Wednesday, 21 May 2008
Escape (for two hours)
It was years since I'd walked through the Nature Reserve. I remembered it well: the narrow paths, the overgrowth and most of all the mud. That, I suppose, is what mothers remember. I recall the pushchair and the worry lest a lively toddler would get free and run towards the Trent. Our walks would often pause in the garden of the Marina cafe, where they cater for the narrow-boat trade and mud isn't a major cause of worry.
Sometimes, in the last couple of years, I've strolled as far as the Marina. But today I was failing to work at home. Everything distracted me, from the radio to my daughter and her boyfriend who are strenuously renovating her room. Perhaps, I thought, I would concentrate better if I cycled off, with my work in by bike basket. I could make a first visit to the Reserve's cafe and see if a change of scenery would help me concentrate better.
Joe the cat thought a cycle ride was a wonderful idea so I took a while to get going. My daughter held Joe firmly as I set off. I wasn't quite sure of the route so, from time to time as I got nearer, I stopped and checked I was on the right path. Polite schoolchildren, tired dog-handlers, energetic walkers all tried to help. By Attenborough church an elderly couple were uncertain but knew the general direction. As I turned the bike and cycled off, one called out after me, "Parry. Riposte."
I'd forgotten I was wearing my fencing hoodie with the name of my club blazoned across the back. I stopped and looked at them. "You're fencers?"
"Not any more."
But no-one really stops being a fencer and it was a delight to meet this couple, with their enthusiasm (best of all!) for epee. I stayed with them for a little while as we needed help finding the way past Ireton House and the church where Ireton married Oliver Cromwell's daughter.
In the residential streets, the air smelt of well-tended gardens and heavy lilac. But as I cycled onto the reserve the scent changed to the damp green smell I link to cow-parsley, grass, nettles, dock leaves and hawthorn. Soon I saw ducks (with ducklings), swans and geese in and around the deep pools.
It's not a natural space, apart from the bank of the Trent. The Reserve is built around flooded gravel pits. The work of gravel extraction continues. But lately much of the Reserve has been left to nature and nature is doing its best. There's something calming about water, trees and grazing birds - something that can help people focus on a task. I settled down at a cafe table, pulled out a pile of papers and reached for my reading glasses ... and reached again. I'd left them at home.
Cycling back on the pale paths of the reserve - quite without mud - I looked at the rippling water of the Trent, the green leaves and blue sky and thought it would make a perfect picture. And then I knew that no picture would conjure up the moment. I cycled on without reaching for my camera.
Does anyone know what this bird is, by the way? I got as far as goose - and then I began to wonder if that was wrong.