Friday, 28 August 2015

River Ock ramblings

I've had a longing of late to reconnect with our surroundings and the life we share our local watercourses with. It's been with apt joy that I've been reading Views of the Ock and it's inspired me to take the time to venture further afield and wander the banks of a river I've pretty much taken for granted. I never realised how much wildlife the Ock hosts until I read this wonderful blog, and Rob and I thought we'd take the opportunity to walk part of its course whilst we explored the route of the old Wilts & Berks canal. I blogged about this part of the canal once - it's been four years since last we ventured there. Four years. How could we have left it so long?

We started our little Ock adventure in the early evening, whilst daylight still showed us our way, and we followed the footpaths that led away from houses and superstores, and towards the roar of the busy A34.
My northern soul wants to call it a beck.
We found 14 Second World War anti-tank dragon's teeth tucked away and abandoned in the undergrowth:

Here be dragons... teeth.
(identification courtesy of OckViewer)
Whilst still within the confines of the noisy world of humans we saw only baby moorhens and a grey heron (not at the same time, I hasten to add). But soon we passed under the dual carriageway and open fields beckoned us.

Under the A34. Hey, wait for me!
Here there was a lovely air of abandonment that gave the impression that we were the only wanderers to walk these paths, though I doubt that this was true.

Bridge needs a little work.

Corn stubble, perfect for hares to hide.
It was in these fields of stubbled corn that we saw our first hare bound along the hedgerow. We paused to watch a while before continuing on our way as five partridges scuttled into the tall grass in front of us. It was in this field too that we heard the plaintive keeow of a buzzard. We observed his lazy circles over the treeline before he disappeared out of sight on the other side of the river. With fading light we were unable to get a decent photo, but we continued to walk until day fell fully into night and the moon rose high to guide us.

I'm not saying the moon rose specifically for us, but he definitely helped.
And just as we turned our tails to retrace our steps home a red deer darted across our path. A good wildlife haul already spotted, or so I thought, before a badger snuffled his way into the middle of the field to have a root about. We were motionless as we watched him, afraid that the slightest movement would disturb him. He too, retraced his steps, and returned into the darkness of the hedgerow from where he came.

Back under the underpass we stopped as bats flitted about us, so close I thought I would be able to reach out and touch them. They flew low over the water and skirted above our heads, just as they do when we're sat on the front of our boat on a warm summer evening. But this wasn't the end of our wildlife spotting. There was one more fellow who made himself known before we fully returned to the world of humans. A fox, stealthy in the night, turned to take us in his gaze, swished his tail and was gone into the darkness.

The river Ock may be little, but life abounds about her in the liminal space between day and night, and it was a privilege, for a moment, to experience it.


  1. Good to remember the world is still alive around us, and will take back over when we are gone.

  2. Thank you for the link to my blog and I'm very pleased the blog (which is somewhat lacking these days) has inspired you to out and explore this small, dull, yet fascinating river.

    1. I think with the Ock that first impressions can be rather misleading. It turns out it's not a dull river at all. We've not had chance to return yet, but when we do I'll let you know to see whether you're free to join us (and give us a river tour ;) )

      It's lovely to see you've blogged again - what a fab looking concert!


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