Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday walk: Along the River to the Sea

For weeks, I have wanted to walk our river to the sea. Best Beloved and I planned it as a family outing last week but it didn't happen: this Sunday, nothing stood in my way. At just after eleven, Sophia and I loaded the two dogs and the Littles into the Land Rover and set out for the other side of the bridge.

The water level has fallen a lot since the dam overflowed two months ago, and soon only a chain of muddy pools will lead from spillway to the sea. Then those will parch under the summer sun, and the river will be just a memory for the next decade or so.

We couldn't follow the water. Mud, impenetrable thickets of weeds, and bulldozered channels and rises stood in our way, but we picked our way along a track under the motorway bridge until we found a clutch of bee hives tended by their white-suited keepers, then around the edge of a potato field, through a barnyard, deserted but for a couple of chained dogs, along an asphalt road bordered by olive and citrus groves and to an area of greenhouses where Vietnamese workers in conical hats picked peppers.

 Fly-tipped rubbish and river refuse blighted what would otherwise have been a beautiful walk, but flowers made everything bright, and the dogs dashed in and out of the fields searching for mud puddles and sniffing the exciting smells of spring countryside. Frogs serenaded us from the water below, and I wished that we could have found a way down so that I could have initiated my children into the delights of raising tadpoles.

After a burned out car and a wrecked BMW with a sloughed snakeskin on the driver's seat, the asphalt became a track that led us past other fields, the river on our left, to the sea. Neither dog had been to the beach before, and Sophia conned Lucky into swimming by tossing a rock into the waves. Once bitten, twice shy – she refused to go in again. Sputnik tried drinking it, but gave that up as a bad job with a dismayed expression on his face.

Despite not feeling well, Zenon enjoyed the walk. Normally he would have thrown himself into the spirit of our quest for a path to the sea, ranging on each side as a scout, hunting Orcs or other creatures, but a lingering cold made him more subdued. But “Can we do this again next week, Mum?” he asked as we reached the Land Rover on the way back. “I've had a really good time!”  Leo was more inclined to be negative, but I have the feeling that if I suggest another walk next Sunday, he will jump at the chance.

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