It is a shield bug, green and brown, tough looking individual, and seems not to have suffered from the experience, horrible though it must have been for it. Would it have been more ladylike for me to have swallowed it? I wash my mouth out and drink the rest of my water quickly. I do not enjoy this one bit. Being at one with nature is all very well, but eating it is not.

The banks here are fairly featureless, manicured, with playing fields to both sides, but to compensate the river has far less junk in it, no shopping trolleys have swum so far downstream. The reality is probably just that, being accessible here, the river can be cleared out so much easier. Eventually I reach the main road at Parr’s Wood. The location of a pile of empty cans suggests that the nearby bars have considerable success in their attempts to vend a certain brand of Australian lager to kids from the local school. Maybe they just like the implication in the brand name. I know where I would site the next waste bin. Whether I would bin the tins or the kids is a harder question.

It is time to go, too many people around now. A family of 6 are walking towards me, the kids are arguing. One shouts abuse at her brother. He, raising the bar, bellows back at her, and so it continues, the volume increasing. The parents consider it all part of the sounds of the countryside. Oddly they don’t seem to notice me ride past. I cannot fail to notice them, as will most of the wildlife.
I ponder taking a different route home, but my legs, despite the easy riding, are quite tired now, too tired to ride back home ( and it is a considerable uphill from here) so I use my “phone a friend” lifeline to arrange a pick up from the car park. I could have walked, but would have had to run the
gauntlet of people asking whether I could actually ride the uni. I feel a
bit guilty for today I have done far more walking, watching and generally
messing about than riding. But the riding was non too bad. I had only three
UPDs, and aced most of my freemounts.


That was a very nice write up, very detailed thankyou for that it stopped me being bored at work for a while. I have riden along that river too around stockport its a very nice ride although i did it on my 36" Nimbus but as slowly as possible. I dont remember as much of the scenery as you did tho so well done:)


That was a very nice write up, very detailed thankyou for that it stopped me being bored at work for a while. I have riden along that river too around stockport its a very nice ride although i did it on my 36" Nimbus but as slowly as possible. I dont remember as much of the scenery as you did tho so well done:)


I read it. I liked it. I should have been cleaning something, but your story caught me.