Even though it was misty and this delayed the darkness leaving, Shakespeare’s owl was away to its bed. Even though I had high hopes of visiting the patch regularly, things this year conspired against it. There were three things I wanted to get out of what might be the last visit of 2016.
The first as always was to see whats there. Unseen a Waxwing added itself to the patch list as it flew over calling, seeking more of its kind. Fieldfares kicked up from windfall apples and Redwings beat their way into the sky; one slightly smaller bird with a different wing action may have been a Song Thrush, but was lost in the mist too soon. Redpoll -all dark picked through Birch trees above the land ruined by MotoX. The male Buzzard saw me long before I saw him and flew to the female in the wood where they nest. They both brought in the sound of the Fells as they left.
The track through the wood has been ruined by the bikes so I detoured through acres of Pheasants which will be gone on Boxing Day. Returning to the path I found a footpath sign buried in the mud. Beyond that a permanent sign on the bridle path saying shooting in progress keep out. Two indications that others want the countryside closed.
A Roe Deer, a Jay and a Dipper singing low down in the valley as I passed Causey Arch were on my side. Hi-vis jackets fixing a fence and two dog walkers were not. I left my patch and through and past Beech trees with their feet in their copper-coloured leaves; another Buzzard sat high above me near a Yew that had already stood longer than I ever would. Middle-aged women with trusty steads between their thighs and more dog walkers, before plunging down to the river.
Another Dipper sang above the water over rocks percussion. I had not realised how lovely the song actually is. Then another let me stand and watch it sing and feed. Further upstream I watch the river pass, swirling leaves in a eddy. I could still hear the Dipper. The second point of the winter walk was reached -a oneness. I can hear birds and wind in the trees and the stream. In a man-made environment I hear no sound of man. I sit until the moment passes, my clock reset.
I head back to the patch. Four male Goosander watch over a female as she fishes. She looks up and two display. They are magical in the dull light. Another Buzzard again allows a close approach but is scared off by the bells on dogs collars. Avoiding the paths I push past Hazel whose catkins are there already.
On the patch I am greeted by 4 MotoX bikes racing along a bridle path. Illegal. And then two old men walking dogs calling the police. Who ruins the patch more? I do not share their concerns and reach the car after nearly five hours. Part three, the joy of walking. Grey slips into darkness.